AOCC Leads the Way

AOCC Mosaic

Inspiring. Rejuvenating. Empowering. These are some of the words used to describe the experience of attending the annual HGSE Alumni of Color Conference (AOCC) — which is not your typical academic conference.

Launched in 2002 by students who recognized the wealth of untapped knowledge and experience possessed by HGSE’s alumni of color, AOCC convenes educators, scholars, and activists from around the country to explore issues of race, class, and education. 

After almost 20 years, the Alumni of Color Conference is part of the fabric of the Ed School — and AOCC educators and scholars are driving change beyond campus, too. 

At its founding, the conference was “an opportunity to invite back alumni of color in the field and in the academy to present their work so we could learn from them and connect with them,” says AOCC co-founder Daren Graves, Ed.D.’06, now an associate professor at Simmons University in Boston and a regular attendee of AOCC. 

But as it nears its 20th anniversary, the annual convening has become even more — an opportunity for renewal and transformation, a creative space for new solutions. The three-day event now brings together hundreds of educators, policymakers, and students of all backgrounds to participate in workshops, hear compelling speakers, and share innovations and ideas. AOCC themes have included race, gender, and ethnicity in education; building community power; politics and education; education for leadership and transformation —  and 2020’s focus, “HGSE 100 Years in the Making: Past, Present, and Future of Education for Communities of Color.”

“While the conference has taken on many themes over the two decades, each year the AOCC inspires attendees to effect lasting change,” say 2020 co-chairs, master’s students Zoë Mayfield and Molin Chen. 

“Traditional research conferences are often more dispassionate or detached, and sometimes communities of color are ‘studied,’ but not in a way that honors what they have to contribute,” says Lecturer Candice Bocala, Ed.D.’14, who was one of the student tri-chairs for the 2009 AOCC convening. “AOCC celebrates research, scholarship, and practice that works in partnership with, or is led by, people of color.”   

One of the most impactful aspects of the conference, says Bocala, has been creating a space to honor the contributions of alumni of color. It also creates a space for current students to learn, explore, and collaborate outside of the walls of a classroom.

“AOCC has become part of the fabric of HGSE,” says Graves. “It has made HGSE a better place, and a better place in particular for our community of color.” – Andrew Bauld

Learn More and Connect

Explore the offerings at and register for this year's Alumni of Color Conference.

Learn about HGSE's Race, Equity, and Leadership in Schools program, where leaders can develop skills and historical understanding to lead courageous conversations about race, power, and equity.

Read HGSE's One and All series to learn about educational practices that build inclusion, support diversity, and reduce harassment.