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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Social Justice Symposium asks panel of local professionals to share experiences

Kevin Brost
Kevin Brost / Arizona Daily Wildcat Leah Iverson spent the past two years in the Peace Corps and is now working on two masters degrees at the UA.

The seventh annual Social Justice Symposium is shaking up the agenda this year with the inclusion of a closing panel discussion for the first time in its history.

The past six years the event has been held, it has always ended with a keynote speaker. However, this year coordinators thought it would be valuable to include a moderated panel discussion of local professionals instead.

“Our goal is to inspire people to action more at a personal level, kind of seeing how people throughout their work are committed to social justice, but also inspiring action for people at an individual level,” said Elizabeth Funsch, a graduate student studying public health and Latin American studies and co-coordinator of the symposium.

The theme of the entirely student-driven symposium is “Access: Keys to Social Justice.” The event is designed to involve students, faculty, health professionals and members of the community in conversations promoting awareness of action in pursuit of equality and justice in every aspect of life.

It will be held Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the UA Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

The event, which is open to the public, will feature a keynote speaker, four breakout presentations and a closing panel discussion.

“I think the seventh annual symposium that we are having on Friday will be a great opportunity for people to become more educated on initiatives that are going on in academia, in the community, both in the state of Arizona and across borders,” said Leah Iverson, a graduate student studying public health and Latin American studies and the other co-coordinator of the symposium.

The keynote address will be given by Mike McCamon, chief community officer of, a nonprofit organization that has established innovative and community-driven solutions to help increase public access to safe water. His speech, “Experiment with Online Activism,” will delve into using technology and web-based campaigns to stimulate social justice movements.

“I’m really excited about hearing him speak,” Funsch said. “I think it’s going to be really interesting hearing his perspective on how and how he has gotten involved in social justice.”

After the opening remarks and the keynote presentation, participants will choose from four different breakout presentations to attend, each of which focuses on a specific topic related to social justice.

Participants can then attend presentations dealing with environmental injustices, vulnerable populations, politics and health inequalities and local approaches to global injustices. Each session includes four short abstract presentations from local professionals who are creating social change in their communities. Presenters range from local Tucson residents to Mexican and Native American activists.

“We have so many great things to see and you can’t see it all, so hopefully it leaves people with wanting to come back the next year to see what we have,” Funsch said.

The symposium will end with the newly added closing panel discussion moderated by Elva De La Torre, a training specialist with the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona. The panel will feature two UA faculty members, a local Tucson pastor and a local activist from Casa Maria Catholic Worker House. De La Torre will facilitate a concluding discussion about the day’s events and issues with the panel of professionals.

“What’s interesting is that you will get a few different perspectives from the different panelists, depending on which track they were observing,” De La Torre said, “so you’ll get a nice variety.”

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