The 36th annual ALANA Student Leadership Conference at SUNY Oswego kicks off on Wednesday, Sept. 21, and runs through Monday, Sept. 26, with many offerings to celebrate this year's theme of "Joyful Noise." 

“To me, 'Joyful Noise' means spreading love and positivity by making some noise,” said Latino Student Union (LSU) student representative Mathews Frank. “We are not going to be quiet when it comes to spreading positivity; we have to be loud and we have to be proud. We must show people who we are and make sure that our voices are heard.”

The ALANA conference was formed in 1986 and has been an annual tradition on the SUNY Oswego campus ever since. SUNY Oswego’s ALANA conference was founded by students who were determined to facilitate meaningful collaboration between Asian, Latino, African and Native American populations with the goal of exploring and celebrating the multifaceted aspects of culture, diversity and heritage. Those students, whose focus was on unifying all members of our campus community, understood the importance of being leaders who worked together to build and foster an atmosphere of mutual respect within a diverse and inclusive multicultural learning environment.

The ALANA conference was initiated back then by Tyrone Holmes, assistant director of Hewitt Union, and Howard Gordon, executive assistant to the president, along with the multicultural student organizations that are represented by ALANA: African, Latino, Asian and Native American. The conference continued under the influence of Roosevelt Muhammad, assistant dean of students for the Department of Campus Life and director of the LEAD Center, until Campus Life moved from Hewitt Union into the Marano Campus Center and Student Involvement opened in The Point. 

The tradition continues today under the guidance of the ALANA Planning Committee that is made up of student leaders, faculty and staff and guided by the Department of Student Engagement and Leadership.  

In a statement by Officer in Charge Mary C. Toale, she shares the following message with the campus community: “Let us be united in this year’s conference sessions that promote filling the world with joy. As we embark on the 2022-2023 year, let’s work together to keep a vital institutional priority – Inclusive Community – in the forefront of our hearts and minds. SUNY Oswego is a caring learning community; we must always strive for greater understanding and mutual respect for one another.”

The meaning of the ALANA conference

The ALANA conference allows students, faculty and staff to reflect on the values of equity and diversity. SUNY Oswego is considered a predominantly white institution (PWI) -- as according to SUNY Oswego’s 2020-2021 annual report, 30 percent of total student body and 38 percent of the fall 2020 entering class (including international students) self-identified as Hispanic, African-American, Asian, Native American, Pacific Islander or multi-ethnic.

“A conference like this is so important to have at our PWI because many do not know anything outside of white institutions, or the predominant whiteness in an institution,” said Nathalie Wijerathna, student representative for the Asian Student Association (ASA). “This is a way for us to show students and faculty what is beyond that realm and immerse them in the experience.”

The ALANA conference is important toward creating a sense of belonging for students of color, Frank added. "They see that the school is predominantly a PWI and it makes them feel uncomfortable," Frank said. "Something like the ALANA conference is what breaks the discomfort that students have. They see that we are trying, and we are doing something big which makes them change their opinions on what they think about the school."

Joyful offerings

With the ALANA conference theme being “Joyful Noise,” there are many events planned to show the joy in the world instead of focusing on the suffering that many in the communities involved in SUNY Oswego’s multicultural student organizations regularly face. 

“I think Joyful Noise can represent the sounds you hear when you are close to your roots,” Wijerathna said. “ASA and ASO just did a program about being close to our roots, and some of the discussion was about different cultural greetings. I believe hearing someone say hello to you in your native and/or ethnic language is beautiful and a joyful noise to me. It brings you closer to your roots no matter where you are. That’s how I view joyful noise.”

The schedule of events is as follows, and can also be found at

  • Wednesday, Sept. 21: Day of Play on the International Day of Peace, 5 p.m.-7 p.m., Swetman Gym and Field.
  • Thursday, Sept. 22: Institute for Global Engagement is hosting a Ghanaian Drumming Group, Wuza-Wuza, 4 p.m., Marano Campus Center Food and Activity Court.
  • Friday, Sept. 23: Cuban Art Gallery Exhibit Opening Presentation and Reception, 4 p.m., Marano Campus Center Auditorium (room 132). 
    • A presentation from Newton Paul '97 and curator of the exhibit will take place in the auditorium and will then be followed by a short walk to the second floor of Marano to the Poucher wing and the Department of Modern Languages where the exhibit will be viewed and a reception will take place.
  • Saturday, Sept. 24: The ALANA Planning Committee encourages students, faculty and staff to participate in the City of Oswego's Pride Festival taking place near City Hall. To learn more about the City of Oswego's Pride Festival, visit their website.
  • Sunday, Sept. 25: 12th ALANA Unity Peace Walk, 2 p.m., Oswego City Hall.
    •  The D-Bus will pick students up in the circle near Marano Campus Center at 1:30 and 1:45 p.m. and then drop them off at City Hall for the walk if, transportation is required.
    • Keynote speaker Quindell Williams ‘11 will follow the Peace Walk at approximately 3 p.m. in the MCC Auditorium 132 with a reception to follow.
  • Monday, Sept. 26: Oswego Reading Initiative author A.S. King (Dig) presentation, 7 p.m., Sheldon Hall Ballroom.

All events are free for students, faculty, staff and members of the public to attend. 

“If someone was on the fence about coming to the conference, I will just explain to them my experience about how much fun and informative it was for me,” Frank said. “I would also explain to them how it makes me feel much more connected with the school and with my peers simply because we are all working together to accomplish one goal.”