An in-depth look at the Strengths and Struggles Summit


Julia de la Parra, Senior Writer

“Strengths and Struggles” is a free 21 day virtual summit extending from Sept. 2-22 wherein students are granted access to personalized interviews that address topics such as racism, sexism, equality in education, cultural studies, and universal justice for all minority groups. After registering through the online Multicultural Student Services of Bucknell page, students should receive an email inviting them to explore the summit. This email informs students of the access they now have to interviews featuring top scholars, students, and activists from many different fields and walks of life. Students that have registered will receive a daily email at approximately 6 a.m. with a link to the day’s interview, which tackles a new topic and features a new interviewee each day.

Dr. Jeanine Staples, associate professor of literacy and language, African American Studies, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Penn State University is the virtual tour guide of the summit and conducts the interviews that it features. “[I work] to understand personal and public voices and stories to solve personal and public problems. I do this by researching the evolutionary nature and function of literacies and texts through the discourses of narrative research,” Staples said.

The summit aspires to provide answers to questions that students, staff or faculty might have about contentious issues. For example, what are the academic and societal experiences like for marginalized individuals? Although some schools provide spaces and opportunities in which students can flourish and celebrate their diversity, like multicultural clubs and conscious curriculum, schools can also cultivate atmospheres that worsen the experience of minorities. Indeed, schools can be potential breeding grounds for micro/macro aggressions, defunded programs, abuse, political insensitivity, and many other issues.

So, how can we help? Whose responsibility is it to stop the perpetuation of ignorance? What does it mean to be an ally?

Staples has curated a group of educators, students, and activists that specialize in various topics in an effort to solve these questions. Staples will typically share a screen with her interviewees and ask them about themselves and how their stories relate to the topic at hand. Each individual has been specifically selected to speak on topics that are salient to their own experiences. From conducting these interviews, Staples hopes to create advocates, educate administrators, provide a voice for the ‘marginalized’, and simply expand the minds of participants.

The interview for Sept. 6 is entitled “Three Ways to Boss Up: The Words of Wisdom (and an Action Plan) from an African American Undergraduate Woman Scholar,” and features Symone McCollum, an undergraduate student at Penn State University as well as this year’s recipient of the Michelle Obama Woman of the Year Award. She speaks about her journey as a woman of color at a predominantly white university, and her experience of coming from a neighborhood of color in downtown Philadelphia and traveling to a school where she is a minority.

A Facebook group advertising the summit enables participants to connect and foster discussions about what they have learned. Participants are invited to introduce themselves within it and share their experiences.

“I think the online virtual summit gives students easy access to learning more about different minority groups and what their experiences are like,” Barclay Wohlstetter ’19 said.

If you are looking to participate in the ongoing summit, head to and add your name and email address.

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