30 am to 4 pm - Graphic image with text and dot and line designs
The Center for Service in Action welcomes all to attend the 19th Annual Change the Status Quo: Social Justice Leadership Conference on Saturday, February 27, 2021.

Although this is the first year this student-led event is virtual, the goal of the conference remains the same; to empower attendees to use the Learn by Doing spirit to challenge social norms, ask critical questions, demand solutions and make lasting social change. Through an inspiring keynote and engaging workshop sessions, our hope is attendees will leave the conference with a new-found sense and understanding of social justice, and how they can take ownership of their role in moving the needle with regard to social change.

We are excited to announce that this year’s keynote speaker is author, poet, spoken-word artist, humanitarian, social justice activist, and Founder and Executive Officer of The Body is Not an Apology, Sonya Renee Taylor. 

Sonya’s work as an award winning performance poet, activist and transformational leader continues to have global reach. She is a former national and international poetry slam champion, author, educator and activist who has mesmerized audiences across the US, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, England, Scotland, Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands as well as in prisons, mental health treatment facilities, homeless shelters, universities, festivals and public schools across the globe.  

She was named one of Planned Parenthood’s 99 Dream Keepers in 2015 as well as a Planned Parenthood Generation Action’s 2015 Outstanding Partner awardee. She was named one of the 12 Women Who Paved the Way for Body Positivity by Bustle Magazine and, in September 2015, she was honored as a YBCA 100, an annual compilation of creative minds, makers, and pioneers who are asking the questions and making the provocations that will shape the future of American culture; an honor she shared alongside author Ta-Nehisi Coates, artist Kara Walker, filmmaker Ava Duvernay and many more.  

Sonya and her work have been seen, heard and read on HBO, BET, MTV, TV One, NPR, PBS, CNN, Oxygen Network, The New York Times, New York Magazine, MSNBC.com, Today.com, Huffington Post, Vogue Australia, Shape.com, Ms. Magazine and many more. 

The 2021 Virtual Conference is FREE to attend and open to all. Closed captioning will be provided for all sessions.

This includes college students from other universities and community colleges, high school students, and the general public. Please click the register button above to register on Eventbrite. Registration will close at 9am the morning of the event.

We are committed to making this event accessible to all individuals and will provide closed captioning for entire event, ADA accessibility, and other accommodations, such as ASL interpretation, upon request. Please email us at serviceinaction@calpoly.edu or call 805-756-5834 with questions or suggestions. 

Although the event is free, we are accepting donations to support sponsorships for Cal Poly students to attend the event for free in-person next year. Please read more about how to donate on our registration and accessibility page.


10:30 am - Welcome
10:45 am - Keynote Presentation by Sonya Renee Taylor
11:15 am - Q&A with Sonya Renee Taylor

(register to submit a question for the opportunity to ask her live on Zoom!)
12:00 pm - Workshop Session #1 (60-minutes)
1:15 pm   - Workshop Session #2 (30-minutes)
2:00 pm   - Workshop Session #3 (60-minutes)
3:15 pm   - Closing Session

Zoom links for all sessions will be emailed to registrants the Friday before the event. No pre-registration is required for specific workshops.


This year's conference will feature a variety of 30-minute presentations and 60-minute interactive workshops with the below themes. Private Zoom links will be emailed out the Friday before the event to all registrants. Sessions will be recorded and made available to registrants after the event.

Click on hyperlinked titles below to view a recording of that workshop from the day of the conference.

2021 Workshop Themes:
- Black Lives Matter & Racial Justice
- Civic Rights & Reform
- Environmental Justice & Climate Change
- Healthcare & Disparities of Covid-19
- LGBTQ+ Rights & Allyship
- Poverty & Economic Justice

Session 1: 12pm - 1pm 

Covid-19 & Public Health Equity: Same Old Story?
Dr. Aydin Nazmi, Cal Poly Presidential Faculty Fellow for COVID-19 Response & Preparedness
During this workshop we will be describing, comparing, and contrasting public health equity issues in the context of COVID-19. Participants will learn about what public health equity is as well as how it correlates to other subjects.

