In a square room in the middle of the first floor of O’Neill Library, students sit staring into their laptops surrounded by textbooks and papers. Pinned to a brown corkboard on the walls just above their heads are 22 bright, colorful pictures of the world outside Boston College.
Together, the pictures make up The World Through Our Eyes, an International Education Week photo exhibition. It is an ongoing exhibit in the O’Neill Library Level One Gallery that will be on display until Nov. 28. Members of the BC community submitted the photos, which were then selected by Office of International Students & Scholars (OISS) Technology Administrator Yves Bruno and Exhibits Specialist Kevin Tringale.
International Education Week (IEW) was co-initiated in 2000 by the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Education. At BC, it runs from Nov. 10 to 21 and is meant to increase awareness of global cultures and emphasize the importance of international education. The University does not receive a mandated agenda or funds from the federal government, however, according to Nick Gozik, director of the Office of International Programs.
“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,” he said.
The photographs in O’Neill span the globe—there’s a black-and-white portrait of a Maasai child holding a deer in Kenya next to a photograph of a smiling woman in Morocco. There is a photograph of Ghanaian women protesting for their right to education, and one of men eating at a gourmet French restaurant in a Buddhist temple in Beijing.
IEW was first celebrated at BC five years ago, but for the first time this year, it has a theme: Social Justice in the World: Is It Possible? All of the pictures in the exhibit were selected to illustrate this theme, said Adrienne Nussbaum, IEW coordinator and director of the Office of International Students and Scholars.
Not all events are required to address this theme, however. The topic, though, has inspired involvement among many people who have not participated in the past. The theme is meant to give a common threat to IEW activities, Gozik said.
“We are hoping that the theme … will also provide for a broader conversation on campus during the fall semester, allowing colleagues and students from a variety of disciplines and walks of life to ask fundamental questions such as, ‘Is social justice in the world a realistic aim?’ ‘How does one define social justice in other cultural and linguistic contexts?’ ‘Does social justice presuppose equality?’” he said. “What role might BC community members take in helping to promote social justice responsibly around the world?”
Ever since IEW’s inception at BC, the photo exhibit has been a key representation of the mission of the program. In total, the program consists of 46 events: lectures, presentations, discussions, and films. The photographs add a visual element to the week, Gozik said.
“The very location of the exhibit, in the center of the library, and just off of a busy corridor leading faculty, staff, and students through the heart of campus, ensures that virtually all members of the BC community have an opportunity to view the photos on display,” Gozik said.
Many organizations sponsor events for IEW, including the International Club, the Linguistics program, and the Volunteer and Service Learning Center. Events still to come include the Voices of the Pueblo Native American Dance and a lecture given by Brian Gareau, a professor within the international studies department, about Peace Corps as a post-grad option. For the most part, all of the events have been well attended, Nussbaum said.
“All of the IEW events have been going very well so far,” Nussbaum said. “We are looking forward to week two.”
BC hosts over 2,000 students and faculty from other countries and represents an international community—there is a multitude of international programs and activities on campus, and over 50 percent of the student body goes abroad at some point, Gozik said. IEW highlights the international accomplishments on campus. In addition, this year’s theme serves to garner greater interest and encourage involvement, Gozik said.
“By focusing on social justice in the world, we have an opportunity to link international programming and initiatives with a theme that is true to our university’s Jesuit roots,” Gozik said.
“The various ways in which community members have addressed the questions raised … deepen our understanding of social justice, as well as other integral themes of solidarity and humility.”
Featured Image by Emily Sadeghian / Heights Editor