Students, Faculty Presented at International Conference
Galloway, N.J. – Eight Stockton University students presented on their roles as student leaders and community builders in June at the 47th annual Caribbean Studies Association Conference in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to Shedia Laguer, assistant director of Student Development and recent graduate of the Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership program, the conference presented an academic opportunity that proved invaluable.
“It is proven that high-impact practices (HIPs) like undergraduate research, study abroad, internships, and service-learning are linked to positive academic outcomes,” Laguer said. “Attending the Caribbean Studies Association conference was a pathway for underrepresented minority students from the Caribbean Student Association (CSA) to engage in these HIPs while learning more about their culture and heritage in the Caribbean.”
“The immersive experience of being in the Caribbean and among scholars, politicians, activists, diplomats, and other dignitaries from across the U.S. and the Caribbean undoubtedly planted seeds of achievement, engagement, and cultural pride for our students... It was all so transformative.”
In addition to attending sessions and keynotes led by prominent scholars and thinkers of the Caribbean, the students, all a part of the revitalized student group Caribbean Students Association, presented their research on the revitalization of the CSA student group on our campus.
“The president, Ann Delva, and I talked about the process of restarting this club again,” student Lynnsey Raphael said. “We also discussed the struggles of restarting a club as well as what we did within a year. We talked about the different events that we hosted, and the future events we want to hold. Along with my e-board, we had two of our members, Kiana Skyers and Kayla Flowers, come and give testimonies about how CSA impacted their experience at Stockton.”
Student Kiana Skyers felt that presenting in front of an international audience was different from giving a presentation at home — it felt familiar even though she was in an unfamiliar place.
"Typically, there is a distinct lack of the usual comfort associated with presenting in front of people that you are familiar with,” Skyers said. “This presentation varied in that regard because we were surrounded by people that shared a culture deeply embedded within us as immigrants. Aspects of the Caribbean were scattered all over the room, and this point of connection fostered an understanding that was highlighted whenever a reference was made or whenever a childhood story was shared.”
The conference also encouraged the students to explore their career paths, according to student LeeAnn Richards.
“I can confidently say that the experience helped me develop as a student because I left the conference with a lot more hunger for knowledge and, overall, just a new perspective on things,” Richards said. “I mean, I now want to further my education in my field to the highest degree that I can. I also want to minor in French and Communication, so I just have a whole bunch of new dreams now.”
For Raphael, this provided her the opportunity to visit a Caribbean Island and to experience the culture that is frequently discussed in CSA meetings and at home for the first-generation Haitian-American student.
“I was so happy that I was surrounded by other Caribbean people that were doctors and/or educated,” Raphael said. “It was truly inspiring and pushed me to want to do more. I truly enjoyed sitting through the different presentations because they were discussing real issues and informed people of the struggles that these Caribbean islands face. Something about hearing them talk about the issue made me really internalize the passion they had for their country.”
To Laguer, being able to accompany these students to this conference was “one of the greatest accomplishments” of her career due to its impact on the students extending beyond the curriculum in the classroom.
“The immersive experience of being in the Caribbean and among scholars, politicians, activists, diplomats, and other dignitaries from across the U.S. and the Caribbean undoubtedly planted seeds of achievement, engagement, and cultural pride for our students,” Laguer shared. “Our students represented themselves and the university well. CSA president Chenzira Davis Kahina publicly noted the distinguished presence of the Stockton delegation in her closing speech at the Government House Gala. It was all so transformative.”
Club Connect: Meet the... Caribbean Students Association
“We started the club last semester,” Ann Delva, president of the Caribbean Students Association, said. “We are mostly trying to get new members, create new events and keep growing.”
According to Delva, the student organization’s objective is to bring people together and exhibit the Caribbean culture to Stockton students. The organization also serves as a platform for Caribbean students to create a community by connecting with one another and their heritage.
– Story by Loukaia Taylor
– Photos submitted