With 57 different presentations, this was one of the most diverse and biggest years for the Global Awareness Conference. The conference, which was held for the first time in 2008, allows for students, faculty and organizations to present on cultures from around the world. These presentations ranged from dance lessons and weapon displays to facts about religion and culture and food sampling. This year’s keynote speaker was Arn Chorn Pond, a former child soldier from Cambodia. We were able to interview Rebecca Burch, the organizer of this event.
Bryan Wood: What difficulties did you have organizing the conference?
Rebecca Burch: The difficulties are trying to organize a schedule around a huge variety of programs, and making sure everyone has the materials they need.
Wood: How was this year’s conference different from previous years?
Burch: This conference was the most elaborate we have ever had. We also had the most programs we have ever had. It went off without a hitch which almost never happens.
Wood: What was the process of getting Arn Chorn Pond as keynote speaker?
Burch: Arn Chorn Pond was actually here at Oswego in April 2007. He was part Artswego, but Hart was asked to host him. He was really the first speaker Hart Hall had had since I’ve been here. Arn is one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met and I wanted to bring him back. Every year we need a keynote and I wanted to bring him. The problem was waiting for the money to bring him back, and this year we finally did.
Wood: How was he different from previous speakers?
Burch: I always try to get speakers that are inspirational. I want them to motivate and inspire the students. Since I met him first before the conference I’ve tried to get keynotes like him, really.
Wood: How long is the process of setting up the conference?
Burch: Looking for the keynote and booking them usually starts in June, but I’ve done it in February before. All of the promotional materials are made over the summer. The whole thing launches as soon as the students come back.
Wood: What kind of programs do you look to host during the conference?
Burch: My favorite programs to host are anything involving music, dance or food. I think those are everybody’s favorites. This year I was happy to have four different programs on weaponry.
Wood: How does the conference compare with other events held in Hart Hall?
Burch: Compared to other conferences, this was the biggest and the best. It went off without a hitch and everyone had a good time, so I’m really happy about that.
Wood: How do you encourage foreign students to present on their cultures?
Burch: We try very hard to reach out to the international students to teach everyone about their culture. This year what we did was put flyers all over the hall for students from other cultures or interested in different cultures and asked them to help out with different programs. That way they were able to do it without putting them on the spot.
Wood: How many presentations were given by international students compared to native residents?
Burch: There were over 50 programs in total. About a fifth of the presentations were done by international students, which is good considering how many were done by faculty.
Wood: What other programs are you planning for this year?
Burch: In the spring we are going to have a weekend of sexuality themed programs, an international animated film festival, an LGBT film festival, the Holi spring festival and I will be teaching an international course in Hart Hall.
This event allows the community to learn about different cultures in creative ways and also gives international students the chance to teach the community about their culture in a welcoming atmosphere.
The amount of time and effort put into this event has allowed it to continue growing and to become more popular each year. While it will be hard to top this year’s conference, steps are already being taken to create next year’s conference. Until then, students can participate in the other events scheduled this year in Hart Hall.