In terms of selecting “Migration: Exploring Roots & Routes” as a relevant topic for the 9th annual Community Movements Conference, student organizers hit the nail on the head.
As the world grapples with the current refugee crisis, the Student Association for International Development (SAID) attracted over 100 attendees to the conference, a forum designed to approach the complex issue of migration through discussion, education, and subsequent action.
“We really wanted participants to have the opportunity to network, learn new skills, and to have a safe space for meaningful discussions,” said Mauricio Interiano, SAID co-chair, event organizer, and fourth-year International Development and Sociology student.
The group of 26 organizers included students from a variety of academic departments at Trent University, ranging from Business to Sociology to Women & Gender Studies, and more. Thanks to the conference, each of the student organizers found a meaningful way to share their passion.
“I was able to meet other students that share my same interest,” stated Mr. Interiano. “I also feel like I was doing something meaningful in the community. The conference tries to deepen communication and promote solidarity through workshops, dialogue and critical reflections on challenges in international development. It’s rewarding to know that I was part of that process.”
Over the course of its history, the Community Movements Conference has developed a reputation for excellence that has drawn in top-class speakers and an enthusiastic following from students, community leaders, and from a number of Trent alumni who make a point of attending every year. This year’s keynote speakers included, Harsha Walia, a social justice activist and journalist who is best known for co-founding the Vancouver chapter of No One Is Illegal, a grassroots migrant justice group and Gloria Nafgizer, a refugee coordinator at Amnesty International Canada.
Through the many speakers involved in the conference, the weekend discussions addressed mass displacements, challenges faced by Canada’s resettlement program and immigrant rights movements. A panel highlighting student research on various aspects of migration was also included. For the first time, this year’s event incorporated a chance for conference attendees to work together to present tangible solutions to real-world challenges related to migration through policy development and movement building.
In addition to delving into the topic, student organizers gained other real-world experience by executing a marketing campaign, managing budgets and speaking publicly.
“After coming to the conference, speakers are impressed by how well-organized and run the conference is, and also by the interest and discussions Trent students are able to spark,” said Mr. Interiano.