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Tomorrow: SSA Con 2017


Tomorrow is the start of SSA Con 2017, and it’s going to be awesome!

We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to some of our speakers and panelists.

First, let me introduce you to Sean Omar Rivera, an activist extraordinaire. Not only is he the president of the Secular Student Alliance - he’s also a board member of the Freethinkers Association of Central Texas, and an activist with Black Lives Matter and Planned Parenthood. In his role as SSA president, he has focused on amplifying the organization’s visibility on a campus with a history of aggressive street preaching aimed at religious minorities and the LGBT community. At the Con he’s on our Racial Justice panel, which is sure to be a conference highlight!

Next is Kayla Bowen, an SSA activist and board member. Kayla will be a speaker on our Reproductive Justice panel and on the Social Media panel. She works as a human factors undergraduate research fellow and founded MSU’s SSA as a first semester freshman. We asked her about the issues her secular values motivate her to tackle: “We’re very much concerned with feminism, and the problems that reproductive justice and women’s rights are facing right now.”

Rev. J. Cody Nielsen is helping build Convergence, a new organization and offshoot of NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Convergence’s mission is to help better support a campus climate that supports all religious, secular, and spiritual identities. For decades, whether explicitly or de facto, most campuses in the United States and Canada have allowed Christian privilege to dominate the landscape. At SSA Con, Cody is presenting “Under the Religious Umbrella?: Legal Changes and New Opportunities for Support in Higher Education.”

Finally, there is Monica Massamba, who’s leading the Planned Parenthood session. Monica is helping PP expand their Generation Action program to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. We asked Monica why it's so important that secular values and the right to choose are represented at HBCU’s: "It's important that we build leadership in these communities and that they are sitting at these decision-making tables...."

This is just a small sample of what’s in store!

So if you’re attending the Con, we look forward to seeing you tomorrow! If you’ve not registered, well… online registration has closed, but if you decide to just show up anyways, you can always buy a ticket at the door!

Love Trumps Hate: Secular Student Convening Mobilizes Students for Social Activism


Columbus, Ohio – The Secular Student Alliance (SSA) will host its 2017 annual conference from July 7-9, at Ohio State University on the theme Love Trumps Hate. The largest secular student conference in the nation, each year the conference brings together hundreds of students and community leaders to learn leadership development, grassroots organizing skills, and secular activism. This year’s conference will be no different—just better.

SSA organizers envision the convening as a training ground for secular activism, offering practical tools—grassroots organizing and leadership skills--for students to organize their peers around issues of intersectional activism.

The number of college students with no religious affiliation has tripled in the last 30 years, from 10 percent in 1986 to 31 percent just last year. And against the backdrop of today’s tumultuous social and political climate, SSA’s student activists have already been leading social justice movements on their campuses and in their communities across the country. They are more motivated than ever to create positive change, and SSA Con is a pivotal step.

This year’s speakers include:

  • Annie Pearl Avery, a legend of the Civil Rights Movement and self-identified secularist. Miss Avery was one of the first to be arrested in the 1965 attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery, the day now notoriously known as “Bloody Sunday.”
  • David Smalley, founder and CEO of Secular Media Group, the parent company for Dogma Debate Radio, Secular News Network, and Secular Media Network. David is also an author and national speaker on secularism and atheism.
  • Christopher Cameron, Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, president of the African American Intellectual History Society, and author whose work includes early religious history and the history of slavery and abolition.
  • Becka Alper, research associate at PEW Research Center and author. Becka contributes to the Center’s domestic religion polls.

And featured panels include:

Political Advocacy: With a focus on church/state separation, LGBTQ rights, women's healthcare, and more, we focus on it’s important for secular activists to make their political voices heard, from the perspective of student and professional activists, including:

  • Matt Enloe, SSA at University of Chicago
  • Lucien Greaves, The Satanic Temple
  • Erin Hagen, Americans United for Separation of Church and State
  • Jim Helton, Tri-State Freethinkers

Racial Justice: Black Lives Matter! How can we, as secular activists, work to advance these intersectional causes? This panel will reinforce the importance of tackling racial justice causes alongside secular causes, and explore how they are related from experienced student and professional activists. This panel will be moderated by Mandisa Thomas, President of Black Nonbelievers.

Panelists Include:

  • Diane Burkholder, One-Struggle Kansas City & LGBTQ Humanist Alliance
  • Sean Rivera, SSA at University of Texas, San Antonio
  • Sam Farooqui, alum of SSA at Florida State University
  • Annie Pearl Avery

Reproductive Justice: Why is it important for secular activists to be involved in fighting for reproductive rights, and combat the toxic influence of the Religious Right? We’ll hear from student activists as well as professional activists on why this is so important, how to be involved, and how we can fight for these rights!

  • Erin Carhart, Planned Parenthood
  • Jennie Frischtick, SSA alumni
  • Kayla Bowen, Morehead St SSA

Welcome Samreena Farooqui to the SSA Staff!


We are proud to announce Samreena Farooqui as the newest Campus Organizer here at the Secular Student Alliance! In her new position, Sam will focus on working with our affiliates and chapters in the Atlantic region, which encompasses Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Washington, DC. She will also be an integral part in making sure that SSA Con 2017 runs efficiently and successfully!

samSam was a founding officer of SSA at Florida State University, where she went on to organize the first-ever Southeast Secular Student Regional Conference (S3RC). At FSU, she was also part of the executive board of The F-Word and organized Ladyfest 2014 and Take No More Fest 2015, which featured artists with marginalized identities to benefit the local community. She also served as the Treasurer for Planned Parenthood: Generation Action at FSU and as an FSU Senator. She worked as an outreach intern for the Center for Inquiry, a social media intern for the American Humanist Association, and the Communications Director for CFI-Tallahassee prior to joining SSA as a Campus Organizer. 

"Sam was a fantastic student leader, and we believe that her many skills will translate well to her Campus Organizer role here at the SSA," said Nick Stancato, the Program Manager for the Secular Student Alliance, "We think she is going to be a great fit here, and brings a lot to the table."

Sam will be taking over the Atlantic region from Gordon Maples, who is departing the Seculargordon Student Alliance after more than 5 years as a Campus Organizer with the organization. In the fall, Gordon will be starting in a degree program for a Master's in Higher Education Administration at Vanderbilt University, where he will be working in the Office of the University Chaplain as a Graduate Assistant. The SSA staff wishes him the best of luck in his future endeavors!

"It has been a fantastic experience working and learning at the SSA for so many years, and meeting so many great people,"Gordon said, "This is an organization with a mission and membership that deeply matter to me, and I think that Sam will do a fantastic job taking over my position."

Attendees at the SSA Annual Conference this summer will have one final opportunity to engage with Gordon in his role with the Secular Student Alliance. Samreena will also be present to personally meet with many of the SSA groups that she will supporting in the future, as well as to speak and otherwise help in coordinating the event.

SSA Con costs less until Friday!


This is the one time we’re going to do this: SSA Con registration rates are going DOWN! But ONLY THIS WEEK!

You’ve got until Friday, May 12, to enjoy our early bird registration costs one last time! That’s $34.99 for a single student or $124.99 for a group of 5 students!

If you’re out of school, don’t worry, your pricing goes back down too! $99.99 for SSA Members or $44.99 for alumni and advisors!

After this week, you’ll still be able to register, but you’ll spend that much more to be part of the most fun, educational, and inspiring conference secular students could ever attend!

If you’ve thought at all about coming to SSA Con this July 7-9 in Columbus, Ohio, THIS is the week to register for it!

Don’t put it off any longer! Register for SSA Con today with this one-time early bird rate offer!


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