Macalester will host its annual International Roundtable next weekend. The Roundtable is a community-wide and globally-focused forum exploring critical issues from a variety of perspectives. This year’s Roundtable will focus on Human Migration, and it boasts growing student involvement.
Migration is a dynamic and powerful social force shaping societies, past and present. Geography professor Holly Barcus, who specializes in migration, defined migration as a “tapestry of people and places and how they interact together.”
The Roundtable is an opportunity for students to delve into this issue of global importance through multiple disciplines and discover how the theme relates to them as students.
“We want to tie the issue to what it means to us as citizens of Macalester College, as citizens of Minnesota, and as citizens of the world,” Dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship Christy Hanson said. “Therefore, we will have voices from the field as well as local community partners who are working with immigrant populations.”
This year’s plenary speakers will include T. Alexander Aleinikoff, the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and Susan Brower, the Minnesota State Demographer.
“Because of our longstanding ties with the UN, we like to bring in someone representing a very global perspective,” Hanson said.
Hanson continued to explain the importance of pairing those speakers with ones from regional and local levels in order to create a more diverse and stimulating conversation.
In recent years, the Roundtable has evolved and become more influenced by student opinions. Previously, the panels had been a debate-style format where students argued opposing points of view on a topic. However, three years ago, students began to shape a significant part of the Roundtable themselves.
Yearly topics are now selected from a pool of student proposals.
This year’s discussion around migration seemed to be in line with topics previously tackled including global health, food problems and the environment. Many students wanted this to be discussed, and it was easily matched with strong faculty interest and skills. Furthermore, student workshop participation has grown, which proves how invested and interested the campus is in these topics. This year, 18 workshops will be held, versus 12 at last year’s roundtable.
The new format for the Roundtable also allows people to explore other cross-disciplinary outlets for discussing migration. Next week, Macalester students will be able to admire a collective piece of artwork, entitled “Migration Mural,” that explores what it means to belong.
Elsa Goossen ’15 is coordinating this art display.
“The project started during my study away program last spring in Tucson, Arizona,” Goossen said. “I was doing the Border Studies Program and I was looking at border issues and immigration.”
The mural will be a fence with a dual purpose as the base for several immigration-related images and as a comment on the common obstacle to immigration. Members of several cultural organizations were asked to draw what migration means to them. The collected images will then be assembled on the fence and on display on the south side of the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center by the Noguchi sculpture.
Border enforcement policies have deeply impacted local communities and migration patterns, creating an ongoing humanitarian crisis. Goossen said she wants to “shed a light on this issue in a way that’s very visual so that people can have conversations about migration.”
Though the project has gone through some changes in recent weeks, participants have expressed that it should be a remarkable part of the Roundtable. The original plan was to build the fence 100 feet across the Campus Center’s main lawn, but now it will be displayed outside the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center near the Noguchi sculpture. Ten to 12 campus groups, faculty members, departments and student groups will be displaying projects representing different parts of the world and various topics relating to migration.
As students explore Human Migration in the coming week, whether through speeches, artwork or workshops, Barcus said she has a message for Macalester students on how to approach this topic.
“While the statistics and numbers are important, what’s more important is the context in which migration is happening, whether that’s places or people or the flows themselves,” Barcus said. “Getting down below the numbers and really thinking about the reasons, the barriers and the advantages that people have for migrating is really crucial.”