The first ever Globalization and Society Conference was held on Monday and Tuesday at UR. The interdisciplinary conference featured panelists from Europe, local professors and other academics from around the country. The purpose of the conference was threefold: first, to foster dialogue between different parts of the University; second, to make connections between various fields of interest and the problems we face globally; and third, to increase awareness and discussion of these issues in the general populace.

The conference began on Monday evening with a keynote address by Saint John’s College Professor at the University of Cambridge Simon Szreter and a dessert reception. Tuesday was split into three 90-minute sections, each specifically addressing health, energy and education. The conference brought together almost a dozen academics with extensive experience in aspects of the globalization problem and its solutions. Associate Professor at the Warner School of Education David Hursch, a primary organizer of the event, emphasized that this event was the first of many to come. He also stressed that public feedback will be taken in high esteem when planning future events. Hursch hopes the public will develop a more complex understanding of the globalization process and the fact that it can take many directions.

UR President Joel Seligman opened on Monday evening by welcoming medical professionals, academics, community members and a handful of undergraduates to the event and expressed his enthusiasm for the cross-campus event. The conference has strong ties with the College, The Warner School and the Medical Center. Seligman described the effort as multidisciplinary and important in modern times.

Seligman pointed out that this conference is not necessarily about presenting global solutions or a single answer to the issues we face.

“It is an attempt to better understand the complexities of the issues,” Seligman said. “I hope you come away from this experience, as T.S. Eliot has said, ‘knowing your world a little better.'”

Szreter discussed England’s economic and health policies during the pinnacle of its modern economic growth in the 17th through the 20th centuries.

Szreter has written extensively about public health, social welfare and its ties to economic success. He brought to light an underreported system of identity registration that allocated society’s resources to poor relief, essentially a welfare system. Szreter argued that this protected interest in the social and political security of the populace was a crucial precursor to England’s future economic success.

“This is certainly not the whole story, but part of the story that has not been properly argued in the prescription for economic growth in developing countries,” Szreter said. “I don’t know that we should replicate any period of history, but rather use it to expand our imagination and gain new ideas and insights into possible solutions.”

He went on to draw parallels between England during this time period and modern-day China.

Professor of Chemical Engineering Ben Ebenhacker spoke on Tuesday about the role of energy in this complex puzzle. Ebenhacker has founded a nonprofit organization to assist developing nations in identifying their resource potentials and planning their local energy. He has written for the United Nations Energy Policy guides also.

“I hope to convey the interconnectedness of fundamental issues,” he said. “Particularly, I want to convey the role that energy plays in supporting all that goes into development and quality of life today. But energy development and transitions are also dependent on other sectors [such as] education, but also on water and land resources.”

Ebenhacker expressed his hope that people recognize the importance of these global issues.

“It is imperative for universities such as UR to take leadership, for these issues cut across so many disciplines,” he said.

Sahay is a member of the class of 2010.



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