International Education Week Focuses On Social Justice, Solidarity

In 2000, the U.S. Department of State teamed up with the Department of Education to initiate an event dedicated to the celebration and promotion of cultural knowledge and awareness. International Education Week (IEW) is celebrating its 15th anniversary nationwide—this year’s event, lasting from Nov. 10-21, marks its fourth year of observance on the BC campus.

International Education Week began at BC in 2010, primarily under the direction of the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS). This year marks the first year that the Office of International Programs (OIP) will also be playing an increasingly important role. Adrienne Nussbaum, director of OISS, and Nick Gozik, director of OIP, are the two chairs of the IEW planning committee.

Although BC’s IEW is aligned with the nationwide celebration, it remains independent and therefore has more freedom. Since the event on campus receives no funding from the government, those involved are not required to hold certain activities. “We use IEW as an opportunity to showcase and promote the deep and wide array of international programming available to faculty, staff, and students on our campus,” Gozik said in an email.

Continuing to celebrate IEW in its own way, the planning committee has decided to extend the festivities for an additional week. The addition of another week dedicated to international education has the possibility of overlap with other events. “We also wanted to encourage a wider array of units on campus to become involved, so as to make sure that IEW is really a campus-wide initiative,” Gozik said.
This year, for the first time, BC’s IEW planning committee has decided to select a theme for the week: “Social justice in the world: Is it possible?”

“We are hoping that the theme will not only help to thread together IEW activities, yet will also provide for a broader conversation on campus during the fall semester,” Gozik said. The planning committee hopes that the events throughout the weeks will be thought-provoking and encourage students to start asking some important questions about the role of social justice in the world, and what role they could potentially play in its advancement. Gozik hopes students and faculty will ponder some larger questions.

“Is social justice in the world a realistic aim?” Gozik asked. “How does one define social justice in other cultural and linguistic contexts? Does social justice presuppose equality? What role might BC community members take in helping to promote social justice responsibly around the world?”

Although this is only its fourth year at BC, IEW is growing at an ever-expanding rate. The planning committee has been successful in its attempts to reach out, demonstrated by the fact that it has doubled its number of events available throughout the week.

“We currently list 46 events on the IEW website,” Gozik said. “We continue to be approached about adding new ones to our calendar.” Members of the committee, especially the two co-chairs, Gozik and Nussbaum, do most of the work for outreach and organization of the events.

“We are entirely inclusive, not exclusive—we have never been in a situation in which we have needed to turn away a presenter,” Gozik said. “Instead, we do our best to include as many academic and administrative units and student groups as possible.”

From presentations by Fulbright Scholars to panels composed of culturally aware students and distinguished professors, IEW is full of diverse daily events with topics ranging from issues in the Middle East, to Australia, to larger ideas like the state of global capitalism. On Tuesday, Nov. 11, a panel entitled Solidarity in a Globalized World discussed questions like, “What is it? Is it possible? Why does it matter?”

The panel consisted of student representatives from Arrupe, PULSE Council, the Global Service and Justice Program, and BC’s Women’s Center, as well as theology professor Stephen Pope and political science professor Paul Christensen.

Through recalling personal experiences, all the members explained “solidarity” in their own way, with definitions like “togetherness, a shared life experience that we as humans are all going through, regardless of lifestyle, experiences, beliefs, conditions, countries,” according to Alex Gaynor, A&S ’15.

The panel was also very open about the difficulties of finding solidarity. Grace Na, A&S ’16, shared her own struggle in finding solidarity.

“For me, solidarity is finding that connection with another human being, but also recognizing that I’m in a place of privilege and that I have won the lottery,” Na said. The panel went on to grapple further with the topic and discuss possible ways to obtain it in our lives.

Within the upcoming week, similar types of events will take place, but in many different formats, allowing the BC community to gain a more holistic international education experience. Art exhibitions like the World Through Our Eyes photo exhibit, and a lecture on ISIS given by political science professor Peter Krause, will occur during the week, as well as an abundance of others that appeal to diverse interests.

Within the remainder of the week, the planning committee hopes to achieve its overarching goal: to foster greater interest in international understanding. According to the International Education Week 2014 page of the BC website, “International Education Week emphasizes the importance of increasing knowledge and awareness of the world’s cultures, peoples, and languages, and affirms the critical role that international education plays at Boston College.”

BC itself is an international community. On campus, more than 50 percent of the student body studies abroad, and roughly 2,000 international students and scholars are here every year. Although this is true, the planning committee hopes to expose students to new international ideas and opportunities that they had not previously considered. “We want students to become more aware of the great wealth of international programs and scholarship available on campus,” Gozik said

Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Staff

 

 

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