Week Encourages Global Awareness
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11
Baked goods and a study abroad photo display were the extent of the first Global Engagement Week in 2009. In 2012, the week has grown to include film discussions, guest speakers, an international dinner and an off-campus study fair.
In the past, Global Engagement Week was held in accordance with the State Department’s International Education Week, which takes place every November. Global Engagement Week at Kenyon has since moved to the week of Oct. 15 in order to better accommodate student schedules.
“Over the years, we’ve brought in different student groups to plan and collaborate on programs that they might not otherwise collaborate on jointly,” Assistant Director of the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) Lisa Swaim said. “We can be the bridge to bringing students groups together on developing a topic.”
Swaim has been the facilitator of Global Engagement Week since its inception and attributes its increasing popularity to word of mouth. “It takes someone to say ‘Hey, do you know someone else [who] might be working on the same topic?’ and ‘Let’s talk together about that,’” she said.
J Street U and the Middle East Students Association’s (MESA) collaboration with the Delta Tau Delta fraternity on a film and discussion, for example, stemmed from similar interests and a desire to participate in the week’s activities.
Among other events, Palista Kharel ’13 is speaking today during common hour in the CGE about her summer experience in her native Nepal refurbishing a secondary school and establishing a yearly scholarship. “I’ve always been interested in development,” she said. “Coming from a developing country, I’ve always seen the differences between what it’s like in villages in my country, and I’m always comparing it with what it’s like here.” In her discussion, Kharel said she hopes to walk students through her experience and communicate the importance of furthering education in developing countries.
Members of the Black Student Union (BSU) will also lead a discussion this afternoon entitled “Race in the Media and Popular Culture.” BSU President Imani Ladson ’13 hopes it will bring attention to the ways black figures in pop culture play to stereotypes. “The media and popular culture has always been an instrument of socialization in America. It communicates to other people who are not a part of that community what that community is about,” she said. “I hope that people understand that a lot of these figures who are working in the media and popular culture are playing into certain ideas of what the black community is.”
Ladson, who is an intern in the Admissions Office, feels Global Engagement Week is important because of Kenyon’s reputation as a predominantly white, upper-middle class institution. “Global Engagement Week is meant to bring a different perspective from what the average Kenyon student has lived and seen,” she said. “I think it’s very important in broadening people’s horizons.”
Global Engagement Week becomes more student-driven every year. Participating student groups are given free reign in choosing a topic, and this year the focus seems to be on social justice issues. “We’re moving into some really interesting issues,” Director of the CGE Marne Ausec said. “It’s less about what I call the ‘food, festivals and fun’ approach to culture and more about the social issues.” Similarly, student interest has risen for off-campus study programs with a prominent service-learning component.
The number of international students enrolled in the class of 2016 nearly doubled since last year, jumping from around 14 to 27 people. The CGE will host a dinner for international students and their host families on Saturday to close the week, followed by a World Cinema Special Topics Brunch on Sunday.
Ausec and Swaim are proud of the progress Global Engagement Week has made since its inception and hope to continue to build upon it in ensuing years.
“You can talk about number of international students, you can talk about numbers of students who go and come from [an off-campus study] program, but numbers aren’t what’s important,” Ausec said. “What’s important is what really happens when people are here.”