Wang Center hosts bi-annual symposium for resilience in education

Note: This piece was originally published in The Mast, Pacific Lutheran University’s student newspaper

For 14 years, the Wang Center for Global Education has hosted a symposium every other year with wide variance of topics. This year, Director Tamara Williams focused on the topic of “resilience,” and what that looks like in different scholarly fields.

“The idea of the symposium from the very beginning was that we have a major event on campus that focused on a world issue that would bring together people from many different disciplines to think about something from a broader holistic perspective,” Williams said.

Pacific Lutheran University is widely recognized for it’s many study away programs where students can learn to participate in a global discussion. Through the symposium, the Wang center brings those global discussions to campus.

The last symposium, called Legacies of the Shoah, focused on the horrors of genocide. In attendance were psychologists, political scientists and survivors of genocides.

“From that, the question was raised; ‘How do these people bounce back from these experiences?” Williams said. “We broadened it to not just political devastation, but also natural disasters […] What is in human nature that gives us the ability to bounce back?”

Enter: Resilience, from the Latin resilire, meaning to rebound or recoil. The word was first used in the 17th century to describe the ability of materials such as wood, iron and bronze to withstand severe loads without breaking. Now, it comes to PLU in the form of selected panels and speakers covering a wide range of topics.

“It’s been a very hot topic in the global development arena,” Williams said.

On the agenda to speak is Juan Villoro, a prize-winning author and political commentator from Mexico.
“We have people coming from different disciplines talking about how a country bounces back after a devastating period of violence,” Williams continued. [Villoro is] a major public intellectual speaking about how people continue to live in a country like Mexico where over 75,000 people have been victims of the drug war.”

Another panel, titled “Resilience in Disaster Relief Practice,” will feature Dan Lee, Vice President of Advancement at PLU. Lee is a former executive at Lutheran World Relief, a disaster relief organization.

Lee will frame that session under the lens of Lutheran commitment to disaster relief, and why disaster relief is an important topic to PLU.

In addition to the professional speakers, there will also be a panel led by current and former Lutes entitled “Lutes in the World: PLU Students and Alumni Reflect on their Research and Work on Resilience.” Senior Courtney Lee and junior Angelica Maria Martinez Estrada will be on the panel, among other Lute graduates from previous years.

The 7th Biennial Wang Center Symposium will take place in the Anderson University Center on Feb. 25-26. A full schedule of the event, and it’s associated panels and lectures, can be found on the Wang Center’s website,


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