Concept and Aims
Experiential Learning as Central Methodology
The symposium has started out as a student activity with faculty guidance. Therefore, the organizers have striven to maintain the character of the program as a largely student-organized and student-run activity.
Therein, the symposium follows a methodology that is strongly focused on establishing a space for experiential learning. The classroom seminars are aimed at preparing participating students for the experiences of the symposium week. Students are also encouraged to conduct their own research, partially in a collaborative way, which will then cumulate into the final conference presentations.
The field trip portion specifically provides students with a hands-on perspective to otherwise rather theoretical classroom discussions. Traveling (whether at home or abroad) to key locations relevant to the symposium topic and meeting with practitioners in their respective fields highlight the potential practical applications of knowledge gained through classroom discussions and readings, and may provide critical reevaluations of theoretical insights. By integrating practical components into the symposium week, we are also offering an outlook on future career opportunities and internships (in diplomacy, politics, consulting, cultural work, etc.).
Travel within the symposia also meets visiting and engaging with different cultures, meeting with international students and faculty, and - ideally - gaining a different perspective also towards one's own culture.
By taking up major portions of the organizing workload, the student/assistant organizers - who are chosen from participants of the respectively previous symposium - can translate their previous experiences as students into guiding a new cohort of student participants throughout the process. Through this, student leadership emerges as a function of the experiential learning methodology of the symposium. Faculty - whose role is the long-term maintenance, financing, and academic preparation of the program - guides the student organizers, but also allows them (ideally) to find their own solutions to particular foreseen and unforeseen problems, and may even incorporate them into the classroom phase of the program.
Both in the preparatory phase and throughout the symposium week, academic faculty engages in team-teaching and in transgressing their own disciplinary boundaries by allowing for an inter- and trans-diciplinary exchange of ideas and methods. Furthermore, opening up an experiential space for the student organizers and the students requires faculty to shift their roles from active teaching to facilitating experiential learning. Opening up a space for the students to engage with each other, and for the student organizers to take the lead at crucial moments, can only work if faculty is able to let situations play out. As a result, this may allow for innovative approaches to both teaching and learning.
Central Objectives of the Program
The program builds on the following central components: (1) internationality, (2) inter-disciplinarity, (3) collegiality and collaborative learning, (4) diversity, (5) student scholarship and research, and (6) student leadership.
A central aim of the symposia lies in the internationalizing of the students' experience. This encompasses both the bringing together of students from different American and European universities, and also conducting the field trip portion during the symposium week. As a result, domestic perspectives are confronted with international counter-narratives that provide students with an alternative way of positioning themselves within an increasingly global world.
The symposia aim to unite different theoretical and practical approaches from different academic cultures in order to discuss a topic of contemporary relevance. This is achieved by the collaboration of different academic departments in setting up both the preparatory coursework and the field trips. Confronting the students with differing methodologies allows them to put their own respective fields in a specific research context, and to see interconnections, similarities and differences to other, equally valid, academic approaches to issues of cultural and public policy.
Collegiality and Collaborative Learning
Throughout both the preparatory and the field trip portion of the symposia, students are both encouraged and required to work closely together. The aim is to create a productive group dynamics as a prerequisite for a working cultural exchange, with an added emphasis on the collaborative nature of academic learning.
In recruiting students for the symposia, we have been putting increasing emphasis on diversifying the composition of both the student and faculty group. Our aim therein is both the inclusion of students from traditionally disadvantaged parts of the population, and the decentering of the normative national discourse by the inclusion of minority voices.
Student Scholarship and Research
The final symposium conference is a student-run forum which allows the students to share their scholarship with their fellow students, faculty and interested guests. The presentations are based on their own research conducted throughout the preparatory seminars.
Since the beginning, one central component of the symposia has been to encourage student leadership. While the long-term and recurrent parts of the organization - such as finances, teaching, and establishing and maintaining contact with academic partner institutions - have been conducted by faculty, students have been playing an active part in the organization of central components of the program.
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