Recalibrate through Resilience: a student sustainability researcher’s perspective on MIT’s Multicultural Conference
Back in November, before the winter holidays, MIT’S Office of Multicultural Programs (OMP) held its annual Multicultural Conference (MC^2) conference at Endicott House. This year’s theme was “Recalibrate: A New Chapter,” as a recognition of the year’s challenges but also as a testament to our resilience. As a MITOS sustainability researcher, I served on the Marketing and Promotions team alongside the event’s planning committee to explore a connection between personal healing, sustainability-related issues, and food justice.
“There has never been a more critical time in history to assure that we are integrating the issues of our environment in all spheres of dialogue. Whether it be the economy, politics, education or health, everything we know, feel, or experience requires movement that is in accord with the design of earth’s natural laws,” said Dr. Alma Jam of MIT’s OMP. “It’s important to me that as we talk about social justice and promote DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) education, that we also create room on the table acknowledge the significance of sustainability education and why its knowledge and practices are central and fundamental to solving the issues our world is facing today,” she said.
The MC^2 Conference, which aims to “bring students together across ability, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and additional aspects of identity,” drew about forty students and staff. The conference hosted speakers who presented on topics such as processing grief, breaking down stereotypes, and health and wellness. In addition to the panels, conference-goers participated in activities designed to build community and reflection on ones’ own identities.
The conference speakers’ backgrounds ranged from psychologists to MIT students to alumni to social activists. The team was excited to invite MIT DUSP alumni Cassandria Campbell, the Founder and CEO of Fresh Food Generation, to lead a discussion with the group. Cassandria discussed her model for serving healthy, sustainable, and affordable food in Dorchester and tips for succeeding as a business owner. Attendees had lots of questions for Cassandria about entrepreneurship, procurement of sustainable ingredients, and starting a new restaurant. With a new brick-and-mortar restaurant opening up this winter, there’s an opportunity to visit Cassandria next semester, taste delicious food, and learn more about how we can work together to solve for a sustainable food system.
Another talk was led by Tracie Jones, the Assistant Dean for DEI at MIT’S School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. In her panel “Not Perfect but Good Enough: Managing Expectations and Practicing Self Care,” Tracie worked with students on challenging perfectionism and provided strategies to work on proper self-care during stressful times.
Other panels included talks on the first-generation student experience, an ask-me-anything by a veteran student, DEI best practices, and empowerment through body movement. I also had the opportunity to present on climate change, sustainability, and environmental wellness on behalf of MITOS. I discussed our relationship with the environment and ways to encourage sustainability, such as taking alternative forms of transportation, practicing mindfulness about our relationship with the environment, and supporting our local food system.
Recognizing the connection between health and sustainability is so important—whether it’s managing the stress of the worrisome impacts of climate change or taking time to enjoy nature and fresh air, and there are many resources and people at MIT to connect with. I’m looking forward to learning and connecting further on this topic; the next MC2 Conference is scheduled to be held in the fall of 2022.