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The 46th Annual Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) conference was held Nov. 15-18 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The theme of the conference this year was “Strengthening Local Communities: The Role of Nonprofit and Philanthropic Organizations.” I was selected to go to this year’s ARNOVA conference as an Undergraduate Diversity Scholar, a new initiative to bring underrepresented students and undergraduates to a mostly graduate and research-based conference.
As a Chicana, studying Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Transborder Chican@/Latin@ Studies and Sustainability, I already felt out of place entering a conference like this.However, I knew I was chosen for a reason and I wanted to expand on my knowledge in the nonprofit field.
The first few days of the conference started with introduction to the other 15 scholars and to ARNOVA. I wanted to go to panels I knew I could benefit and learn new from, so I went to workshops surrounding the topics of: multi-sector collaboration, representation and diversity, managing volunteers, activist philanthropy, and social enterprises. During a poster presentation, I even had the opportunity to meet two groups of ASU graduate students showcasing their work!
A specific panel that I went to was about race, power and privilege. Leading the panel were scholars of color or who study race theories, feminism theories, etc. As a potential researcher of color, I was glad to hear there are other scholars who were brave enough to speak about ARNOVA and its lack of diversity. Even though I attended as a Diversity Undergraduate Research Scholar, these efforts were not enough to change the way scholars of color are published or having their work taken seriously. Spaces like these that are "uncomfortable" for people are needed and I'm glad this dialogue happened. I look forward to continuing my research plans, but I also have to keep in mind that there will be people questioning and challenging my work. This only motivates me more to continue in research.
On the last night of the conference, other scholars and I went to the final reception at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. We mingled and checked out the exhibits and were invited to eat with a few post-graduate scholars that enjoyed the new initiative. We were able to discuss their experiences in the research field and as people of color in graduate school.
On one of our last days, the program manager wanted to hear feedback from us on what we would like to have the Undergraduate Diversity Program to be like. This was an amazing gesture as we were the first cohort and would lead the program for the next class. Our group decided that we would like to be presented with information and opportunities from ARNOVA in webinars and setting goals for ourselves within the program. Overall, this amazing opportunity now has me interested in doing research within the nonprofit field. I am honored that ARNOVA is willing to extend their resources and invitation to the 47th conference in Austin, Texas. I can’t wait to reconvene with the other scholars and to network and potentially even showcase my own research!
Suhey Ortega is a junior at Arizona State University, currently studying Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Sustainability and Transborder Chican@/Latin@ Studies. Ortega is also currently doing two certificates in Cross-sector Collaboration through ASU’s Public Service Academy and the Certified Nonprofit Professional with the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance/Student Association. Ortega wants to work with nonprofits focusing on her passions in immigration, sustainability and issues in the Latin community.