Editor's Note: BTtoP's "The Whole Student: Intersectionality and Well-Being"

By Jennifer O'Brien, Project Manager and Coordinator of Strategic Planning and Development, Bringing Theory to Practice

It was a pleasure and an honor to organize BTtoP’s first “The Whole Student: Intersectionality and Well-Being” conference on May 24–26, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois. An anticipated audience of 150 increased to approximately 325 faculty, student affairs professionals, administrators, and students. The student population—both graduate and undergraduate—made up approximately 15 percent of the attendees, and about 10 percent of those in attendance reported that they held more than one category of position on campus (e.g., a faculty and an administrative position).

The composition of the conference audience is an indicator of the wealth and diversity of stakeholders on campuses nationwide and internationally that care deeply about the themes and issues that were explored throughout the conference (including intersectionality and student learning, well-being, and civic development). Indeed, many remarks in the postconference survey highlighted that a key value of the conference was being in contact with colleagues interested in similar themes in their work.

The BTtoP project is guided by the principle that one of the fundamental purposes of higher education is the well-being of all its stakeholders, especially students. Through deep engagement in learning, civic experiences, and diverse discourse, higher education provides the unique opportunity for students to realize their full potential and flourish. This conference examined how considering the “whole student” in higher education means considering what intersectionalities students bring to campus, or, how their multiple identities and lived experiences intersect in the design of curricular and cocurricular programs, structures, and spaces. We define how we conceptualized the term “intersectionality,” and other terms, on the conference webpage: http://bttop.org/bttop-national-conference-whole-student-intersectionali....

The conference was designed to encourage dialogue and a collaboration of voices, perspectives, and experiences. The opening remarks were structured as a “keyduet” rather than a keynote, and the closing session was a reflective panel conversation rather than a planned talk. Each presentation was encouraged to engage in audience participation and workshopping and to provide tangible outcomes for attendees to take back to campus. Conference attendees were encouraged to come in teams with a diverse representation of campus stakeholders so that learning and work begun at the conference had a better chance of catching on when back “in reality” on campus.

In the spirit of amplifying voices, sharing experiences, and encouraging conversation and action, we highlight in this special issue a few attendees from the conference who reflect on what they learned, why this work is so important right now, and what else higher education should do in the future to attend to whole student engagement and intersectionality. Some of them have responded to a few open-ended questions, and the special section in the middle of this issue features sessions and presentations that were captured on our Facebook Live feed during the conference, as well as video interviews we conducted over the course of the conference. Our feature article also shares the special journey of a professor and seventeen of her students from California State University–San Bernardino who traveled together to Chicago to present on their course, “Rainbow Journalism,” that spawned a student organization and community movement.

More resources from the conference, including the final program, session presentations and materials, and participants’ takeaways, are available on the conference web page: http://www.bttop.org/bttop-national-conference-whole-student-intersectio....

We hope that you find meaning in some of these reflections and explorations and will share your own thoughts on these issues with us on our social media feeds: https://twitter.com/BTtoPractice; https://www.facebook.com/BTtoP.