Linguistic Justice and Writing at Cal Poly
Dr. Jason Peters, Dr. Brenda Helmbrecht & Dr. Dawn Janke, Cal Poly Faculty
This workshop will inform participants of the anti-racist approaches in writing instruction underway in Cal Poly's writing program. Presenters will share some of their anti-racist teaching approaches and strategies; and we will also have a time for participants to reflect upon their own positive and negative literacy experiences. Finally, we will identify structural issues beyond the scope of any individual classroom and invite participants to consider their role in enacting linguistic justice in their personal and professional lives.

Restorative Justice in SLO County
Vivien Devaney-Frice, Restorative Partners
This workshop will begin with an introduction and overview of Restorative Justice as a framework and practice. We will then introduce a panel of returned citizens who will speak about their experiences with the criminal justice system and respond to Q&A discussion.

Two-Spirit Narratives: Queering Danza Mexica (Aztec Dance) Spaces
Erika "Matli" Landa Sarmiento, Cal Poly Multicultural Center
This space will be aimed to sharing the narratives of three self-identified Two-Spirit danzantes who have worked towards queering indigenous ceremonial places. We will be giving an overview of the term Two-Spirit in different indigenous spaces, an overview of traditional ceremonial practices, and how we elevate and highlight Two-Spirit people.

Words to Action: Building a 21 Day Social Justice Challenge for your Organization
Rosemary Wrenn and Que Dang, Cal Poly and Cuesta College Faculty
This workshop will provide participants with an introduction to and a template for designing a 21 Day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge. Following a brief presentation on the origin and theoretical rationale for this approach, participants will explore existing programs and collaborate to construct a sequence of activities for their own memberships.

Session 2: 1:15pm - 1:45pm

A Critical Look at White Allyship and the Rise of "Slacktivism" 
Olivia McDonald, Cal Poly student
The rise of digital activism amidst Covid-19 has led to many ethical questions about the nature of such activism. "Slacktivism" has gained attention and been debated since the rise in accessibility to the internet and social media. Where some actions over social media may be well-intentioned, experts suggest that such acts of "performative activism" may do more harm than good in the age of social media expectations and the rise of digital media.

Activism Always: A Student Initiative for Data and Social Change 
Chelsie Lui, Mikayla O'Reggio, Hoa Nguyen, Jin Pu, Founders of Activism Always Startup
This workshop will be a presentation about Activism Always including: who we are, how we support student organizations, and our personal interests about the intersection between data and social impact . We will present both our personal and team experience as well as showcase our data project "Black Lives Matter Always: A sentiment analysis of the BLM Movement."

Allies in the Fight for LGBTQ+ Liberation
Serrina Ruggles, Gala Pride and Diversity Center
Heterosexism and cissexism have not gone away with the introduction of marriage equality or the reversal of the trans military ban: they have only become shrouded in distracting language. This workshop will seek to provide participants with the tools to identify modern techniques of LGBTQ+ oppression. We will discuss dogwhistles for hidden agenda, common methods for obfuscation, and how to call attention to these instances of bigotry.

Building Community: Deconstructing the Stigma around Homelessness and Creating Meaningful Change
Mimi Ghosh, CSU Monterey Bay
This workshop will break down the stigma around our unhoused neighbors as we need to have a better understanding of what causes homelessness. We need to dispel common myths such as everyone that is unhoused is lazy, an addict, not trying to find a job, or choosing to be unhoused. We will discuss the idea of meritocracy and the systems within our society and government that push people into poverty.

Jews and Black Lives: It’s Complicated 
Rabbi Micah Hyman, SLO Hillel
This workshop will educate participants about shared history; to reiterate the deep, thatched history of oppression and liberation. Subjects include: the founding of NAACP, Programs of Wilmignton/Boston, social justice of MLK and AJ Herschel, Jews of Color, and Ossof and Warnock. The will also be a space where POC and Jews can witness and share with others.

Water Access & Sacred Relationship
Brittany App, Photographer & Filmmaker
Join local Photographer & Filmmaker Brittany App for a conversation about water access issues here in the US, the sacredness of water, and her brand new documentary film, “Where There Once Was Water”. A portion of the film that highlights the lack of access to running water within the Navajo Nation will be shared.

