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Multicultural Student Life, Student Learning: Black Issues Conference

While the conference typically takes place in person, we transitioned to a virtual format this spring. This dialogue conference provides students, staff, community members, and faculty the opportunity to come together in dialogue about the Black experience, difficult dialogue, and building unity and community at UTK.


Attendance: 390, Assessments Collected: 66

This is on track with the usual attendance we have, with numbers trending slightly lower due to the conference being fully virtual. Our number of assessments collected was significantly lower due to the online format


The Black Issues Conference helps to promote student learning by:

  • Articulating their interests, skills, preferences, and values, while simultaneously being able to explain their sense of identity through dialogue and intentional discussion.
  • Being able to name community and campus resources as a way to be more connected to their identities
  • respect and appreciate diverse viewpoints and backgrounds and demonstrate awareness, knowledge, and skills through dialogue to understand the impact of diversity on campus and in the community
  • Naming ways that race and health intersect


Assessment Responses:

  • When asked about things learned from the Black Issues Conference, the overall themes from attendees learning that were reported are:


Race has an impact on both health & mental health

  • “Racism has a direct impact on your mental health status. I had no idea I was being affected in this way”

Several participants highlighted that adverse childhood experiences could impact the way they see themselves today

  • “My own experiences with adversity originating from childhood encouraged me to attend. I learned information on how to move forward.”

Importance of relationships in being able to identify community

  • “It is important to understand your values system when searching for healthy relationships”
  • “I was influenced to learn more about how my experiences growing up could have potentially affected my lifestyle now.”
  • “I am able to explain the circles of sexuality now”


Campus resources:

Several participants mentioned the idea of connecting with campus offices that directly align with identity: MSL, I-House

Being able to identify the counseling center and MSL’s Empowerment Group were mentioned by several attendees- many stated they were unaware of the group support options

Many participants mentioned learning new approaches to mindfulness but were not specific in what the new approaches were

Personal Growth:

  • Veganism has a ton of health benefits that I didn’t know about!”
  • “Loving yourself is OK!”
  • “I learned about the history of pathologizing black experiences, efforts to improve diversity in health professions, brain development and ACES”
  • 1) Disparity in how minority populations are impacted by ACEs 2) Tangible ways to practice self-care (relax, relate, & release) 2) A new perspective on COVID, including the idea that we now all, collectively, have something in common: living through this experience.”