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The rapid growth of technology in the last decade and the promise it gives for a more globally connected future has caused the emerging issue of globalization to be a critical aspect in the educational sphere. Thanks to the first annual International Perspectives Conference (IPC), the Principia community was able to explore today’s intricate and connective world and wrestle with the issue of globalization.
As a whole, globalization is, “the process of integrating nations and peoples, politically, economically and culturally, into a larger community,” as was stated in the conference’s opening address. IPC was established at Principia to show the importance of people understanding and respecting those who hold values, cultures and perspectives different than that of their own. Senior Alice Batista, IPC’s web designer, explained, “IPC was developed to bring to the surface different points of view regarding the ongoing and increasing integration of nations. The idea is to make delegates better informed of the way in which different regions of the world think of globalization so that they can develop a broader understanding of the issue.”
Members of the Principia community have been accustomed to the Pan African Conference that was held for 14 years every fall semester. However, this year’s staff wanted to broaden the topic of the conference in order to make it more relatable to a greater number of individuals. Thus, the creation of IPC established hopes of raising overall awareness of a complex and diverse world to the community.
It is such a unique opportunity, Batista added. “This year’s theme, At a Crossroads: Globalization and Culture, is about understanding the ups and downs of globalization and its impact on cultures,” she said. “The point of the conference is to show delegates that although people have different opinions, the more informed of other perspectives we are, the more likely we are to develop grounded opinions of our own.”
The goal of the conference was to “appreciate the different perspectives and be willing to hear and try to understand a different point of view,” explained sophomore Juliette Roy, an IPC delegates head. “If we can learn to understand the mentality or thoughts of those from around the world, we may be able to find better solutions.”
The IPC challenged people to not just go and listen to arguments on the issue from their own perspective. Instead, IPC asked its attendees to fill the role of an active global citizen: a person aiming to understand various cultures, lifestyles, and beliefs. There was no requirement for a listener to agree with one perspective, but it was important for them to understand where the other side of the argument was coming from.
The conference was spread over a three-day period full of various events and speeches that appealed to a wide array of individuals. The first day included a panel of five international students who told their stories of Christian Science in their home countries and how they came to Principia. “I loved how the Quiet Time talk really gave the student body a glimpse into life outside of the U.S. or wherever they were from,” said Roy. “My favorite part was that we could hear how these students really made Christian Science their own. I wish that we could do that with every student, because it is so interesting to hear. It really shows a lot about a person and lets us into their world.”
The main component of the conference this year was its notable guest speaker lineup. Members of the community had the opportunity to hear from highly active members of the globalization movement.
Thursday night’s keynote speaker was Kevin Danaher, co-founder of an international human rights organization called Global Exchange. He addressed the issue of elite-centered globalization versus people-centered globalization, and argued key differences between the two viewpoints.
Air Force veteran Andrew Wise was another prominent figure dealing with the current issue of globalization. Wise is the senior vice president and chief administrative officer for State Street Corporation, a large international bank. His talk focused on what it means to be a global citizen, to which he gave three key tips. know who you are, embrace change and always continue to learn.
The final speaker panel was composed of professors that represented different regions of the world in their arena of expertise. Interdisciplinary professor Karen Haire represented Africa, business professor Linda Bohaker for Asia, Spanish professor Duncan Charters for Europe and political science professor Julie Blase for Latin America. Each speaker gave their personal perspectives, whether positive or negative, on globalization and how it has impacted the regions they represented.
The culmination of this year’s IPC was a benefit concert held in the Davis Center. Batista pointed out that this was her favorite moment of the conference by saying, “I saw people give to the cause of Mary’s Meals [a nonprofit organization designed to stop child hunger through education] with no hesitation and the performers worked together with so much love and selflessness. The Lazy Zipper brought smiles to everyone’s face[s], the Hip-Hop Club showed how it’s done, and some international students shared their international journeys through poems and singing.” IPC also held a cultural food festival in the dining room on Saturday night, where each continent had their own booth and students prepared homemade food from their countries to share with the community.
IPC taught its delegates the importance of actively becoming a global citizen and what it means to be “global.” This year’s conference was the kick-starter for future IPC events to help Principians understand how they can contribute to a diverse and complex global system. As Roy said, “This understanding of how each person thinks can form connections, help us gain understanding, and hopefully create more peace and teamwork in our world.”