Kalamazoo, MI
one-hundred-forty-one Years of Service to the Student

Social Justice

Civic Engagement: A Global Perspective

Mansi Dahal, K’20, a First-Year from Nepal, hosted a visiting international student from India last week. The two students spent time sharing their lives and experiences with one another, including how it feels to live in a foreign country.

“I feel like I learned a lot from Medha, she is from India and me being from Nepal we had similar cultures… In addition to that she has left plenty of enthusiastic spirit here and I am able to put that energy into my work,” said Dahal over email.

Dahal was one of ten K students who hosted visiting international students for the Center for Civic Engagement’s (CCE) Global Liberal Arts Alliance (GLAA) Institute on Civic Engagement last week. From last Sunday to Tuesday, 76 individuals from 21 different institutions across the globe met to share and discuss the manners in which they engage with the issues of their constituencies.

“We’re all working to address problems that are inherently interconnected…that requires us to collaborate across borders with one another internationally. This conference was an opportunity to form those partnerships,” said Alison Geist, the CCE Director.

The Institute is the largest of its size ever hosted by the GLAA. The large number of attendees and the comparatively small size of the CCE staff created logistical difficulties.

“It’s hard to plan a conference that’s well-enough integrated when you’re collaborating across time zones and countries,” said Geist.

The conference was intentionally structured to reflect the diverse variety of institutions and social issues represented by the variety of conference participants. Over the span of three days, participants shared programs and practices unique to their institutions and collaborated to propose solutions for combating issues that crossed borders.

“Usually the organizers of conferences like this invite faculty and staff, without inviting students or community partners. But for this conference we were able to shift some funds to pay to bring students and community partners here. I think that enriched the experience exponentially,” said Alison Geist, the CCE Director.

The Institute featured many panels of students, community partners, and faculty, allowing for a plethora of perspectives on institution-specific civic engagement programs.

The purpose of the conference was to develop sustaining, reciprocal relationships beyond the scope of the three days, said Geist. The GLAA plans to continue this collaboration, although another conference of this size is not likely to occur in the near future.

“This institute raised so many questions that we didn’t have time to answer together, but we’d all like to pursue,” said Geist.

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Civic Engagement: A Global Perspective