Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cool Campus Events

I recently mentioned in a previous post that I've been making a point of attending more campus events. In the past, my main motivation to go see a guest speaker would have been a prompt from a professor. But whenever I go to a campus event, I always end up enjoying it and taking something away from the experience. There are some things that can't be learned in the classroom, or sometimes there's not enough class time to go more in depth with a topic that interests you. That's where these campus events come in--and since they're free, why not make use of them?

As many of you know, I have an environmental studies minor. I've been pretty passionate about environmental issues since high school, and I've recently been reading much more about the environmental concerns of urban communities. Although I am not currently taking any classes for my minor this semester, I've been trying to keep up with current events in ES and staying informed on what's going on locally and globally.


So, I was pretty stoked when I saw that Albert Huang, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), was coming to campus to speak to us. As one of the people working with the NRDC's urban environmental justice program in New York, Huang had much to say about issues such as environmental racism and class-ism. Huang represents low-income communities struggling with environmental hazards. Throughout the lecture, Huang often called on audience members to speak up about their views on certain issues or their definitions of what environmental justice is. Though he was speaking to a large room (the recital hall was full!), the event was very discussion-based. It was really interesting to hear about some of Huang's work and the types of strategies he used in different communities. He stressed the importance of community organization and grassroots efforts to face these issues.

Huang's lecture was actually a part of a lecture series facilitated by our Peace and Justice program as well as other campus organizers. I also went to the first lecture in the series, held earlier this month with Aziz Abu Sarah as the guest speaker. As a celebration of Ghandi's 144th birthday, a peace pledge was held and each part of the pledge was read in a different language by a student or faculty member. Then, Sarah spoke about his experiences growing up as a Palestinian in Israel. As one of the directors at the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution, much of his work revolves around peaceful approaches to reconciling conflicts.


Another event I attended on campus this past week had a much more local focus. The exhibit "Let Them Eat Cake" was a student art project that called for a way to appreciate our kitchen staff in Alliot (the student dining center). Every month, Alliot workers make an enormous cake in celebration of every birthday that took place that month. The students who produced the exhibit made a documentary showing the process of making a cake that large (which is actually about 6 sheet cakes put together!). They made a few different types of smaller cakes for gallery visitors to sample, and they also had one of these large cakes donated by our own Alliot staff. At the end of the exhibit, we were able to fill out comment cards to thank the workers for all that they do. It was a delicious exhibit and a wonderfully creative idea!


I also attended another environmentally-themed lecture on Monday, when Christiana Peppard, a professor of Theology, Science and Ethics from Fordham University, came to speak to some SMC students about the global water crisis in the context of theology and ethical decisions. I was interested to hear about the Catholic Church's role in calling attention to the global water crisis--I have researched the issue for various projects, but I never looked at it solely through the lens of how religious groups have addressed such a massive ethical problem. Her talk was very interesting, and she brought a renewed sense of passion, decent sense of humor, and realistic approach to what can otherwise be a very depressing, very scary topic. I'm looking forward to reading her book, Just Water: Theology, Ethics, and the Global Water Crisis. It's definitely on my list of must-reads (it's quite a long list, but I'm determined!).

Anyway, I hope you're all doing things that fascinate you. I'm off to work on my homework and then attend a pizza party facilitated by SIT, my study abroad program. I can't wait to meet the representative coming to speak with us--I have tons of questions for her and I'm so excited about Morocco! It will also be really cool to speak with students who have traveled with SIT in the past. I'll be sure to let you all know how it goes!

Cheers,

Lauren

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