Session 3: 2pm - 3pm

Activism and Politics - Let’s Power Up Democracy!
Dawn Addis & Andrea Chmelik, Women's March SLO
This workshop will explore how activism and politics intersect to power up democracy. We will discuss specific cases from San Luis Obispo County and beyond that highlight how you can connect activism and politics to create real change. We will have engaging conversations, explore tools, and help you get started.

Cultural Engagement as a First-Generation American
Tarnvir Dhaliwal and Hailey Smyrniotis, Cal Poly Center for Leadership Peer Leaders 
This workshop will address the duality of being a first-gen American and how that affects how individuals engage politically. Topics to be discussed include: cultural isolation and expectation in the US, engaging with media, and how to engage politically in either system.

Examining the Triple Pandemic: COVID-19, Interpersonal Violence & Systemic Racism
Gillian Cutshaw & Jennifer Macmartin, Cal Poly Safer
While Covid-19 brought the entire world to a halt, the coronavirus is not the only crisis Americans are living through, rather there are 3 pandemics simultaneously affecting our communities: Covid-19, interpersonal violence, and systematic racism. Navigating life in the midst of a single crisis is difficult; navigating life amid these intersectional crises can be extremely stressful and traumatic. Join Safer staff for a facilitated conversation in which we will engage in dialogue about the pandemics affecting us today and how we can take action to help ourselves and others.

How to Nix Transphobic Language
Dendron Chamberlain, Cal Poly alumni
Removing gender from language when speaking and writing about others we may not know very well is an important aspect of professionalism and basic gender inclusivity. In this interactive workshop we will evaluate a series of methods for stripping gender out of every day English in ways that make sense, sound good out loud, and look great on paper. Participants will leave with a set of tools for creating gender-inclusive language in a wide variety of contexts.

Making the Invisible Visible: Creating Inclusivity for Students with Dependents on College Campuses
Ashlee Hernandez & Jasmin Othman, Cal Poly Parent & Family Programs - Students with Dependents Initiative
This workshop will utilize work-family justice as the theoretical framework, a movement exploring complex intersectionality issues that include the parenting students, wage-gender gap, single working mothers, issues of class and race, and other factors leading to lower retention rates of student parents. We will examine ways in which the California public colleges and universities can move toward a more inclusive and innovative environment that supports pregnant and parenting students' need for familial, academic, and life success.

SLO-cal Environmental Justice Efforts: Oceano Dunes & Community Organizing
Gianna Patchen, John Sanders, Andrew Christie & Bonnie Ernst, Sierra Club and People for the Dunes 
This workshop will dive into the controversy surrounding how environmental issues show up in SLO County, particularly focusing on the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (ODSRVA). We will outline the history of ODSVRA which includes the environmental, public health, and social justice issues that swirl around the ODSVRA. We will also discuss the CA Coastal Commision's environmental justice policy and where the controversy lies with what the State Parks has done.

"Restrictions Apply" Short Film Showing - Image of 3 people smiling and film camera with colorful swirls backdrop - CLosing Session will feature documentary showing and discussion with filmmakersClosing Session: "Restrictions Apply" Short Documentary Showing and discussion with the filmmakers

This year the conference will close with a short documentary: Restrictions Apply created by director Justice Whitaker, producers Jaime Lewis, and executive director and RACE Matters SLO Founder Courtney Haile. Following the film, we will have a time for discussion with the three filmmakers. These three individuals have worked hard to share the housing inequalities within San Luis Obispo. An important component to their project includes the Resources Page for Restrictions Apply. Here you can find a wide variety of resources for learning about housing inequity and ideas for how to address your own privilege of place.




Thank you to our generous event sponsor:


Please follow us on social media and sign-up for our e-newsletter by texting CPservice to 22828 to stay up-to-date on details as they emerge.

Email serviceinaction@calpoly.edu or call (805) 756-5834 if you have any questions or would like to connect with our conference team.


Related Content


Cal Poly students under green umbrella serving food

More on Spotlight


Go to the Admissions website

Link to the Admissions Website for information on selection criteria, application deadlines, creating your VIP page and more!