EPIIC Colloquium hosts 34th annual symposium

Students Madison Reid (A'21) and Shaobo Zhou (A'21) introducing the panelists for the EPIIC Symposium on Mar. 7, 2019. (Dogacan Colak / The Tufts Daily)

This year’s Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC) Colloquium covered the topic “Migration in a Turbulent World,” addressing the topic extensively at the 34th Annual Norris and Margery Bendetson EPIIC International Symposium last weekend. 

The EPIIC Colloquium and accompanying symposium have been a staple at Tufts for the last 34 years. Each year, the Institute for Global Leadership (IGL) at Tufts runs the year-long course.

The symposium, which took place from March 7 to March 9, featured two keynote speakers: Miroslav Lajčák, president of the United Nations General Assembly and minister of Foreign and European Affairs for the Slovak Republic, and Sir Paul Collier, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Oxford and director of the International Growth Centre.

Along with the two keynote speakers, there were numerous panelists from around the world, who the IGL invited to the symposium, according to Heather Barry, associate director of the IGL. There were eight panels consisting of three to four experts per panel, whose discussions were moderated by students of the EPIIC Colloquium.

Heather Barry, who participated in the third annual EPIIC Colloquium in 1988, spoke to the Daily about how the program has evolved over the years and what has stayed the same.

“The goals of the program have remained consistent since the beginning,” Barry said. “This includes encouraging students to explore complex issues, suspend their preconceptions and deal with ambiguity in these discussions.”

She added that the EPIIC course was not originally a year-long course, but it was established in response to a need for nuanced discussion following the 1985 Flight TWA 847 hijacking.

The primary EPIIC instructor is Abi Williams, director of the IGL and professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, but the course has frequent guest lecturers from a range of disciplines. The topics of the EPIIC course are chosen prior to the start of the academic year, then students enroll in the yearlong course in the fall. 

While IGL faculty facilitate discussion and research, much of the responsibility is on the students to research experts, invite them to the symposium and assemble the panels, according to Williams.

“They are involved in all aspects of its organization including the panels, speakers, breakout sessions, publicity, working with the international student delegations and logistics,” Williams said. “The panels will be moderated by the EPIIC students who have been rigorously studying and researching the multidimensional aspects of migration since last September.”

Isabel Rosenbaum, a member of the EPIIC Colloquium, was on the program committee, which involved organizing and moderating a panel at the symposium. Her program, “Barriers To Belonging: Integration, Adaptation, and Exclusion,” featured a labour member of British Parliament and a Canadian senator for Ontario.

The core question [of discussion] was what are the challenges once they have migrated already, whether it be a refugee, an economic migrant or an academic migrant?” Rosenbaum, a sophomore, said. “Also, what will it ideally look like?”

The international delegations of students, which came from nine countries and four continents, are also a large component of the annual symposium. The international students, along with students of the United States Coast Guard Academy, the United States Military Academy and the Virginia Military Institute, totaled 66, according to the symposium’s program. 

“The IGL originally had a partnership with universities in China, and wanted to expand the number of universities involved,” Barry said. “Peking University has participated the whole time, and National University of Singapore was also one of the original participants. Brazilian university students [then] came on through a student connected with Tufts.”

Barry said the network of students, alumni and academics that the IGL contribute each year to the EPIIC Symposium is an important element of its annual symposium, as well as the academic course itself.

“Many alumni remain involved with the IGL, upwards of 70 to 80 percent of them,” Barry said. “This year, three EPIIC alums are coming back to speak as panelists — [they’re] the experts this time around.”

After the symposium takes place, the last component of the EPIIC Colloquium is an Inquiry program, in which EPIIC students work with high school students throughout the Northeast, mentoring them as they do research on a specific topic. Carlos Irisarri, a sophomore who is participating in his second EPIIC Colloquium, spoke with the Daily regarding the EPIIC Inquiry element.

“The [high school] students create briefings, do research and debate about a specific element of migration,” Irisarri said of this year’s program, titled “Cities at the Vanguard: Migration and the Metropolis.” “What if mayors ruled the world? The main impacts of migration are on the city scale, but mayors make very little policy in that department.”

The topic of next year’s EPIIC Colloquium will be “Preventing Genocide and Mass Atrocities,” according to a March 7 email from the Experimental College to its e-list.

CORRECTION: The print version of this article states that the topic for next year’s symposium has not yet been announced. In fact, an email from the Experimental College gave information about the course. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily regrets this error.


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