Lindsay Kucera/The AS Review
Since 1967, Fairhaven Interdisciplinary College has been a beacon of alternative thought and study for Western’s student body. Tucked in the woods of south campus, the college hosts classes from Sustainable Forestry to International Human Rights, encouraging students to explore their interests beyond the textbook with hands-on learning experiences.
Despite a diverse class selection, for several years Fairhaven College lacked a venue for discussing current events and issues, a concern for socially-conscious faculty and students. In 2001, in response to Sept. 11, the World Issues Forum was created to meet the demand for information and understanding.
“We realized we needed something to have ongoing discussion and information about the issues,” said Shirley Osterhaus, coordinator of the World Issues Forum. “It started out as ‘What is terrorism? Who’s al-Qaida? Where’s Afghanistan?’ and grew into something more.”
Since its inception, the forum has transformed into a symposium for social and environmental justice issues. Local, national and international presenters come to the forum to speak about human rights, social injustices, culture, war, science, art and the environment. Some speakers are experts with doctorates in their fields; others are passionate activists striving to make an impact.
“The goal is to not only involve but also to engage,” Osterhaus said. “To understand these issues and ask critical questions like ‘What is my place in this?’ or ‘What can I do to help create something good?’ and have a greater respect for everything that’s happening.”
The series sometimes collaborates with other academic departments and Associated Students organizations to sponsor presenters. The forum also works with an expansion program called “Paths to Global Justice,” which serves all collaborating departments, sometimes providing extra speaking times for those unable to make the regular scheduled time. The expansion seeks to build a broader base for the speakers and by extension the issues discussed, while connecting people and interests, Osterhaus said.
“We’re connected to the whole world,” she said. “The more we can understand and relate to the issues, the more we can learn.”
Now in its 10th year, the series will be starting off with Captain Paul K. Chappell, whose talk “Why Peace is Possible” will explore the importance of waging peace in the 21st century. There are a total of nine speakers scheduled for the fall. Osterhaus said there is no specific theme presented each quarter, but encourages students to look at how the topics are interconnected.
The World Issues Forum is held every Wednesday from noon to 1:20 p.m., starting Sept. 29 in the Fairhaven Auditorium. Each program is open to all students, faculty and community members. There is also a three credit course available each quarter to all students that expands on each of the forum topics.
Osterhaus said she encourages student input and ideas for the forum, and can be reached by email at Shirley.Osterhaus@wwu.edu. Students can submit ideas for topics, or nominate speakers to bring to the forum.
“There are all these great people and resources, and we want to share their wisdom and experience with as many people as we can,” Osterhaus said. “I keep telling my students, I’ll tell you what I know, you tell me what you know, and we’ll all know more together."
World Issues Forum October Schedule:
September 29: “Why Peace is Possible” with Captain Paul K. Chappell
October 6: “Asserting self-determination over cultural property: Moving towards protection of genetic material and indigenous knowledge”
Debra Harry, Ph.D.
Executive Director of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonism, member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in Nevada
October 13: “Bearing witness to tragedy”
Associate Director of the Dart Center for
Journalism & Trauma at Columbia University
October 20: “Community and resistance from
Katrina to the Jena Six”
Jordan Flaherty, New Orleans-based writer and community organizer
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Oakland-based queer Sri Lankan writer, performer and teacher, and part-time professor at the University of California-Berkeley