Wednesday January 17, 2018

Global Voices

Diversity and inclusion are core values at the University of Dayton, but bringing together people from different national, racial and religious backgrounds sometimes can be difficult - even in a welcoming, community setting.

In January, a three-day campus symposium co-sponsored by Julius Amin, Alumni Chair in Humanities, will invite students, faculty and staff from all parts of the globe to share stories about their experiences at home and on campus, in hopes of strengthening the University’s inclusive excellence.

“Global Voices on the University of Dayton Campus,” Jan. 23-25, will feature panel discussions as well as a keynote address, “Enhancing the Global Village on U.S. College Campuses,” by Imbolo Mbue, author of Behold the Dreamers, an Oprah’s Book Club pick and winner of the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Mbue’s address at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24, in the Kennedy Union ballroom will be followed by a book signing. The panel discussions will be held in various locations in Kennedy Union and the Sears Recital Hall of the Jesse Philips Humanities Center. All events are free and open to the public. Registration is required for the buffet lunch sessions.

In fall 2017, international students accounted for 11 percent of the University’s total 10,900 students, including 7 percent of full-time undergraduate students and 22 percent of graduate and law students. This fall's first year class set a new record for students from underrepresented populations. About 16 percent of the class identifies as students from underrepresented racial and ethnic populations, an increase of 5 percentage points over the previous year.

Amin, a history professor from Cameroon who came to the U.S. as an international student, said the University has become increasingly global since he joined the faculty in 1989. He sees more international students on campus and more American students participating in study abroad experiences, but says there should be more opportunity for engagement.

"It is important that we create an environment that ensures that all our international students are part of this inclusive community," Amin said.

The Global Voices symposium is his effort to bring campus groups together.

“We are afraid to engage people who are different, which is part of the problem,” Amin said. “This symposium is designed for us to use stories to educate and inform the campus community about who we are, where we are coming from and how we think we can make the campus more inclusive for all of us.”

Amin said stories have long been used to perpetuate stereotypes about people from different parts of the world — often to justify certain actions — even though many have been discredited. He believes stories also can be used to make a positive impact on campus.

The international students, faculty and staff on the symposium panels will serve as ambassadors for their respective countries, comparing the communities in which they were raised with that at the University. In addition, a panel of American students who have studied abroad will discuss how they were transformed by those experiences. The final group of panelists will discuss the University’s next steps toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We believe at the end of these conversations we are going to see there is more synergy, that there are more things that unite us than divide us,” Amin said. “We are going to see that we are all part of this Earth and there is much more commonality than difference.”

Mbue’s talk is co-sponsored by the University of Dayton Speaker Series. Her acclaimed debut novel follows two marriages — one immigrant and working class, the other from the top 1 percent — both chasing their version of the American Dream. The book is informed by Mbue’s experience of being an African immigrant and the experiences of the many African immigrants that she knows.

“It is a powerful story about globalization, immigration, race, gender and what it means to be human,” Amin said. “These are all themes we emphasize at the University of Dayton.”

The symposium organizing committee also included Christopher Agnew, Timothy Kao, Haimanti Roy and Jia Yang. Additional support was provided by the College of Arts and Sciences Office of the Dean, the departments of English, history, philosophy and religious studies and the international studies program.

For more information, including the complete schedule, please visit the symposium’s website.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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