The University of Richmond will host its fifth annual Women of Color Conference this month, providing female students of color with a forum to connect, network and exchange information with a variety of speakers.
Charm Bullard, associate dean of Westhampton College, had been working as an area coordinator when she first decided to have a conference for women of color in 2008, she said. At the time, Bullard was living in a female residence hall, so she had a strong sense of campus culture and student life, she said.
Bullard was approached by various women of color who were grappling with similar issues. After hearing their stories, Bullard decided that something needed to be done, she said.
“The whole purpose of the conference is to create a support system and a network for women of color,” Bullard said. “This year, we will have sessions that will talk about specific issues, so women will know they’re not alone.”
The conference’s three sessions will focus on the importance of loving one’s authentic self, the 2013 theme, she said.
Lisa Miles, associate director of Common Ground, was part of the committee that chose this year’s theme. Committee members wanted a theme that encouraged women to be themselves and be comfortable with who they were, Miles said.
The conference will feature keynote speaker Sabrina Squire, news anchor for NBC 12. The committee members chose Squire because of her gracious character and what she represented as a whole, Bullard said. Squire’s successful career as a journalist and her philanthropic achievement will be an inspiration to attendees, she said.
In addition to guest speakers, faculty members in various departments will present at the conference. Charlynn Small, a psychologist at CAPS, will speak about mental health in the “Beyond Faith and Oprah” session.
The focus in the session will be on warning signs, so that people will be more thoughtful about when self-help resources may be appropriate, Small said. Small hopes the discussion will provide participants with enough information to make better-informed decisions about self-care, she said.
Holly Rodriguez, Richmond’s online and social media officer, will also speak about effective personal communication and how to approach networking without anxiety, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez, who attended the conference for the first time last year, did not hesitate when asked to speak in 2013, she said.
“The women of Westhampton College support the personal and professional growth of all women on this campus and beyond,” Rodriguez said. “I feel honored to be a part of this conference, created with the empowerment of women in mind.”
Although the conference is geared toward female students of color in the Richmond area, allies who want to learn more may attend too, Bullard said.
“I hope the women who attend feel like there are many other wise women of color in their community,” Miles said. “I hope this experience builds their network of support on and off campus.”
Tickets are available online on a first-come, first-served basis. The conference will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 15 in Jepson Alumni Center.
Contact reporter Gaby Calabrese at email@example.com