Rutgers Student Who Won Miss New Jersey Pageant Speaks at Mark Conference

PISCATAWAY, NJ—The Rutgers University Student Life Media and Marketing Team hosted its third annual Mark Conference at the Livingston Student Center on February 28.

"The aim of this event is to inspire action among our student population and encourage critical thought about the 'mark' that each of us is capable of leaving on the world around us," reads the event website. 

The annual conference features a colorful collection of student presenters, who are known "Ignite Speakers," as well as renowed figures and celebrities. 

In the past, the conference has welcomed speakers from outside of the university including "Orange is the New Black" actress Laverene Cox, as well as Post Secret founder Frank Warren. 

In the third annual edition of the conference brought in speakers such as Rutgers Almuni Cierra Kaler-Jones, who holds the title of "Miss New Jersey," as well as Chinese immigrant Cathy Bao Bean. 

Kaler-Jones highlighted her experience of being one of the few non-white women to be crowned Miss New Jersey. 

Kaler-Jones said the only other woman of color to become Miss New Jersey was beauty queen Suzette Charles in 1983.  Charles was, like Kaler-Jones, is also an African-American. 

Kaler-Jones displayed slides of the Miss New Jersey beauty queens in the years before her, all of whom were white. 

She recounted tales of visitng elementary, middle and high schools, where she would talk with female students and hear stories of how she served as their role model. 

"I want to be like you.  I want to look like you.  I want to have my hair like you," Kaler-Jones said students told her. 

On the other hand, author Cathy Bao Bean took a rather comedic approach to her experiences in adapting to life in America as Chinese immirant in the 1950's and 1960's. 

Bao Bean began by encouraged attendees that, even if they did not find her jokes funny, they should put in an effort to pretend the jokes are funny, which would lead them to actually find the jokes funny. 

Bao Bean recounted growing up in the United States and moving across the country through the 1950's and 1960's. She described how the racial and social landscape of the nation impacted her experience and identity as a Chinese-American. 

She said that, for an immigrant to be able to adapt to a foreign land, they have to examine and understand the most ordinary, mundane parts of life, things like behavior in the elevator, around the dinner table, in public transportation, in work and at the store. 

These, according to Bao Bean, would ultimately tell a person what the society in questions values and holds important.