Annual EPIIC symposium kicks off


The 28th Annual Norris and Margery Bendetson Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC) International Symposium, which is sponsored by the Institute for Global Leadership (IGL), officially commenced with a workshop led by experts in global health and security yesterday.

The four-day event, which runs through Sunday, will be made up of a series of student-moderated panels that focus on this year’s theme, “Global Health and Security.”

The symposium will feature dozens of prominent panel speakers, including Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs for the U.S. Department of State, as well as Surgeon General of Israel Yitshak Kreiss. A number of Tufts faculty members from the various graduate programs and Tufts students who partook in the EPIIC program this year will also be speaking.

University President Anthony Monaco will make the symposium’s introductory speech tonight, and Gwythian Prins, the director of the Mackinder Programme for the Study of Long Wave Events at the London School of Economics will deliver the keynote speech.

IGL Director Sherman Teichman, who founded the EPIIC program at Tufts, said that he chose this year’s theme not only because it is a crucial global issue, but also because it resonated with the expertise of other departments and schools of the university. 

“I felt there were many constituencies at the university previously not touched by the themes that we have chosen, and that proved to be true when over 100 students applied,” he said. “Fifty-three students
are now in the EPIIC class who were selected and who have been going through these rigorous months of preparation.”

Teichman explained that this year’s theme, while still under the heading of international security, is very different from those of past years.

“The initial themes were on international terrorism and 27 years ago on themes such as covert action and democracy, the mobilization of the third world,” he said. “So dealing with health issues with a security prism was a very interesting and very rewarding experience for me personally.”

This year’s conference covers a variety of issues, ranging from global health and security to women’s issues, according to Jahnvi Vaidya, a student in this year’s EPIIC class who serves on the symposium’s program committee.

“I think this year’s conference covers many different issues that interest different types of people,” Vaidya, a sophomore, said. “Tufts has huge populations of students interested in community and global health, development, international collaboration and security, which are all directly relevant to the symposium.”

Some of the panels during this year’s symposium include “A State of Well-Being: Mental Health and Security,” “Food Insecurity: Hunger, the Environment and Conflict” and “Bystanders, Perpetrators and Survivors: A Global Health Perspective on Sexual Violence.”

“We were able to … add to the curriculum because there was not a particular emphasis on the linkages between security and health, although I consider the health issue a decisive human security issue,” Teichman said. “There are other points of nexus that we wanted to point out that ranged from bioterrorism to the question of violence, which we understand is an epidemic issue, and also … the question of complex humanitarian emergencies.”

IGL Associate Director Heather Barry explained that this year’s theme is relevant in light of changes both on campus and around the world, citing, for example, the health care debate in Washington and the growing popularity of majors like community health. 

“If you take a look at climate change and look at populations and everything that’s happening, the interconnectedness … [you realize that] how health is provided for globally becomes really important,” she said.

Each incoming EPIIC class designs the symposium through a year-long colloquium beginning in the fall, according to Vaidya. Throughout the year, speakers educate the class on the theme and committees are formulated to organize the event.

She said that the Voices from the Field committee brings IGL alumni back to campus to discuss aspects of their work related to the theme, while the IGL’s Tufts Initiative for International Leadership and Perspective (TILIP) program hosts international student delegations that will participate in the symposium.

According to Barry, TILP students will present their own country’s health system to EPIIC students before engaging in the panels. These students are from a variety of places including South Korea, Rwanda, Brazil, China, Israel, Iraq, Canada and the Gaza Strip.

“What we’re hoping is that out of this comes, essentially, joint research projects between Tufts students and students of these different universities,” Barry said.


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