According to Sylvia Muñoz, Director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education, before students graduate and are sent out into the world, it is important for Elon University to give them all the tools needed to succeed.
Muñoz said she believes events such as the Intersect Conference achieve this goal by providing students with the skills and knowledge needed to make students global citizens.
Muñoz has been a part of Intersect since 2015. While the conference is entirely student-run, Muñoz said she helps guide student leaders and empowers them to contact agencies to find presenting speakers.
She said her favorite part of the conference has been getting people together to discuss topics about diversity and leadership through lectures and keynote speakers.
“I think that community building that happens among faculty, students, and staff in a very intellectual space and warm atmosphere is really cool.” Munoz said.
The theme for this year’s conference is “Look Out for Yourself. Look Out for Each Other. Look Out for Our Future.”
According to Jayla Martin Beasley, a junior at Elon University and member of the Intersect committee, the meaning behind the theme is the importance of taking care of oneself so that they can help others find the tools needed for building a brighter future.
Leslie Aviles Mendoza, student worker at the CREDE, said “We wanted something that was current, something that could really motivate people to want to make a change,” Avilles Mendoza said.
Saul Flores — a philanthropist, photojournalist, and speaker recognized for his social impact projects — was the main keynote speaker this year. According to Mendoza, Olivia Brown, one of the faculty directors for Intersect recommended him. The student directors were already familiar with his work and thought that his background aligned with their theme. Furthermore, they found Flores inspiring and believed others would as well.
During his presentation, Flores said his parents were Ecuadorian immigrants and said he repeated their journey through his “Walk of the Immigrants” project, which recreated his parents’ migration to the U.S.
Flores said he traveled from Ecuador to Charlotte, documenting his journey through photography to show the danger and risks immigrants take to reach the United States.
Elizabeth Cadol, mother of Sarah Cadol ‘24, visited Elon to participate in the conference and said she was left with a new perspective about the experiences of people migrating into the U.S.
“Understanding what people do to get to this country and experiences they have was a huge takeaway,” said Cadol.
Besides Flores’s presentation, students also had the opportunity to attend four educational sessions followed by roundtable discussions with a wide variety of panels and about topics such as leadership, self-care, diversity, and prejudice in the United States.
Raymond Villalobos, a visiting participant and Program Coordinator for the University Office of Diversity and Inclusion at UNC Chapel Hill, believes that the conference is a great place for students to learn about diversity before going out into the world.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for my students and for me personally to learn and grow in our leadership, and grow our ability to navigate and be with everybody.” Villalobos said
According to Muñoz, over 200 participants registered for the event this year, with some arriving from other universities.
Previously, students and faculty from other universities attended the conference, but the pandemic caused most members in recent years to be of the Elon community.
Muñoz said this is the first conference after COVID-19 that will feature representation from other universities.
Beasley said she hopes participants leave the conference having learned new things from each other and experiencing good conversations with one another
“I think the heart of Intersect is also being able to just discuss and talk with people and get different viewpoints,” Beasley said. “So I really hope they walked away feeling that they had good discussions with really good people.”