Virtual Symposium Day provides advantages for the community

Maria Fernanda Rubi

Augustana held the first virtual Symposium Day consisting of live and pre-recorded sessions on Oct. 17. According to the Symposium Day Committee and some presenters, this format was expected to provide more advantages to the Augustana Community.
In early March, the event was planned to be held as in previous years. However, in order to keep the campus safe and include remote learner students, it was changed to be held virtually. 
“We [The Symposium Day Committee] said let’s try to pull off a virtual event, with the same theme,” Mike Egan, chair of the Symposium Committee, said.
This year the event provides more flexibility to students. They will be able to watch the sessions at their own convenience. 
“Even though there is more flexibility, students will still accomplish the goal of Symposium Day which is to engage with interdisciplinary ideas and let it be an enriching way of learning different from classrooms,”  Dr. Rupa Gordon, Symposium Day Committee chair member, said.
This year, there was a Moodle page for Symposium Day where students could find a section devoted to the different topics presented. This allowed students to easily rewatch a session that contained helpful and interesting information to them. 
“Through the Question Forum space in Moodle, there is a formal mechanism that may enable conversations regarding the topic to continue,” Egan said.
A remarkable advantage leading it virtually has is that students can watch all the sessions they desire to. Normally many sessions were presented at the same time, and students needed to decide which one to attend. Now, they can watch the number of sessions they want and at their own convenience.
Student speakers, senior Maria Wood and junior Madeline Young, expect their session “The Native Truth: Perspectives on Augustana’s Land” to reach a broader audience.
 “We hope to get more people interested and involved on the matter through our pre-recorded sessions,” Wood said. 
Unlike previous Symposium Days, this year will have fewer sessions. Instead of having around 20 sessions, it was planned to have eight. “It is a smaller, more focused event around the topic ‘What is truth?,’” Gordon said.
The first-year students can directly connect their FYI 101 class to the session “A conversation with Julie Otsuka,” where they can ask questions to the author of this year’s Augie Reads book and connect to it on a deeper level. 
The virtual experience made it possible to have Otsuka as a speaker. “I don’t know if we could afford bringing her to campus, I have been in Augie since 2008 and we have never brought the summer book’s author for a talk,” Egan said.
From now on, a new feature directly connected to the sophomore class will be part of the Symposium Day. According to Egan, the live keynote “Truth to Power: A Black Pastor’s Calling Amid White Christian Supremacy” is expected to be personally relevant for the second-year Reason Examination of Faith experience.
The Symposium Day Committee adapted to the uncertainties presented by doing Symposium day online. “There was a lot of uncertainty during the process, but we achieved to have impressive speakers that connect to a great extent with the Symposium Day theme and each other,” Egan said.