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The Carletonian

Symposium showcases experiences abroad

<fternoons of Saturday, Oct. 24 and Sunday, Oct. 23, twelve students presented at Carleton’s second Student Symposium in the library’s Athanaeum.

The symposium, occurring nine months after the first one held during winter term last year, gave students the opportunity to present their research, interests or reflections on a term abroad. Students, professors and members of the Off-Campus Studies Office were in attendance for one or several of the thirty-minute presentations given over the weekend.

Last winter’s symposium was the brainchild of Sam Robson ’10. Robson, having just returned abroad from Nicaragua, wanted an opportunity to share his new insights with his peers. A major inspiration for the first symposium was “coming back with new conceptions of myself, the United States and my place in it,” Robson said.

Robson’s main goal was to create a forum that “[breaks] the hierarchy that says students are always students, professors are always professors.”

“Everyone has something to bring to the table,” Robson said. At the symposium, the students managed their own presentations and used visual tools such as PowerPoint to structure their talks. Question and answer sessions at the end of each presentation allowed for audience members to ask the presenter questions and share their own reflections.

The student presenters this weekend were Casey Markenson ’12, Samir Bhala ’12, Emily Cousins ’10, Max Bearak ’12, Daniel Curme ‘10, Nathan Yaffe ’11, Jesse Rothman ’11, Nimo Ali ‘11, Dan Kagan-Kans ‘10, Lipi Gupta ’12, James Hannaway ’10 and John Schlaefer ’10. Presentation titles ranged from “Approaching Public Health Through Storytelling” to “Rave and the Hardcore Continnum.”

This term, Robson stressed that students did not have to present original research in order to participate; they were free to discuss a passion with their peers, or simply reflect on an enlightening experience as formally or informally as they wanted. Indeed, student presentations covered a wide spectrum of formats. Bearak and Curme, for example, presented photo slideshows and conversationally reflected on their international experiences in South Africa and Israel, respectively.

On the other end of the spectrum, Kagan-Kans spoke about an unusual topic: rave music. He took the audience through the history of rave, how it started and materialized and played samples of the music for people. Kagan-Kans talked about how rave music evolved from being a kind of music based purely on the power of emotions brought by the music and lacked any discernible lyrics.

“It’s about the vibe, not about the artist,” Kagan-Kans said of the music that lacks any figureheads but rather is about the whole conglomeration that creates the effect of rave.

Gupta discussed her summer in India working towards empowerment of girls in rural India. She was the winner of the Davis Peace prize and had won a fund of $10,000 towards her cause. Gupta’s main inspiration came from how much she felt education had changed her life. Gupta started her program by collecting a group of girls from their teens to early twenties who had either received no education or had dropped out of school after a few years. She tried to impart some real skills to the groups in the form of sewing lessons and Hindi groups.

Hannaway gave a presentation entitled, “Building Grassroots Power: lessons from campaign and community organizing.” Last fall, Hannaway worked for the Obama Campaign and has since been working for New Organizing Information, an organization specializing in advising and training campaigns.

Shlaefer, a senior double major in Economics and Chinese, shared his experience cycling across Tibet to understand economic development in the Qinghai region of Tibet. Shlaefer had been awarded the Larson International Fellowship, a grant to enable students with leadership promise to have a significant international summer experience. Schlaefer cycled along the Qinghai Tibet railway and studied what economic impact the railway had on the people living in Tibet.

Robson hopes to organize another symposium during spring term so that especially juniors returning from abroad programs after this fall and winter are able to share their adventures with their peers. Most of all, he hopes that someone will claim leadership of the symposium so that it may outlive his Carleton career.

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