Student Research Conference to close with Local Activist Panel

November 4, 2019

View of Richmond from the James River

Social justice is at the core of the School of World Studies’ mission as we foster engaged global citizenship in our students and community at large. 2019’s Student Research Conference honors that tradition by closing with a panel discussion by local activists on Friday, November 15 from 3-4 p.m. in the Richmond Salons of the VCU Student Commons. 

Moderated by professor Isabelle Richman, Ph.D., the panelists include: Zakia McKensey, founder and executive director of Nationz Foundation; Seema Sked, founder of Fight the Muslim Ban; Zoe Spencer, Ph.D., activist and scholar; and Rev. Leonina Arismendi Zarkovic, co-director of Santos en Virginia

Each activist brings distinct perspectives and experiences to share with our audience. McKensey has been an HIV Prevention Educator for over 15 years and started the Nationz Foundation to serve LGBTQIA+ identified individuals in central Virginia. Sked’s activism is rooted in undoing the harmful effects of Islamaphobia and the 2017 Muslim Ban. Spencer, Ph.D., is a professor of Sociology at VSU and a civil rights strategist. Rev. Zarkovic founded Santos en Virginia in part to provide bail and legal defense funds for incarcerated people who are immigrants. 

All four panelists hope to be part of an open dialogue about intersectional issues as well as to motivate young activists. “It is important to inspire individuals to get in to this work and to hear about issues communities face and why the need for the work is important” explains McKensey on her decision to participate. She further adds how especially vital it is to engage  “young activists … [in order] for the work to continue and [because] our youth are our future.”

The activist panel on Friday, November 15 from 3-4 will be the final event in this year’s student research conference following a full day of student presentations and a film screening/keynote address the day before. All events related to this conference will take place in the VCU Student Commons and are free and open to the public.