The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

Zora Martin Felton Symposium Empowers Young Women of Color

Photo from Destiny Smith. From Left: Michelle Rios-Araque and Dr. Belinda Waller-Peterson.
Photo from Destiny Smith. From Left: Michelle Rios-Araque and Dr. Belinda Waller-Peterson.

Moravian University will host its second annual Zora Martin Felton Symposium on Friday, April 12, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The forum recognizes Zora Martin Felton, the first African American woman to graduate from the Moravian College for Women, in 1952.

The ZMF Symposium was created to help educate and empower women of color in the Lehigh Valley, specifically high school girls. Students from Liberty, Freedom,  Allentown, and Easton Area High Schools were invited to apply to attend. 

The Symposium uses MU Faculty Mentors and MU student ambassadors to lead and participate in workshops that address confidence and self-esteem, financial literacy, educational opportunities, health and well-being, social issues, and supportive networks for women of color. 

Bringing awareness of educational opportunities is just one of the goals of the Symposium. 

“Coming into college is a very scary experience, especially if you are the first one in your family and especially if you are a woman of color and, maybe, you don’t have access or resources or knowledge or information available to you,” said Michelle Rios-Araque, assistant director for the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “So, we want to make sure that throughout this whole day, they get that experience, they are able to intentionally connect with the mentors and the student ambassadors who were once in their shoes.” 

Rios-Araque and Symposium founder/director and associate dean for Equity and Inclusion Dr. Belinda Waller-Peterson, use the word “intentional” when describing the event. An icebreaker activity will help spark bonds between students, ambassadors, and mentors. There will also be an identity mapping workshop, to help students get to know each other but to also reflect on themselves. All the goals, outcomes, and workshops cater to the girls’ needs.  

The vision board workshop will be one of the highlights of the event. 

“We’re excited to bring [this] sort of workshop into this space, because we see a lot of vision board-making on social media, but all of it seems out of reach because it is the life of other people,” said Rios-Araque. “This one specifically uses words of empowerment.” 

The vision boards, which will be created by the attendees, are collages of photographs, usually cut from  magazines, to depict a person’s goals. For the conference, participants will use vision boards created by Your Dreamwall, a woman-owned company; the boards have aesthetically-pleasing backgrounds, empowering prompts, and affirmation cards, among other features. 

Waller-Peterson entered into her position at MU in the fall of 2016. She and another Black professor were hired to tenure-track positions in the English Department, accounting for the only Black tenure-track faculty at Moravian at the time. According to Waller-Peterson, this was an “incredibly lonely experience” and “isolating” but not one that was “abnormal in higher education.” The ZMF Symposium is her way of sharing her experience with other young women of color and being an example of a professional Black woman in academia. 

“We take serious the responsibility of uplifting women of color, young women of color, and girls of color,” she said. “We take that responsibility seriously and put a lot of intention and love into that.”

If you are a MU student and want more information about this event, contact Waller-Peterson or Rios-Araque via email: ([email protected]) or Michelle Rios-Araque ([email protected]).

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Any comments that are considered racist, sexist, using expletives or slurs, based on factually inaccurate information, or are derogatory in any way will be deleted.
All The Comenian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *