Last April, a student’s idea for a new program at Whitworth became a reality in the form of the Student Symposium. “Symposium was the brainchild of a student who is now a junior, Sam Director,” said Casey Andrews, associate professor of English and coordinator for speak- ers and artists.
Student Symposium allows students to give lectures in a professional setting on topics that are important to them.
“The overarching mission is to enhance the quality of intellectual discourse on campus,” junior Sam Director said.
The idea for Student Symposium came partly from the Great Decisions Lecture Series hosted in the spring, he said. Student Symposium is student-led, and is open to any topic.
Director began by speaking to professors about the idea, and got a particularly positive response from Andrews, Director said.
“He decided he wanted student lectures, a series of them, that would allow students to present interesting, complex, relevant ideas, and then have students debate those ideas as a way of saying ‘this is part of what we do in the academy,’” Andrews said.
Andrews and Director are on the board made up of four students and four professors, who are responsible for approving applications, junior Sarah Sauter said. She said they hope to have applications available by mid-October.
“When we open for applications, it’s going to be open for anyone to apply. Any Whitworth student can present something,” said Niko Aberle, junior and Symposium board member.
Sauter gave several reasons for students to apply. Speaking at a university-sanctioned event looks great on a resumé, she said.
“I think it helps for someone to practice,” Sauter said. “You’re going to have to do this in any other job, right? Whether it’s business, giving a presentation, whether it’s selling someone a product, whether you’re a politician, convincing this is a policy we should do; or any other area, you’re going to need to have these speaking skills.”
The board will especially look for applications from a professional, passionate speaker with relevant and well-researched topics, Sauter said.
The first Student Symposium lecture was Sept. 25, in which Director himself presented on the George Zimmerman trial; he shared his views, another student challenged them, and Director argued for his side, he said. It finished with a question and answer session open to the audience.
“That’s the general format: take a stance, hear the other side, and then interact all of us,” Sauter said.
Director’s presentation was held in Robinson Teaching Theatre, which honored it as a legitimate lecture but allowed for easy group discussion as well, Sauter said.
“If people are really passionate about a topic and they want to go deep into it, this is the best opportunity they’re going to have in their undergraduate career,” Director said.
The next two presentations are set for Nov. 22 and Jan. 15.
“Students are opinionated about things and they want to share that with their fellow students, and we want to argue, and we want to disagree well about these things,” said Niko Aberle, speaker for Nov. 22.
Aberle will be presenting on genetically modified organisms and nitrogen fertilizers, and the advantages and disadvantages of each, he said.
“I’m going to be taking a critical view of farm subsidies, agricultural subsidies,” he said.
Andrews said he hopes that students beyond philosophy majors and debate teams would be able to participate.
“I know people get busy and all that, but I think there’s something about recognizing that you’re here to learn, and that learning that’s attached to grades is just one por- tion of that learning,” Andrews said.
Katie Shaw Staff Writer
Contact Katie Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org