Doctoral Students Organize Conference as Part of Class Project
The first-of-its-kind event tackles advocacy, social justice and the cultural dimensions of mental health.
Written by James Hodgins
Texas Tech University hosts many conferences each year, but one upcoming conference is a first-of-its-kind. Behind the Perspective, a Conference on Advocacy, Social Justice and the Cultural Dimensions of Mental Health will be held April 20 at Holden Hall.
What makes this particular conference different is it is led completely by a doctoral student cohort as part of a class on multicultural social justice taught by Aretha Marbley in the College of Education.
Elizabeth Deming is one of the students in the class who is helping to plan the event. She said Marbley gave them the option to organize a conference instead of writing a research paper, so as a class, they voted for the conference.
“The conference is for our cohort, but it’s also to help any health professionals in the area, the resident assistants on campus and anyone in the College of Education counseling program,” Deming said. “Beyond our grade, we really want to make it effective for the community.”
The conference is focused on three main strands: sexuality, advocacy within institutions and violence. Deming said they had to find speakers who could discuss how these areas affect mental health.
Presenters at the conference come from a variety of agencies and communities including the greater Lubbock area and Texas Tech faculty. They include:
- Charlotte Dunham, director of the Women’s Studies Program
- Colette Taylor, associate professor in the College of Education
- Aretha Marbley, professor in the College of Education
- Kathleen Phelan, doctoral candidate
- Rachelle Berg-Ritter, doctoral candidate
- Patricia Earl, coordinator of the Women’s Studies Program
- Christina Sapien-Iezzi
- Colt Meier, psychology intern at the Student Counseling Center
- Laura Dawson, doctoral candidate
- Steven Garcia and Heather Hennington, Women’s Protective Services
Deming said the topics are varied, but they all deal with social advocacy and cultural awareness.
“We want people to learn how different cultures participate in mental health and the outcomes they experience,” Deming said. “We’re looking at how different people are affected by mental health counseling and what are good strategies to use with different populations.”
Deming said the class is primarily distance learning with students only meeting in person twice a semester, so the conference had to be a coordinated effort among the whole class to work with each person’s strengths to put everything together for the conference.
“It’s been a huge effort because it’s the first one being completely student created,” she said. “It was very much a team effort and everyone brought something different to the table.”
Since students live across Texas, they were able to raise interest and invite faculty, students and professionals from beyond this region. Deming said this has put some pressure on them to put on a good conference, but that was a welcome challenge and responsibility.
The conference had to be organized with no budget, which presented other challenges, Deming said, but the university and community have been overwhelmingly supportive throughout the entire process.
Depending on how successful the conference is, Deming said Marbley has expressed interest in continuing this project for future cohorts.
“It’s a really nice thing for Texas Tech to have,” Deming said. “A doctoral-led conference is something unique.”
Registration for the conference is free and open to the campus and community through the day of the event. Deming said they do ask for people to register and RSVP on the event’s Facebook page by April 17.
College of Education
The College of Education at Texas Tech University offers a full range of programs, including eight doctoral degrees, 12 master's degrees and two bachelor's degrees with numerous specializations leading to careers in public or private education as teachers, professors, administrators, counselors and diagnosticians.
Programs in the college are housed in two departments. The Department of Curriculum and Instruction offers undergraduate programs leading to initial teaching certificates and graduate programs in bilingual education, curriculum and instruction, elementary education, language literacy and secondary education.
The Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership offers graduate programs in counselor education, educational leadership, educational psychology, higher education, instructional technology and special education.