UW Photo

The 21st annual Shepard Symposium on Social Justice kicks off this Wednesday, April 5th at the University of Wyoming.

The event began as a small grassroots event and eventually expanded to garner international attention. The event began as an event created by two College of Education members at UW. It was renamed in 2002 to honor UW student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in 1998.

Symposium organizer and Associate Professor of Disability Studies Dr. Michelle Jarman said this year’s theme, “Rebel Health: Wellness Without Borders,” is aimed at getting people to think expansively about what health and wellness means.

“Our idea is to expand what we mean by health and wellness and really think about various stereotypes, whether it’s around disability, race, ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, can also get wrapped up in an ill-health frame and can stigmatize people or have various social and economic impacts,” Jarman said.

Jarman said the three keynote speakers, Dr. Robert Bullard, known as the “father of environmental justice;” Drew Brown, a visiting African American Studies Scholar from the University of Huston and Alison Kafer, professor of feminist studies at Southwestern University, will expand on health and medical perspectives in their speeches over the course of the week.

Jarman said the organizers were excited to highlight a student panel activity developed by UW graduate students called 'Grappling with unconscious bias and navigating difficult conversations on campus.'

“This is for undergraduate students who are interested in figuring out tensions on campus and building community and talking through difficult conversations on campus,” Jarman said.

Collaborative communication sessions are also planned throughout the symposium and will feature 10-15 minute presentations followed by breakout discussions during an hour-long session.

“We’re hoping there will be many different opportunities for people to really engage and participate rather than just sitting and listening,” Jarman said.

Many of the symposium events will be held in the upper levels of the UW Union on campus. The complete schedule for the symposium can be viewed online.