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,


Advocates get students to their far away dreams

This article originally appeared in The Mast in Sept. 2015

The Wang Center for Global Education’s Sojourner Advocates are ready to assist and provide support for prospective, active, and former study away students this year at Pacific Lutheran University.

“As a Sojourner Advocate, I help plan campus wide events to encourage and inform students to study away,” Sojourner Advocate Sam van Roon (Junior) wrote in an email. “We also provide welcoming upon return and, most importantly, get people excited about all that awaits them in this great big world of ours.”

Roon is joined by Seniors Sonja Schaefer and Kalie Saathoff. Schaefer has studied away in Beijing and the famed Antartica/Argentina trip while Saathoff studied away in Windhoek, Namibia and Honolulu, Hawaii.

“Living in a giant metropolis with a non-English-speaking host family was exactly the independent adventure I was seeking,” Schaefer writes on the Wang Center website.

Roon said he never even considered studying away before enrolling, but with the help of the Wang Center, Roon studied away in Brussels, Belgium. While there, he had the opportunity to visit nine other countries.

“49% of students study away in their time at PLU,” Roon said. “I enjoy having the position and network necessary to increase that number as much as possible.”

If funding a semester abroad seems daunting, don’t worry! It really is affordable, Roon says. There are more than 20 resources on the Wang Center’s website to help with funding, many of which are specific to certain study away locations.

“There are more reasons than can be listed in the amount of time it takes to just actually apply!” Roon said. “You’ll meet incredible people, see amazing sights, learn more than you thought imaginable, and have a lot of autonomy to have the unique, individualized trip you want to have.”

There are still several open study away opportunities for J Term, including China, England, Italy, Martinique, and Uruguay. Within the state, students can spend J Term in Holden Village, Neah Bay, or even Tacoma. The deadline to apply is the September 30th.

If you’re still not convinced studying abroad is for you, check out the Study Away fair on Sept. 23 in the AUC Regency Room. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., you’ll have the opportunity to meet and learn about PLU sponsored Gateway semester programs, faculty-led J-Term programs, and non-PLU Approved providers, as well as information about funding opportunities.

“To me, being a Sojourner Advocate means having the opportunity to encourage and assist students campus wide to take advantage of the amazing opportunities that PLU has to offer”