Events include a long-term photo installation, 17 student-led workshops and five plenary speakers
The Institute for Global Citizenship (IGC) kicked off the 22nd installment of the International Roundtable this Wednesday, which focuses on educational equity, diversity and civic participation.
This year, the Roundtable features a long-term photography installation, 17 student-led workshops and five plenary speakers who work around the theme of educational disparities on the local, national and international levels.
Christy Hanson, the Dean of the IGC and Roundtable co-Director, stressed that the Roundtable is meant to educate students but is also meant as a way to encourage students to take action through volunteering or simply getting involved in the local community.
“We just think it’s really timely for us to be thinking about what it means for people to have equitable access to education, what the disparities are and how we can be part of the solutions in bringing equal access to education to everybody,” Hanson said.
“We like to come at it [the theme] from different angles during the Roundtable, hopefully everybody can find something for them to get interested in the topic,” Hanson continued. “It really is about helping us find out what our role is globally and locally, and finding solutions for it.”
Ruthanne Kurth-Schai, Chair of the Educational Studies Department and Roundtable co-Director, said that the “hope is that this deepens our understanding of this issue in a way that doesn’t oversimplify it, but [that] helps us to integrate all that in a way that gives us direction for change.”
In recent years, the theme chosen for the Roundtable has also been implemented into other aspects of academic life at Macalester. This year, the incoming class read Hope Against Hope by Sarah Carr, and the Convocation speaker, James Forman Jr., delivered a speech about the school-to-prison pipeline.
This new approach speaks to the ways in which the IGC and Macalester, on a larger scale, have tried to renew and re-adapt the Roundtable to provide students a better understanding of global issues.
Over time, the Roundtable has moved from being a plenary speakers-only event, where students had to write response papers about what they learned, to a four-day immersive educational opportunity.
Student workshops were implemented only four years ago and now constitute the lion’s share of the Roundtable.
“The meat of the Roundtable now is what the students do and what they bring to campus and the discussions that they spark,” Hanson said. “I think it’s an awesome experience for the students and I think it’s really brave that they do this.”
Every workshop led by students this year relates to educational inequalities and disparities in very different ways. Topics discussed range from refugee and immigrant education in the Twin Cities to white norms of learning in classrooms.
Kurth-Schai explained that this theme is especially difficult to define or illustrate in a single way. “There are so many different dimensions to the problem,” Kurth-Schai said. “There are so many different ways in which students around the world are advantaged or disadvantaged. It’s a very complex issue both in its problem and in its solution paths.”
Yet, many students were ready to take on the challenge.
One of the workshops discussed English Language Education in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Led by three international sophomores, the workshop aims to explain the complicated relationships these countries have with the English language through the students’ personal experiences.
“Schooling is polarized by language disparities, where success, power and elitism are almost synonymous with the English language,” said Ali Mahad ’18, one of the co-leaders of the workshop. “Not only has this seriously affected the quality of public schooling, it has furthered social stigmas that disenfranchise indigenous languages in education and beyond.
As is the case with other student leaders, Mahad drew inspiration for his workshop from interactions he has had on campus and abroad.
“I have had several compelling discussions pertaining to linguistics, especially with regards to English, a language that is perceived as a status symbol in our countries,” Mahad said. “When we heard about the theme of this year’s Roundtable, we quickly resolved to conduct this workshop because it brings an often misrepresented, neglected or oversimplified subject to light.”