Students unpack global citizenship in on-campus conference

Keeping with this year’s theme of global citizenship, Allegheny College hosted a two-day conference this past weekend that allowed scholars and students to come together to discuss issues that face the an ever-changing world and its citizens.

The conference was composed of two main parts. The first day featured the presentations of four scholars, who remained on campus for both days and conducted discussion and interacted with students about several topics related to global citizenship. The scholars included J. Baird Callicott, Noelle McAfee, Ladelle McWhorter and Eduardo Mendieta. When asked if he believed these philosophers would impact students, philosophy professor and conference coordinator Eric Boynton was optimistic.

“These four scholars are on the cutting edge of discovering the way we think and behave and how it affects the planet,” said Boynton. “The different philosophers will each have a different influence.”

Students also played an active role within the conference over the weekend, with 40 students presenting papers that addressed various aspects of global citizenship.

Participants in the conference each possessed a multitude of what global citizenship consists of, and each student was given the opportunity to state what it meant to them. Benjamin Bussewitz, ’12, a presenter at the conference, stressed the importance of communication within his ideas of a global citizen truly is.

To present at the conference, students were asked to apply. If accepted, they took part in a session in which they read their papers and were asked questions by scholars and professors about what they had presented. Following the question and answer session, students discussed what it means to be a global citizen and how their papers related to that central idea.

Bussewitz presented his paper titled “Awareness, Communication, and Action: Citizenship in an Expanding World”, and believes that the conference was a great chance to network and contribute to what he feels is an important discussion.

“It was a really great introduction to what sort of things you encounter in academia if you pursue graduate school or something,” said Bussewitz. “It gives students the opportunity to present to parents and engage an academic audience as well as get structured feedback and force them to think about new things.”

Professor Boynton also stressed the active role of students in a discussion that he believes bears great significance for our current global society. In turn, he feels that students are able to see their work affect the world in a positive manner on a larger scale.

“The students see that the papers that they’ve worked on have a larger life in the academic world,” Boynton said. “They’re not just for grades or professors, but they serve to extend the conversation to people around the globe. In other words, what students are working on matters.”

The conference was attended by over 100 pre-registered students, and concluded with a banquet and roundtable discussion, a dance performance and a reception. Students like Sara Mitrano, ’13, who presented her paper titled “Using the Past to Understand the Present”, which addressed the issue of multicultural identity crises, believe that the conference provided a new perspective, unavailable in the classroom.

“I think that sometimes there just isn’t enough discussion at Allegheny about certain subjects,” said Mitrano.  “It was just really interesting to talk about a subject like multicultural identity which might not necessarily be covered in everyday classes.”

Paticipants like Mitrano and Bussewitz also emphasized the attendance and participation of the Allegheny student body and the faculty.

“I think that they did a really good job of advertising it,” said Bussewitz. “There were enough students there that we could have really robust conversation and productive informative sessions.”

However, one presenter, Steven Wu, ’12, believes that the conference could have benefitted from higher participation and a more widespread campus audience.

“For several sessions, it seemed like only dedicated philosophy, political science, or international studies majors showed up,” Wu said. “But with other sessions, like those with guest speakers, a fair amount of students attended, which was really refreshing to see. Overall though, it still felt somewhat inclusive and definitely could have involved more of the campus and student body.”

The students that did attend and played an active role in the conference believe that the multitude of voices and opinions was beneficial to those who are interested in the issues of global citizenship.

“I just learned a lot of different perspectives and angles on the topic that we personally discussed in my panel,” Mitrano added. “It was an eye-opener to learn what other people had to say about the topic and I enjoyed it a lot.”