Doyle Symposium Focuses on Liberal Arts, Diversity
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 15:02
The annual Doyle Symposium addressed the role of liberal arts education in engaging issues of diversity in Copley Formal Lounge Thursday afternoon.
The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship cosponsored the symposium to explore the role of diversity in a Georgetown education.
The event was divided into three segments: the role of a liberal arts education in engaging difference, the use of new communication technologies in enhancing intercultural encounters and the benefits of studying abroad.
In the first segment, theology professor Fr. John O’Malley, S.J., said engaging diversity is consistent with the Jesuit tradition of liberal education. He also said that it is necessary to understand one’s peers and audience when addressing them.
“One element in this liberal arts education was to be able to speak publicly,” O’Malley said. “This meant being in touch with the audience to be able to know what they were thinking, what they were feeling, and [the need] to be in touch with the diversity of the audience.”
Dennis Williams, director of the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, said that there are many programs outside classrooms that engage issues of diversity, including pre-orientation programs, living-learning communities, Leaders in Education about Diversity and A Different Dialogue.
“It's telling to me that students are willing to devote this kind of attention and energy [to this program],” Williams said of A Different Dialogue, a noncredit program with the same amount of work as a typical class.
In the second segment, Lucas Welch, the founder and chief innovation officer of Soliya, spoke about the Connect Program developed by his nonprofit, which is used in several Georgetown classes. The Connect Program links students from Western and Muslim-majority societies through moderated group video conferencing. Welch talked about the role of “self-other overlap” and the way people develop understandings of different perspectives.
“‘Self-other overlap’ is essentially a term for the degree to which you have a sense of commonality with someone from another identity group,” Welch said. "Research has shown that if you can demonstrate shifts in people’s self-other overlap within their own identity group, you’re much more likely to pursue difference with a spirit of cooperation. If there’s conflict between you, you’re much more likely to approach it with a spirit of cooperation instead of confrontation.”
Shavonnia Corbin Johnson (SFS ’14) said she had a positive experience using the Connect Program in her Culture and Diplomacy class, where she video-conferenced with students from Europe and the Middle East once a week.
“The topics that we talked about ranged from hamburgers in America to President Barack Obama to the Arab Spring to why atheism is looked down upon in Muslim countries,” Corbin Johnson said.
Nicole Fleury (SFS ’14) and Audrey Wilson (SFS ’14) concluded the symposium in the third segment. Fleury studied abroad in Alexandria, Egypt and at the School of Foreign Service campus in Doha, Qatar, and Wilson studied at the Georgetown villa in Alanya, Turkey.
Fleury was in Egypt at the time of the Egyptian presidential elections.
“Classes were cancelled, so we went back to our hotel and we all stood there watching the announcement on TV,” Fleury said. “It was just interesting to also see the activity around us. The streets, which were usually crowded and very lively, [were] silent and empty. After the announcement ... you would look out on the streets and it was a huge celebration. There was a parade within 20 minutes.”
Wilson said she was exposed to Turkish culture during her time abroad.
“I thought it was a very special program because it was a program designed specifically for cultural immersion,” Wilson said. “They had planned the curriculum totally around our semester, [and] we got to travel all around the western part of Turkey. Beyond the classroom, we were able to participate in a lot of programs with the communities. We did a community-based learning program, and we got to teach in local elementary schools once a week in an English class.”
Kat Kelley (NHS ’14) was curious about the programs and opportunities discussed at the symposium. She said she hopes to participate in the Soliya Connect Program next year.
“I think one of the biggest [takeaways] is that there’s a lot of really strong programs, such as the Soliya project on campus, that students don't know about,” Kelley said. “One of the greatest benefits of these programs is forcing you to question what you think, whether you're in a different culture and you have to question the things you've take for granted or whether you’re having conversations with people and you have to defend what you believe.”