June 18, 2024

Symposium Day to Resume In-Person for the First Time Since 2019

Tim VandeBrake '25

For the first time since 2019, Symposium will take place in-person, with masks required indoors. Every year, a day is set aside for students across departments to lead diverse events centered around a general theme. Significantly, Symposium offers students the unique opportunity to bring topics that are of interest to them to the forefront of campus conversation and play the role of educator for the day. Special guest speakers are also invited to give presentations in their areas of expertise. Up to four CL&W credits are available for attending these events.

Symposium is intended to create a space where students can hold events and conduct presentations outside of the traditional graded academic setting. In doing so, it creates a space for students to learn about topics that they might not typically hear in a traditional lecture class. Presentations range between academic and non-academic, from discussions of research studies to panels discussing a particular topic. 

“Symposium is a time for students to lead,” says Paul Brink, professor of Political Science and co-director of the Center for Faith and Inquiry. “It’s a marvelous opportunity for students to bring up, in a semi-formal atmosphere, things that they’re concerned about and things that matter.” 

This year’s theme for Symposium is “virtue and human flourishing.” An intentionally broad theme, it ties events across campus together under a single concept while allowing for vast creative freedom and engagement. 

By organizing their own distinct events, students have the chance to explore how their disciplines or interests contribute to virtue and human flourishing in one way or another. Preserving time for such conversations outside the classroom, students are able to demonstrate why such topics remain important independent of their contribution to academic success. 

Symposium also includes presentations by special guest speakers, such as this year’s guest, Professor Trudy Summers, Acting Director of the Gordon Honors Institute. In addition, there is a session held in response to the Jerusalem and Athens Forum (JAF) debate, in which JAF students discuss their experiences and audience members can ask their post-debate questions. This is also an excellent resource for students considering applying for the Jerusalem and Athens Forum in the future.

In past years, students and faculty have worked to create events about both general interests and relevant issues seen in the modern world. In 2019, a discussion panel was held featuring Dr. Kristen Cooper and Dr. Dorothy Boorse to discuss the Church’s relationship with environmental stewardship. From the event’s listing on the 2019 Symposium Day schedule: “With Dr. Cooper’s expertise in sustainability economics and Dr. Boorse’s extensive knowledge in creation care, we hope to spark discussion about environmental stewardship within the Church.” Other examples of events included a collaborative art presentation, lessons on healthcare in Belize presented by students who had recently traveled there, and a presentation by an alumna sharing her experience of eight months living with priests and monks in Kerala, India. 

Because the last Symposium Day before Covid-19 occurred nearly three years ago, many current students have only presented their topics virtually. Symposium Day in 2022 will have the valued in-person setting, bringing back aspects of the event that have been missed in previous years. 

Brink said, “This is an opportunity for students to engage in conversation about things that matter, in which you’re not doing anything for a grade or because the syllabus says you have to, but because it’s important to you. For Gordon College, which is committed to the Christian liberal arts, I can’t imagine many things that support that vision more than something like Symposium.” 

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