The Gustavian Weekly

Three professors to speak at colloquim on community | The Gustavian Weekly

By Sandy Xiong Staff Writer | May 13, 2011 | News

As part of a series sponsored by the religion department, Gustavus has hosted colloquia on the concept of community in local, academic and global terms. The final set of panelists in the colloquium will be on Friday, May 13 from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. in Olin 103. It will be the last of three colloquia in the series, titled “Community: Concept & Reality.”

The series has consisted of brief presentations by various panelists, all Gustavus professors, with small group discussion on issues of community as well. The audience participates by asking questions, posing responses and facilitating discussion.

“The series has aimed to draw on resources that are readily available to us,” Associate Professor of Religion and LALACS Mary Solberg said. “These panelists are made up of our own colleagues, resources that will help us think about community in a new way, so that the term becomes more than a cliché. … Community ought to mean something vital, growing and able to respond to challenges. This includes the challenge of becoming a real community,” Solberg said.

The first colloquium, held on March 11, focused on the global community and what this term means. Each of the three invited panelists—Assistant Professor of Economics and Management Kristian Braekkan, Associate Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies Mimi Gerstbauer and Assistant Professor of History and Environmental Studies David Obermiller—spoke to the question personally, and from their respective disciplinary perspectives.

The second colloquium was held on April 12. The panelists discussed the scientific community, its function and its membership. Questions of the scientific community’s intimidating reputation, its authority and its morality were all raised. The presenting panelists were Associate Professor of Biology Margaret Bloch-Qazi, Associate Professor of Biology and Chemistry Jeff Dahlseid and Professor of Physics Chuck Niederriter. Each panelist brought a variety of perspectives to the conversation, such as the place of the sciences in the liberal arts and the values of empirical research.

The final colloquium on May 13 will address the question “What is ‘the campus (or the Gustavus) community,’ and who belongs to it?” Professor of English Phil Bryant, Director of Academic Advising Julie Johnson and Assistant Professor of Political Science Kate Knutson will reflect on whether the phrase “the Gustavus community” refers to something real and, if it does, what it refers to.  What the campus community is, and what function it serves, will be part of the conversation.

Students have expressed many reasons for being interested in the discussion on campus community. “People at Gustavus are interested in what’s going on in each other’s lives and have a desire to learn from each other. There’s an expectation that everyone will participate in the community,” Junior Political Science Honors Major Karin Lund said. “I think that from the second you get to Gustavus, you are involved in community activity and it just becomes a habit.” Lund is originally from Idaho and is a Collegiate Fellow.

Sophomore Biology and Environmental Studies major Mary Patterson, who hails from Colorado, also emphasized the sense of community felt at Gustavus. “I wanted to go to a small school, and there are not a lot of [similar] schools in Colorado. Pretty much everyone there goes to huge, state schools,” Patterson said. “I think Gustavus is a really friendly, inclusive community. I think that simple things like having students live on campus, or having one cafeteria makes for a strong community.”

There’s no doubt that the campus tries to provide for as many activities as possible to help students feel at home, such as the Campus Activities Board, Peer Assistants, etc. Furthermore, Gustavus also has a competitive and friendly staff. “I think the relationship between students and professors make for a positive atmosphere. It builds strength not just among students but between teachers and students as well. It’s unique to Gustavus in that professors are approachable and want students to learn—they want to build relationships,” Patterson said.

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