Panel discusses ethical global engagement

On Tuesday April 11, GlobeMed at Lawrence hosted a panel on ethical global engagement in the Esch Hurvis room of the Warch Campus Center. The panelists included Professor of French and Milwaukee-Downer College and College Endowment Association Eilene Hoft-March, Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and Associate Professor of Government Jason Brozek, Visiting Scarff Professor of International Affairs Christopher Murray, George and Marjorie Olsen Chandler Professor of Music Janet Anthony and Visiting Professor of Anthropology Ilil Benjamin. Seniors Clarissa Frayn and Deepankar Tripurana moderated the panel. The event lasted from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m.

GlobeMed at Lawrence is a student group focused on education, partnership and advocacy for global health. They are a part of the national GlobeMed network started at Northwestern University that includes chapters at over 58 universities. GlobeMed at Lawrence’s partner is the Health Development Initiative in Rwanda, a non-governmental, non-profit organization founded by a group of Rwandan physicians. GlobeMed at Lawrence supports their partner through various fundraisers throughout the year and sends student interns to Rwanda to assist in projects developed by the Health Development Initiative. The group also holds events such as panels, documentary showings and lectures to increase awareness of global health issues.

Tripurana, a GlobeMed member who helped organize the event, discussed how the panelists were contacted for the event. “Many of the professors on the panel were actually suggested by [Executive Board] members of GlobeMed at meetings. When I contacted the original list of professors, some of them … referred me to other possible professors. After a long process of getting different professors contacted, we finally had a panel list ready to go.”

The panel focused on questions of ethical engagement in international service-learning. Panelists gave short introductions on their experiences with service-learning and their general insights on working abroad. The panelists came from diverse backgrounds in service learning. Professor Hoft-March has directed Lawrence’s Fracophone Seminar in Dakar, Senegal and Professor Brozek has coordinated Lawrence’s Sustainable China program. As a cellist, Professor Anthony has performed throughout Haiti and has taught music programs in Haiti along with other Lawrence students and faculty. Visiting Professor Benjamin teaches a course in medical humanitarianism and has studied humanitarian encounters between Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel. Visiting Professor Murray has served the U.S. Department of State in Lebanon, Syria, Algeria and the Republic of the Congo.

After introductions, the moderators asked questions to the panelists. Questions posed included, “What are ethical issues that come about when privileged organizations and individuals with resources attempt to help marginalized communities that they don’t know much about?,” “What are the hallmarks of a sustainable relationship between a marginalized community in need of help and the external body of power that has the resources to help?” and “What are lessons you have for students and other young volunteers who wish to go abroad to help various vulnerable communities through health, education, construction?” Time for audience questions was given halfway through the moderators’ pre-prepared questions and at the end of the discussion.

Tripurana said, “The students who attended the event were very critically minded and asked fantastic questions that even made the panelists pause to think about what they were going to say.” He continued, “An engaged audience was our best case scenario for this event and that is what we got, so I’m really happy that happened.”

Most of the attendees were students. Some asked the panelists about working in another culture, preparing for work abroad, discerning ethical non-governmental organizations and perspectives on gender abroad. Panelists emphasized awareness of cultural perspectives that visitors bring with them abroad and noted the necessity for foreign aid groups to ask communities about their needs instead of assuming outside aid organizers have a comprehensive understanding of how best to serve a community.

Tripurana commented, “being critically minded and asking the right questions are great ways of getting the most you can at panel events.” He went on to say, “Students should also engage with faculty more and get them on other panel-type events so that the Lawrence Community as a whole can rediscover the talent that already exists on campus whether it is from inquisitive students or hardworking professors. There is a lot of knowledge and wisdom on this campus, I just wish we extracted it more.”