The MAYA Conference, from the planning of it to the actual running of it, was needless to say a lot of work; but work that certainly payed off in the end. My experience this year was much different from my experience with last year's conference, because this year, we all played such a major part in it. It was a rewarding experience for me because this was the first time I have ever helped plan such an important event. Planning just about every detail, from the transportation from location to location, to the actual activities that would be done there; activities that we had to reach out to different organizations and figures in the community to organize, required good communication skills, thorough thinking and creativity on our part. All the while, we each also had our own things we were in charge of, which I think instilled a strong sense of responsibility, because we were all aware that we all had to play our own parts in making the conference productive and enjoyable for everyone there. Overall, the entire experience of the conference required that we develop and use valuable skills that I think benefited us all in more ways than one.
A valuable message that I, and I think everyone there, took away from the conference is that human activity and environmental health go hand in hand. We all play important roles in our environment everyday, and it is our decision whether this is a positive or a negative role. Also, everything we learned about, from food justice in Kate Walton's workshop, to climate change in Chris Schweitzer's, applies directly to us and the other MAYA participants as people who all live in urban environments. One thing that MAYA especially opened my eyes about is food justice. Before we began planning the conference, I couldn't have told you what a "food desert" was, but I have seen now that I am basically surrounded by one, and that was definitely an eye-opening realization.
The biggest highlight of the conference for me was presenting my summer research and running the environmental engineering workshop. I learned a lot in my lab this summer (to say the least), and I think that the most important step after doing so myself is actually spreading this information, because we breathe the air in everyday, and it is definitely important to know that our everyday activities contribute directly to its quality, which in turn can have either a negative or positive impacts on our OWN health. Putting together presentations about this and communicating this valuable information to others was a fun and rewarding experience for me.
Overall, the MAYA Conference this year was a huge success, and I am very happy to have taken part in and learned from it.