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Symposiums to focus on China, Middle East

Concordia will bounce around the globe in future symposiums.

The Concordia community will learn how our region plays a significant role with the rest of the world in the upcoming two years of symposiums.

In 2015, “China Rising: New Global Order?” symposium will focus on how China’s power within the world has been growing, and how it can change our world in the future. In 2016, “America and the Middle East: Global and Local Perspectives” will address the relations the United States has with the Middle East.

Dr. Rebecca Moore, professor of Political Science, proposed the idea of addressing on China’s rise of power for the 2015 symposium.

“We live in a world that has been dominated for a very long time by the west and I would say, by the United States in particular,” Moore said. “It certainly is conceivable that China, an economic and political power, could radically transform the world we live in, which is the nature of the symposium.”

The three plenary speakers will be Martin Jacques, author of “When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of New Global Order;” Elizabeth Economy, co-author of “By All Means Necessary: How China’s Resource Quest is Changing the World;” and Minxin Pei, a professor at Claremont McKenna College in California who is Chinese-born and came to the United States for graduate school.

“We really want the whole community to see the three speakers as parts of a whole,” Moore said. “In other words, we don’t want the audience to be looking at the speakers as three, distinct talks but rather speakers speaking to the same big question with different perspectives. In order to get the big picture, you must see all the three speakers.”

Slightly different from previous symposiums, students will have a larger role with the production of the symposium. Student research will be presented, students will lead a debate about U.S. policy towards China and a Chinese student panel will respond to various arguments made by Jacques. No definitive decisions have been made on exactly who will be a part of the panels.

After the Concordia community pats around the world of China, they will address the Middle East for the 2016 symposium.

Dr. Sonja Wentling, associate professor of History, proposed the topic for the 2016 symposium. She believes the transition from one country to the others will work efficiently.

“[One] can no longer afford to live one’s life without knowing what’s happening outside one’s country,” Wentling said.

The 2016 symposium will work on shaping people’s usual perception of the Middle East – terrorism, ISIS, etc. – to realistic understandings of the people there and what life is like for them.

“We don’t want to be provocative in the sense of sensationalists,” Wentling said. “We want to extend a bridge of understanding, make people more curious, interested in learning about the Middle East.”

Since the decision for the topic was made in November, the committee is in the planning process. Currently, they are seeking plenary speakers and curating content for concurrent sessions. The committee is also looking to include a film night to show a film or films about immigrant experience or American involvement with the Middle East. After the showing, students could hold a discussion.

They hope to have these plans solidified by the end of the semester.

“This event is not just a bubble experience; we want to include the community,” Wentling said. “Which I think it would be really helpful, useful, and productive for Concordia and the community because it shows how Concordia is a part of the world in many ways.”

Both Moore and Wentling received these ideas from their students who wanted to learn more about the topic on Concordia’s campus.

The classic summer book read has not been established for either the 2015 or 2016 symposium.

Dr. Dawn Duncan, professor of English and Global Studies, is on the Summer Book Read committee. The committee met on Jan. 11 to begin the process of picking a book.

“We’re very conscious that we want to choose a text that students will actually read, on their own, in the summer, without a teacher,” Duncan said.

The other committee members are Lois Cogdill, associate dean of Student Affairs; Lisa Sethre-Hofstad, associate dean of the college; Virginia Connell, assistant librarian; and Linda Johnson, representative of the symposium committee. They will make a decision by April.

As the members leaf through books, they look for key factors: does the book tell the story well, is the length substantial and realistic for students to read during the summer? They also look at the cost of the book and whether there are enough copies published for the student body.

“If I’m fifty pages into a book and it hasn’t grabbed me, it is not going to grab a student during the summer,” Duncan said. “So I set that one aside.”

The summer book reads are important for a number of reasons. Mainly, they provide a learning transition for first year students and common ground for all when they come to Concordia.

“We want to have a shared dialogue around something that is worthwhile talking about,” Duncan said. “It also establishes community on this campus. I think that it brings academic awareness of responsible engagement and of community – compelling reasons we choose to enter into learning.”

First year students are not the only students who read the book. All Orientation Leaders and Orientation Assistants receive a free copy of the book and are required to read it. If they like it, they encourage their peers to read it, which is what happened with last year’s novel, “Not a Drop to Drink.”

“If they like it, people will be tweeting, which gets other people to read it,” Duncan said. “If you get a buzz going, more and more people will decide to pick up the book and read it.”

Books, speakers, films and an adventure around the world and our community lies ahead for Cobbers. By the end of the semester, they can begin their journey with the book and take off in September at the symposium.

“I think, as with every symposium, it should help them think about their own place in the world and how they’re connected to the rest of the world,” Wentling said. “It should also tell them what kind of responsibilities we have as individuals. When we travel overseas, we have a responsibility to know more and break down barriers of ignorance. Diversity is not encountered when one leaves the country, we have it here.”

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