UMBC hosted the Imagining America National Conference from September 30 to October 3, gathering together 400 scholars, artists and community leaders from across the nation to share ideas. The focus behind the conference was to motivate influential leaders to engage in conversations aimed toward stimulating change. Imagining America underlined the importance of people gathering together to discuss the future of the nation. Education, democracy and overcoming racial boundaries were all highlighted during the conference.
UMBC, fresh off of its placement as fourth on the list of innovative universities, was chosen to host this conference due to its dedication to cultivating innovation amongst its students and staff. In order to prepare for hosting this conference, UMBC formed a diverse coalition of faculty, students and alumni to address how the conference can serve the city of Baltimore. The group highlighted how the conference should only serve as the beginning of collaboration among scholars and activists.
Romy Hübler explained how the committee “approached the conference organizing with the idea that the conference is a mile marker, not the end point.” This approach was aimed to ensure that the conference would cause a domino effect by motivating others to engage in social change.
The conference emphasized social justice work to improve cities across the country by having activists, professors and specialists give lectures and seminars on the significance of creative social justice.
David Hoffman, assistant director of student life for civic agency, cited how one of the foremost goals was to “engage and feature undergraduate students as central contributors to work for democracy and justice.” The goal to encourage not only current community advocates but also future leaders had been a prime concern throughout the conference.
An important aspect of the Imagining America conference was the concept of sharing stories to promote social change. Although the conference was hosted by UMBC, many of the events took place in the heart of Baltimore. The conference was designed to stress teamwork, cooperation and to manifest relationships among various groups of people. People from UMBC and from abroad used this conference as a communal experience to help improve society.
Hoffman underlined the significance of this conference when he said, “Many of us returned with ideas and plans that will shape courses, research and community projects, and will help UMBC achieve some of the goals in its new strategic plan, which highlights civic engagement, community connections and active learning as important priorities.”
The outcomes of the Imagining America National Conference have been paralleled to what the preparation committee initially planned. The conference has become a springboard for commencing teamwork and forging relationships amongst students and professionals. The group of people and organizations associated with the conference will meet again on October 21 to examine how communities will continue to collaborate for the future.