[Inter-] Connect (-ed): The first Vancouver Campus Global Scholars and Leaders Conference

Editor's note: On Friday, November 28, the Global Scholars program at Fairleigh Dickinson University's Vancouver Campus hosted its first academic conference. Called “[Inter-] Connected (-ed),” the conference focused on student research on the interconnectedness of different issues. Gudrun Dreher, director of the Global Scholar Program at the Vancouver Campus, wrote the following account of the conference and the issues it showcased.
 
By Gudrun Dreher
 
“We all come from different places — with different cultures, histories, political systems, customs, languages — but at Fairleigh Dickinson University we connect with each other and share our experiences. And after that, we stay connected, even interconnected, and our lives are no longer the same. It’s like those quantum particles that are forever entangled — except that we are entangled with many different people in many different ways.”
 
This is a short summary of what some of our first-year students at FDU's Vancouver Campus said after studying at our university for about a month. I think everybody at FDU can relate to their experience — because we have all had it, students, staff, and faculty alike. With people from over 60 countries, our campus is a micro-cosmos not just of cultures but also of world-views, opinions, and ways of seeing and interpreting the world.
 
interconnectedAbove: The students attending the [Inter-] Connected (-ed) conference at FDU's Vancouver Campus. (Photo courtesy of Dreher)
 
Such a broad spectrum of views is unusual for a university classroom — and gives our students, I believe, a huge advantage over less diverse institutions: our students learn from day one on that their own way of seeing the world is only one among many, and that someone else’s (totally different) way can be just as convincing and valuable as theirs. I think this helps our students not only to see things in new ways (which, in itself, is already extremely stimulating and exciting and can give rise to all sorts of innovative projects and ideas) but also to see things from more than one perspective at the same time. And it is this simultaneous presence of multiple perspectives that ultimately helps our students to see the larger picture within which all issues (individual, political, social, economic, environmental, etc) exist. In other words, I think it is relatively easy for our students to see that no topic of global (or local) concern exists in isolation — and that everything always turns out to be connected with everything else…
 
This interconnectedness of issues has been particularly obvious in our Global Scholars and Leaders discussions this term. And since we all enjoyed pointing out these connections (for instance, between our current global environmental crisis and the present world economy and our North-American education system and Western philosophy and the media and …  and … and …) I thought we could just as well approach this interconnectedness of everything with everything else in a more academic way and turn it into the topic of a conference.
 
I therefore invited our Global Scholars and Leaders to do some research about any aspect of this [Inter-] Connectedness they wished and to present their findings to the Vancouver Campus community. Since the results were pretty amazing, we hope to have started a new tradition and to have a Global Scholars and Leaders Conference from now on every year.