I’ve been involved with Carnegie Mellon University’s MOSAIC gender conference for 3 years now, and I’m always excited when Spring rolls around for us to start planning it. I’ve got a rad, queer colleague at CMU by the name of Jess Klein. She coordinates LGB and gender programs at CMU, and has been in charge of planning the conference for the past few years. Today I sat down with Jess to talk about this year’s MOSAIC conference and what it offers to the CMU community and beyond.
Noah: Jess, how long have you been coordinating MOSAIC?
Jess: It’s my fifth year.
Noah: Can you tell me about the history of MOSAIC and why it’s important to you?
Jess: When it first started (1997) it was kind of a “for women/by women” thing. Over time, we realized we could not just look at women, we had to look at the intersections of identity and be inclusive of women with intersecting marginalized identities and even of people of different genders. So, instead of the conference on women as it used to be called it’s now the conference on gender. You cannot put identity in silos and expect people to fully understand the impact that identity can have on individuals and communities.
Noah: So why a gender conference at CMU?
Jess: I know that it looks different than when it originally started, but what I like about it is that people who don’t know a lot about gender and intersectionality can come and learn about it, or if you have an in-depth understanding of gender, you can also find something interesting for yourself. People who have varying levels of understanding of gender and intersectionality can come together and walk away learning something from the conference.
Noah: Tell me about this year’s conference and what attendees can look forward to?
Jess: In the past there have been themes to the conference and this year we decided as a committee we didn’t want to box people in to a theme, so I think that has opened up the range of proposals that we are getting with topics. You can expect to see students presenting but also faculty, staff, and community members. We also don’t want money to be a factor to come and participate, so we keep our costs to $10-15 person and that gets you a full lunch and full access to the conference. There aren’t a lot of conferences you can go to that cost this amount of money!
I’m also REALLY pumped about our keynote speaker, Byron Hurt! I’ve just always admired his work and I know that he is well known in the gender-based violence prevention community and in the black community with activism. I think we live in a space right now where we need men to call out other men, and not just that but give people tools to navigate healthy masculinity and sexuality and how that intersects with race and class, sexual orientation, gender, etc. He hits on all of those things, and I believe that his message is accessible to people with varying understandings of gender and intersectionality.
Noah: So what are the important details?
The conference is on Saturday, February 24th at Doherty Hall. Registration starts at 8:30AM and conference sessions will begin at 10 a.m. You can come for as little or as much of the conference as you want, and the keynote address by Byron Hurt is free and open to the public at 4:30 p.m.! If you register for the conference, lunch is included! Also, if you are a part of a community organization who wants to have a table at the event, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Noah: Awesome, I’m looking forward to it!