The Women’s Initiative for Leadership Development, or WILD, held their fifth annual conference on Sunday with theme, “We Are Not Alone: Validate, Rejuvenate, Liberate.”
The WILD conference is a student leadership conference hosted by a committee of students in partnership with Women’s Student Services, Women’s Council and the University Activities Board at Michigan State University.
Conference co-chairs arts and humanities senior Ashleigh Lowe and psychology and sociology senior Taylor Murdick both agreed that the difference between this conference and conferences in the past is that this conference had a central focus on healing.
“When I had presented in front of the planning committee, they continuously encouraged me to not censor any part of myself but bring my holistic self to the conference," student keynote speaker and hospitality and business senior Diana Talamantes-Valles said.
This is one of the reasons the conference drew Talamantes-Valles in and proved to her the WILD conference was going to allow her voice to be heard authentically by many.
In her speech, Talamantes-Valles discussed on what it meant to be a first-generation student and how she had to step up to be her own role model. She also talked about how she used to downplay herself and her successes, calling everything luck.
She said luck really is when preparation meets opportunity, now realizing the work she does in her successes.
The conference was filled with people eager to learn and share their ideas. One of the conversations discussed whether active conversation is making an impact in the realm of gender equity and social change.
An attendee of the WILD conference, psychology junior Antonice Beam, said that the conversation of gender equity and social change is only a small step.
“You can talk about it all day, but if we don’t actually make a plan, then I don’t think it’s beneficial," Beam said.
Murdick said that it's important to educate the public so that they can be aware of social movement as well as be a part of the movement. They went further to say that many might not be aware of how to create an impact, so education can be the best way to create change can.
“By educating on things such as feminism or gender oppression, we can create awareness for different topics in different areas of interest,” Lowe said.
Talamantes-Valles said diverse people coming together for the same cause will spark various conversations to work towards change.
Murdick also spoke on how there can be a hierarchy of power within conferences, and having the WILD conference be student-led eliminates that hierarchy.
“Having students take a lead within the conference … (shows that) it matters to people who are my age who are in my community who are in my classes," Murdick said.
Lowe said that having the conference be student-led allows for more relevant topics to be discussed and allows students to talk through topics they care about.
Lowe said individuals can make an everyday impact in their lives by being conscious and more inclusive in their language.
“Acknowledging that we don’t know everything and that it’s okay to learn, and so implementing the fact that every day we’re going to learn new things is very important when it comes to gender equity and feminism in itself," Murdick said.
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Murdick also said that Talamantes-Valles brings up a great point of doing small acts of being uncomfortable within the patriarchy.
An example Talamantes-Valles talked about was wearing an outfit that doesn’t align with the gender roles that are placed in society, but that makes the individual feel comfortable and more like themself.
Murdick said getting involved in gender equity issues and the community itself doesn’t have to be as elaborate as planning a whole conference. They said it can just be showing up to meetings that you’re interested in and interacting with different people to build a sense of community.
Lowe agreed that “educating yourself on a personal scale” can make an impact.
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