On the evening of 22 January 2020, UW faculty, students, and community members representing nearly 20 different countries met in the Odegaard Undergraduate Library for open roundtable discussions co-sponsored by the Center for Global Studies, UW Libraries, and the Foundation for International Understanding through Students (FIUTS). This event was one of the highlights for student leaders visiting from Angola, Botswana, Mali, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, participating in Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI) on Civic Engagement Program.
The theme of the night’s roundtable discussions was ‘civic engagement.’ Participants engaged in conversations with the visiting students to learn about their unique successes, hopes, and challenges they encountered as they worked to create initiatives to improve civic conditions in their home countries. Particular themes of the roundtable discussions included ‘youth engagement and entrepreneurship,’ ‘global health and the effects of HIV/AIDS,’ ‘gender and human rights,’ and ‘environmental conservation.’
The discussions were a wonderful opportunity for visiting students to be open about their personal, familial, and communal civic successes and challenges in their own countries and in Africa as a whole, and for UW faculty, students, and community members to learn more about issues of public health, gender, race, policy, and economy in Angola, Botswana, Mali, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. UW students of Portuguese and other Portuguese-speaking community members were able to discuss these topics in Portuguese with visiting student leaders from Angola and Mozambique (both countries are two of several African countries whose official language is Portuguese).
Roundtable discussions that cover topics such as demographic, public health, employment, and policy concerns are critical to enhancing global understanding. These discussions do not only concern African studies specialists, let alone students and scholars concerned with area studies-based disciplines: by engaging in global, interdisciplinary dialogue with individuals from a number of different demographic, cultural, and disciplinary backgrounds, new methods of approaching problems and different ways of thinking can be exchanged.
For more information on FIUTS and how to become involved with programs like SUSI, visit their website here.
If you are interested in future events similar to the SUSI Roundtable Discussions, check the Jackson School’s Center for Global Studies calendar here.