Opinion

Why you WANT to attend this year’s International Round Table

A few weeks ago I decided last-minute to attend Farah Haddad’s talk about the Syria conflict. It meant cancelling lunch plans and skipping my daily run along the Mississippi even though I never “tuned in” to the politics of the Middle East.

However, hearing Farah (a first-year) articulately demystify the civil war in her home nation has been one of my most inspirational and educational experiences at Macalester to date.

Farah’s speech reminded me of two obvious but invaluable gifts that I frequently take for granted at Mac. First, the lessons we learn engaging with each other in unanticipated manners frequently outweigh those in the classroom. Second, in the presence of passionate experts even the most difficult and complex global topic can feel approachable and maybe even solvable.

More than anything, Farah’s speech made me very excited for this year’s International Round Table. The International Round Table is a Macalester tradition founded to engage the immense intellectual capital across campus with a variety of visiting experts to tackle an annual global theme.

I cannot emphasize enough that this year attending the IRT will be more than worth your time. The IGC (the Institute of Global Citizenship) staff has put an extraordinary effort into moving away from the historical IRT format where speakers prepared academic articles and specifically chosen students wrote and delivered responses to the visiting speakers.

Next weekend our campus will host the 2013 International Round Table “Global Health: Promoting equity within and across Borders”.

People will be flying in from as far away as Johannesburg, South Africa to attend. The long list of experts contributing to the International Round Table may include varied health professions, from a midwife from a slum in Narodi, India to the former head of the UNDP (author of the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals). They also include every disciplinary approach to Public Health in between. These lawyers, artists, screen-directors, geographers and journalists will demonstrate how they use their skills to improve global inequities. For instance Nafis Sadik—the first woman ever to head a UN agency—will be on campus to discuss specifically the empowerment of girls and women in issues of health.

Next, the title of the 2013 IRT, “Promoting Equity Within and Across Borders,” intentionally states the broader problem that health status of people around the world is very unequal. The organizing committee used the word “inequity” instead of “inequality” to emphasize that the global health system is unfair and unjust­—but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The conference will emphasize that the tools to address health problems already exist around the world. Hopefully, Macalester can actively move as an institution of learning blessed with inter-disciplinary insight to identify how a lack of change in global politics allows persisting injustices.

If you’re interested working in public health (or become interested during the Round Table) you won’t want to miss the Reception and the closing Round Table event. These events give the opportunity to extend your engagement in health past the IRT. At the reception, students can mingle with the many guests, alumnae and related organizations interested in providing jobs and internships in the health field during academic breaks or post-graduation.For those who want to get involved now, the Round Table is comprised of a panel of local activists discussing where the need is most prevalent for students to get engaged in the Twin Cities now.

Last week Christy Hansen (Dean of the IGC) said at an IRT committee meeting, “I think a lot of students misperceive global health as a medical issue based in the natural sciences. After this weekend I hope people see Public Health as a field where students of every major or area of study could apply their skills. Hopefully students will leave the Round Table energized by the work Macalester has already done regarding Public Health and with a deeper understanding of the tools we already have to solve global health inequities.”

At least for me, “free time” does not exist at Mac. So I am already planning when I will give up an hour of sleep or skimp on a few readings in order to attend wherever and whenever I can.

I can’t wait to see you there!

October 4, 2013

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