Annual themes to connect community, focus on education

Access and innovation are set to be the central issues of Allegheny’s fourth annual theme, the Year of Transforming Education.

Psychology professor Dr. Aimee Knupsky and economics professor Stephanie Martin proposed the theme.

“Professor Martin and I feel strongly that we need to be able to talk about why a liberal arts college like Allegheny has a lot to provide students and what’s the role and value of a liberal arts education,” Knupsky said.

Knupsky pointed out that like past themes, education is always a timely issue.

“Sustainability was last year’s theme but that doesn’t mean that sustainability isn’t still important,” she said. “These are just things that we’re trying to facilitate conversations about in the moment.”

Knupsky and Martin also opened an independent study last spring and this fall for students interested in helping with the annual theme. These 11 students act as student ambassadors, marketing for events, escorting guest speakers and working with the steering committee to develop new ideas in planning.

Mike Fields, ’14, was in Martin’s Values, Ethics and Social Action class in the spring. Martin gave her class the chance to participate in the independent study that semester and since Fields has an interest in education, he joined.

He said in an email that it was a lengthy planning process and that student ambassadors’ focus is to create a bridge between students and the greater campus community for the annual theme.

“We as students contacted the heads of every academic department, student resources and many student groups to try to bring them into the loop regarding the theme and trying to get them involved,” he said.

Public Events Committee Chair Ishita Sinha Roy pointed out that student organizations’ yearly planning and general attendance help dictate a theme’s success.

“Students definitely, definitely shape the choices in terms of what kind of programming they would like to see on campus because if they don’t attend, what’s the point of bringing things here?” she said.

Knupsky pointed out that the annual theme serves to connect some of the many events that occur on campus.

“The idea was that having one big theme might connect those in a way that was a little more thoughtful and strategic and create a bigger conversation,” she said. “It’s still relatively new, kinks are still being worked out but the idea is that as long as everyone knows what the theme is, as their developing speakers to come or programs to do that they might just think about how they can connect with that.”

In order to boost attendance, Knupsky and Martin created “passports” for students, faculty, staff and community members.

The passports will be distributed to the campus community by mailbox and placed at various locations around town for the Meadville community.

These passports will serve as a check-in that will be used to enter the attendee in raffles for anything from keychains to laptops.

Fields said that the passport idea reminds him of the “gold rush” initiative for athletic events. Still, he worries about attendance.

“I think it will be imperative that we share with other students why they should care about education,” he said. “The theme covers not only early education, but all the way through college, which obviously affects current students.”

Roy said that this year’s theme provides the ideal learning opportunity for everyone.

“So I think we’re very lucky to be at Allegheny where we actually have the opportunity to have great minds from across the country come and speak to us on all these topics,” she said. “So rather than my expectation, my challenge to the campus body would be to open their minds and come and open their calendars a little and come to these events.”