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AOCC 2019: Homecoming

Two of the student tri-chairs of the 2019 Alumni of Color Conference speak about the goals for this year’s event and how educators can create spaces that are welcoming for all.

AOCC 2019
In order for a community to thrive, people first must feel welcome. This year’s Alumni of Color of Conference (AOCC) — an annual, two-day event that will be held on HGSE’s campus on March 1 and 2 — will explore this idea through the theme, Homecoming: Past, Present, and Future. Keynote speakers, panelists, and participants will consider how — through storytelling, shared experiences, and knowledge of and respect for each other’s histories — communities and education spaces can grow stronger, and become truly welcoming.

“We want our attendees to really reflect upon their educational and career trajectories and think about what it is they bring to the table in making educational spaces not just more inclusive, but welcoming and affirming for all,” says C.A.S. candidate Jolleen Filio, Ed.M.’18, one of the student tri-chairs of this year’s event, along with Ed.L.D. candidate Marissa Alberty and master’s candidate Paola Muñoz.

Ahead of the conference, Filio and Muñoz spoke about the goals of the event and what attendees can expect on campus this weekend.

How did you settle on the theme, Homecoming?

Filio: There were several layers of reasons why we chose this theme. One was that homecoming means “the return of a group of people usually on a special occasion to a place formerly frequented or regarded as home.” We wanted alumni to have this experience of coming back home to HGSE during this special time.

We were also talking about what it means to feel “at home” at HGSE and in educational spaces in general. I felt instantly at home and knew I wanted to attend HGSE the moment that I stepped onto campus: I had a strong feeling that this was where I needed to be. However, in talking to many other students, particularly students of color, my experience is definitely not shared across all students despite Harvard’s messaging of “You Belong.” So I wanted to unpack what it means to feel “at home” in an educational space and what factors play into our differing experiences.

And the subtheme?

Filio: We chose past, present, and future based on the concept of Sankofa, a Ghanian concept that means that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. We wanted AOCC this year to be a space where we can reflect upon and learn from the past, analyze the present, and look toward the future with the best of what the past and present has to teach us.

We also have the subtheme of “Through the stories and connections of our past, present and future, we can create welcoming spaces for our communities to thrive.” We know the power of sharing our stories in connecting to each other, and we wanted AOCC to be a space where people do this. (For more info, see

You have so many amazing speakers and panels lined up this year. Are there any you are most looking forward to?

Filio: I’m looking forward to the keynote panel of HGSE alumni and faculty (Daren Graves, Ed.M.’00, Ed.D.’06; Lecturer Josephine Kim; Ali Nomani, Ed.M.’15; and Roberto Velasquez, Ed.M.’80) because they bring so much experience and wisdom from their work in different educational spheres. As an avid reader and first-generation Asian immigrant, I’m also very excited to hear from [author and editor] Sharmila Sen and get my copy of her book, Not Quite Not White, signed!/p>

Muñoz:  As for me, it’s really hard to choose any speakers or panels as ones I’m most looking forward to since each one brings different narratives and wisdom to the conference. I look forward to networking with alumni and hearing about their experiences at HGSE, what they have done since, and how they have navigated educational spaces as people of color. I look forward to hearing from professionals in the field on how they are creating more welcoming spaces and what practices are being implemented to create such spaces. I look forward to hearing from youth on their vision for an inclusive future for education and how educators can create welcoming spaces for all students. This would extend to their families, communities, and adult students that are sharing space with us as well. Lastly, I look forward to hearing from current students and friends on how their personal stories have impacted the work that they have done and are doing in the field of education.

What do you hope participants take from this year’s conference?

Filio: We hope they can engage with the different ways that our keynote speakers and presenters crafted their speeches and workshops on our conference themes, and that they can learn frameworks, techniques, practices, and new ideas they can take into their own work. Everyone on the AOCC steering committee — Marissa, Paola, and all the team leads and members — has been putting so much time, effort, and love into making this conference a reality, so we hope that everyone can have a fun, educational, and restorative weekend!

The 2019 Alumni of Color Conference will be held at HGSE Friday, March 1 – Saturday, March 2. Learn more.


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