First GSA Diversity Conference at UAlbany on April 23 

Speaker Janelle Bechdol earned a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric & Communication from UAlbany in 2006. Her minor was in music.

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 18, 2016) – Aurora Chang, an expert on the educational challenges faced by undocumented immigrants, and Janelle Bechdol, a UAlbany alumna and former American Idol contestant who uses music to get young people excited about college, will speak at the Graduate Student Association’s first diversity conference on April 23.

The event, which will be in the Empire Commons Community Room from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is organized by GSA’s Equity and Inclusion Committee and is open to the UAlbany community.

“This conference is a crucial step towards conversations regarding all aspects of diversity, from racial and ethnic diversity to those with disabilities or those who come from varying socio-economic statuses,” said Amani Edwards, chair of the Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Aurora Chang, Ph.D.

Chang, an assistant professor in Teaching and Learning at Loyola University’s School of Education, was once an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. She was raised in Richmond, Calif., in a family of eight children. At Loyola, she teaches courses on multicultural education, school reform, undocumented students, Chicana feminism, and urban schooling.

Her research focuses on the intersection of education, identity and agency within traditionally marginalized communities. Currently, she focuses on undocumented students’ paths of educational survival, resistance and persistence, how these experiences affect the American sociopolitical landscape and what educators can do to support these students.

Janelle Bechdol

Bechdol earned a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric and communication from UAlbany in 2006, with a minor in music. She recently earned a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Bechdol is the co-founder of the Hall Pass Tour, a concert series with musicians who travel the country to get young people excited about their dreams, and to activate their leadership in positive and effective school change. She recently found MUSEDORA, a movement to redefine, repurpose and reposition the role of popular musicians in the 21st century.

Through her workshop at UAlbany, Bechdol seeks to “inspire ownership and the sharing of authentic personal narratives, activate contextual awareness through collective affirmation, and help individuals grow in power with tools and strategies for exercising #blackgirl magic in everyday contexts.”

Bechdol, of Bedford Stuyvesant, has a white father and African American mother. Although she has eight siblings, she is the only mixed-race member of her family. She works through the intersectionality of her identity in social justice work and harnesses the powers of narrative, purpose, and creativity to inspire positive change.

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