Students are featured presenters in symposium

Mar 04, 2013

When North Central College recently hosted its second symposium on global human rights, the event included student presentations in addition to keynote addresses by experts in the field of global and environmental health.

The five student presenters are classmates in the Indigenous Peoples and the State (SOA421) course taught by Matthew Krystal, associate professor of anthropology. Krystal challenged students to expand their final research project for the course into an optional assignment for presentation at the symposium. Those presentations needed to be collaborative and focus on human rights.

Anna McGreal ’13, Marissa Slater ’13 and Ethan Nelson ’14 took the challenge and selected a topic for the first student presentation, titled “Land Disputes Between Aboriginal Peoples and the Australian Government.”

All three had recently traveled to Australia. McGreal and Slater studied abroad in Australia during fall term; McGreal at La Trobe University in Melbourne and Slater at Macquarie University in Sydney. Nelson took a summer wilderness medicine course through western Australia and was closely connected with Khori aborigines. Their project focused on the aboriginal Pitjantjatjara people, who live at Uluru or the Ayers Rock sacred site. Throughout history these people have been marginalized and struggled with the Australian government over land rights.

Manuel (Kye) Holston-Brown ’14 (left) and Carly Johnston ’13 (right) teamed up for their presentation titled “Threats to the State: Assimilation in the Ainu & Bedouin Peoples.”

Their research into the historic and current struggles of two indigenous groups—the Ainu in Japan and the Negev Bedouin in southern Israel—developed from personal experience. Johnston studied abroad in Amman, Jordan, during fall term and Holston-Brown is studying Japanese language, culture and history. Their presentation gave insight into how geographic isolation poses a threat to the state, yet allows for resistance and preservation of the culture.

“From the first day of class, students were interested in doing this,” says Krystal. “I sensed they wanted to say something they felt should be heard. Also, when students take their work to a wider audience, it enhances their learning and is great for development of presentation skills that will serve them well in their professional and personal lives.”

McGreal is pursuing a self-designed major, combining environmental studies and anthropology. Slater is majoring in organizational communication with a minor in anthropology. Nelson carries a double major in anthropology and chemistry. Johnston is majoring in anthropology with minors in global studies and environmental studies. Holston-Brown is majoring in sociology and anthropology.

North Central College’s Office of International Programs and the Leadership, Ethics and Values program focus on an issue of global significance every year and host a variety of events, including this symposium.  

The 2012-2013 academic year is the second in a three-year focus on global human rights with a special emphasis on global and environmental health. Some 31 classes—ranging from art, biology, English, French and anthropology to political science, psychology, religious studies, sociology and more—have been devoted to the topic of global human rights during the year. The next titled series will focus on globalization in general, says Jack Shindler, professor of English and director of international programs.