In-person symposium day engages students

Feven Zewdu

Symposium day is a time of learning for students held every semester, with alumni and scholars coming to speak to students about different issues. This year’s theme was Environments: Our Cultural, Social and Natural Surroundings, and it took place all over campus. This year, the event was held on Oct. 6 with a list of guest speakers that included Jamie Ford, Brenna Cussen-Anglada, alumni Kelly Schumacher Fuller and students in collaboration with professors. 

Students had the opportunity to view the presentations of alumni and keynote speakers like they did before the pandemic, which gave symposium day its original essence.  

Mike Egan, the associate dean of academic affairs and associate professor of education, emphasizes the difference of Symposium Day this year compared to the last one, as it is now entirely in person. Having events in person allows students the opportunity to interact with one another and the speakers, helping them create connections with each other and the speakers.  

“Last year’s symposium day was fully online, which in many ways made it difficult for us to get students engaged,” Egan said. 

This year’s theme focused mainly on a broad definition of environments by connecting it to cultural, social and natural aspects of our surroundings and creating a wide and inclusive approach to the topic. 

“We tend to give out broad concepts which we believe is what liberal arts is all about, yet students in different fields of study look at the same concept from different angles,” Egan said. “So the hope is that the theme is unified enough to bring us all together with a coherent topic and yet broad enough so that we appreciate the different perspectives.” 

This allows students with different fields of study to be included in the themes as it gives them the opportunity to look within their studies for a way to connect it to the environment. 

Alumni Kelly Schumacher Fuller, a 2007 graduate, spoke about her work with families in Afghanistan and her work with Ascend: Leadership Through Athletics, a non-government organization that helps Afghan women become leaders through rock climbing. Fuller’s goal is to affirm students in their hopes of doing what they love and exploring their gifts. 

Fuller’s presentation focused on the nonlinear path that her career took and highlighted her belief that each individual has a hidden strength. 

“I was really open to figuring out where my skills and gifts were going to be put to use, how I could show up for my community, environment and for justice,” Fuller said. “I hope that’s affirming for any students that aren’t sure on how they want to implement things that they’ve learned.” 

Senior Isabela Oliveira presented her panel titled: Drawing narratives: How graphic novels help tell life-changing experiences. This focused on how graphic novels are used for academic purposes to incorporate cultural, social and political environments.

Oliveira said symposium day is important because she remembers the first one she attended and how it impacted her views. However, this symposium day was not well attended by the surrounding area.

“The school would be packed with everyone, including members of the community that aren’t associated with faculty or students,” Oliveira said. “But I noticed that we are still in the process of getting back to normal after the pandemic.”