The seventh annual International Colloquium on Black Male’s in Education, took place October 22nd – 26th in Dublin, Ireland. Wisconsin had four promising undergraduate scholars represent the university; Junior Kingsley Pissang, Senior Nasitta Keita, Senior Tashiana Lipscomb, and myself, Senior Paul Jackson II.
Moderators for the Colloquium, Chair Dr. Jerlando F.L. Jackson and Co-Chair Dr. James L. Moore III, gave inspiration to now servicing its seventh year stating,
“We wondered what it would be like to bring together a cadre of scholars from communities across the world to examine Black male experiences in education from a variety of lenses. Our hope is that every Colloquium attendee and participant leaves inspired, equipped, and motivated to improve the educational dilemma for Black males through research, practice, and policy”.
This year exemplified the moderators inspiration, behind the experiences and networking captured. The atmosphere was dynamic with various student leaders and scholars engaged in conversation, sharing testimonies overcoming adversity, and highlighting their struggles influenced their career path and research.
To witness sexual assault at the three college institutions I’ve attended thus far, shaped my research. Beginning my college education at Notre Dame College in Ohio, my introduction to sexual assaults on college campuses began with a close friend whom lived on the same floor as me in the dorms. Seeing how the once beloved freshman dorm experience, filled with residents having their doors open welcoming any and everyone on the floor to their room, instantly become a ghost town was impactful. Walking to and from my dorm passing her room, you can feel the lifeless energy, the floor had learning about her being assaulted. When she left the college I was hurt to acknowledge, Her assailant remained which left many people to ask how could this happen?
This trend continued, when I transferred to Dodge City Community College, and then the University of Wisconsin having friends and football teammates involved in sexual assault, either as victims, assailants, or falsely accused. Surrounded by this behavior influenced me to continue to walk a narrow path, upholding a moral standard to have a great deal of respect to women. The collective trauma I experienced listening to these individuals recount their experiences, made me aware of a problem needed to be in discussion. It seems inevitable for me to engage into this conversation into research and understand how institutions handle sexual assault, the initiatives campuses promote to current and prospective students to come forth with their experience.
Presenting my research at the Colloquium was more nerve wracking than being on the field of Camp Randall included with over 80,000+ fans watching my every move. The presence of scholars, professors, and public officials standing at attention, all making direct eye contact with me, was a farouche emotion. Initially I stuttered with my introduction, to recap what brought me to my research, but I was able to retain my composure after, fellow UW Director of Inclusion Sheridan Blanford, handed me a napkin to wipe the sweat off my face. It was at that moment, I recognized my audience is not supposed to be intimidating, they are looking out for my best interest, preparing me for future presentations. I was able to acknowledge my research is for the voiceless victims, to further their stories into policy and a academic setting to generate change. Settling in on that perception I was able to successfully carry out my goal, to continue conversation for victims, assailants, and those falsely accused for schools to provide resources for them to continue their education through the Title IX process. It was a rewarding experience, for my audience anxiously wanting to connect me with their Title IX coordinators to revamp policy, and compare how other institutions carry out a specific message that appeals to students.
Kingsley, Nasitta, and Tashiana were familiar faces to the Colloquium expanding on their research investigating campus monuments and their effects on black students’ mental health, entitled “Staples of Power: Examining Black Student Sentiments Surrounding Campus Monuments”.They included data of students responses to campus monuments, in addition to educating students about the history behind various monuments on campus. Informing students exactly how these monuments were established and the perception of them today. It was an amazing scene to witness their approach and preparation, displaying how poise they were with experience presenting in spaces with achieved scholars and well known experts as their audience.
“It was great to receive feedback from our audience, to learn how we can advance our study, and layout new questions enhancing our research to potentially shape policy”, Tashiana shared.
The best feedback received was from Dr. Jerlando Jackson, “This year was by far the best poster presentations the Colloquium has had by our undergraduate researchers”. That feeling was well received especially interacting with students from numerous universities in attendance USC, NYU, to Ohio State, and even UW-Whitewater, who felt their hard work was paying off.
The Colloquium provided an outlet for networking to be discussed. Nassitta reflected to how important networking is, “Meeting influential scholars in a field I were to enter, [and] being able to talk to them about their experiences in what they did with their degree and ability to introduce me to people who can help me move along in my career was so beneficial”. Especially as a senior student and any student in general pursuing higher education and graduate school, it is important to talk to individuals with experience and connections to assist and guide you through the process applying to graduate programs.
One of the highlights of the trip aside from presenting was exploring Dublin with my peers. As much as I teased the girls for making me become their personal photographer, it was a special feeling to experience this trip and travel across the country with individuals sharing a similar interest. We reflected presumably in 5 to 10 years this experience at the Colloquium will be the start up of our careers. Furthering the importance of our roles as trailblazers in our communities. As the result, of individuals valuing education to be rewarded an opportunity to travel the world for research. We kept this in our conversations all week long, knowing we have accomplished something ultimately accelerating the trajectory of our careers, to share to our communities to be a blessing for someone to follow.
Furthering research to contribute to a conversation about campus monuments being inclusive to minority and prospective students. Kingsley shared, “I love being in spaces such as the Colloquium because it has encouraged me to rethink my career to potentially seek higher education”.
Returning to Madison, we attended a lunch-in with our sponsors, the College of Letters and Science, sending us to the Colloquium. At this event, we shared our presentations to the representative faculty who were interested in learning about our experiences and recommendations. As a result of our conversation, faculty members were interested in bringing more prospective students to future Colloquiums. They encouraged us to share this message with students interested in advancing their education to present research international to cultivate our experiences.