More than 500 attendees came together from March 27-30 at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the largest National Dominican Student Conference (NDSC) in its 8-year history, and for the first time students from the Dominican Republic participated in the conference via the Global Dominican Academic Exchange Program (GDAE). Participants shared and cultivated ideas in line with the conference’s theme, “Diáspora de la Tambora: Celebrando Arte y Cultura (“Diaspora of the Drum: Celebrating Art and Culture“) and discussed the question: “How can the arts be used to mobilize our communities to address issues such as race, education, and identity?”
Eight of the nine GDAE participants hailed from public and private universities across the Dominican Republic, and one InteRDom alumna traveled from Baruch College in New York City. Upon their arrival to Boston, participants received private tours of the famed Harvard University, as well as Boston University (BU), to learn more about the higher education system in the United States and the continuing studies opportunities available to them. During the tour of BU, participants met InteRDom’s 2011 Caribbean Summer Program alumna, Jattna Garcia, who works in the admissions office, and who spoke to the Dominican students about her experience with InteRDom and as a student at BU.
After a full day of college tours, GDAE participants arrived at Harvard to register for the conference, and InteRDom representatives set up a special table to meet with Dominican college students from all over the country and discuss their academic and career goals for the coming year. Many of the students were excited to apply for one of the numerous summer internship opportunities available through the InteRDom program. This year marked the seventh consecutive year that Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) participated in the Conference through its programs InteRDom and Fellows Program, and the first year of collaboration with the GDAE program.
On Saturday, the main day of events, the GDAE group served an integral part in the conference, with two of the participants sharing their unique perspectives during a series of panel discussions in front of hundreds of their student counterparts. Lina Gutierrez, a business major from Universidad Iberoamericana, spoke about the differences between the Dominican and American education systems in the panel “La Nueva Escuela: Dominicans and the Education System.” Gretcher Hernandez, who participated in the pilot program of InteRDom’s Dominican International Student program in the summer of 2013, was a panelist in the “How to be Dominican: A Performance of Identity” discussion, where she spoke to identity formation issues in the Dominican Diaspora.
Other highlights of the conference included a discussion and demonstration on “Music of the Spanish Speaking Caribbean,” as well as two panels: “Dominican Success Stories” and “From Haiti to Los Haitises. The first featured Dominican professionals Johnny Marines, manager to Romeo Santos and Aventura; Felix Sanchez, two-time Olympic gold medalist in track and field; and Julissa Reynoso, US ambassador to Uruguay. The second panel discussed the recent ruling regarding Dominican citizenship and immigration. Organizers also invited keynote artist Josefina Baez to perform, and surprised participants with multiple performances by “diablos cojuelos” and live music during their meals. There was also plenty of dancing, networking and social gatherings, which provided an opportunity for professional and cultural exchange and growth between the Dominican and Dominican-American participants.
The National Dominican Student Conference is an annual conference that strives to provide the highest quality in educational workshops, inspirational speakers, art exhibitions, networking events, and parties – all of which serve to educate, uplift, and unite the Dominican student community.
The program at Harvard was the first event of 2014 for GDAE, which organizes a series of topic-specific events of short (maximum one week) duration in collaboration with the Dominican student organizations at a variety of United States universities throughout the year. The InteRDom staff works closely with student representatives to plan the activities, and then to recruit and bring students from Dominican universities to participate. Hosting events with different thematic concentrations ensures that diverse groups of Dominican students have the opportunity to participate.
The Global Dominican Academic Exchange program, a project of the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) and its sister organization in the Dominican Republic, Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE), an extension of their internship, research and study program,InteRDom, aims to introduce Dominican students to the American style of liberal arts education and encourage dialogue between Dominican students and their Dominican-American counterparts attending these institutions, thereby encouraging and inspiring partnership and entrepreneurship initiatives which will foster innovation and stimulate Dominican economic development and international understanding.