lisa Descartes, a SUNY Oswego senior public justice major, last summer thought about the need for faculty and alumni connections among students of color seeking to move on to graduate school or careers -- daunting frontiers for any student near graduation, but particularly for minority and first-generation college students.

Since then, working with mentor Latoya Lee of the sociology faculty; campus leaders such as college President Deborah F. Stanley; Jerri Howland, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management; and Gary Morris, director of career services -- as well as a team of her peers -- Descartes now is poised to host the first Minorities Meet Networking Conference from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, starting at Park Hall's Room 315.

Open to all SUNY Oswego students, the conference will focus on "building and engaging one's professional network," allowing students to access "knowledge, insights and opportunities," Descartes wrote in her Minorities Meet proposal.

"I was getting ready to graduate, and I was not prepared," she said in a recent interview. "I thought, 'There's other things I need now that other students of color don't have, either.' ... It's not just about going here for an education, it's about what comes after."

'Work with allies'

The conference agenda reflects Descarte's then-solo search for answers: It will offer a rich mix of information, training, networking, and faculty, staff and student presenters and facilitators:

11 a.m., three concurrent sessions: "Investments and Building Credit" with Yilong (Eric) Zheng, a member of the School of Business marketing and management faculty, and Alexis Acevedo, a marketing major, in 315 Park; "Graduate Preparations and Exams" with Lee, in 314 Park; and "GRE/MCAT/LSAT" with various presenters, in 313 Park.

Noon, two concurrent sessions: "Student Loan Repayment/Forgiveness" with Mark Humbert, director of financial aid, in 315 Park; and "Adobe Software Training" with cinema and screen studies major Tarica Thomas, featuring beginner and intermediate instruction in Adobe Premiere Pro CC software, in a location to be announced.

1 p.m., three concurrent sessions: "Scholarships/Grants" aimed specifically at people of color who might not otherwise be able to afford graduate school, in 315 Park; and three science and technology career paths: "Computer Science" with computer science major Alikeju Adejo, in 314 Park; "Technology Management" with Nyezee Goe, a technology management major, in 313 Park; and "Chemistry" with Tina Cooper of EXCEL: Experiential Courses and Engaged Learning, in 212 Park.

2 p.m., Wilber Hall lounge: a networking light lunch, followed by "Mock Interviews," aimed at both networking and building confidence, with facilitator Eric Frans, career coach for fine and performing arts, media and entertainment for Career Services.

3:15 p.m., 315 Park: Howland will offer a keynote talk. She has lived the journey that is the subject of Minorities Meet as a person of color from her Baltimore neighborhood through college, graduate school and into a professional career. She was formally appointed SUNY Oswego's vice president of student affairs and enrollment management in February. Questions and answers will follow.

Other students assisting Descartes include Asha Bey, Parmeshwar Sasenarine, Tamera Millier, Esther Loja and Dwan Hameed.

Descartes, meanwhile, is preparing to move on to a master's program in criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston.

"I wanted to make sure before I left that students of color had a platform to succeed before graduating," she said. "But in order to do so we must work with our allies to achieve solidarity on campus."