CAS Colloquium – mark it a success

What can an American citizen learn about America that he or she doesn’t already know?  A lot, if you were fortunate enough to attend the SIUE “Thinking about America” College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Colloquium this past week.

A colloquium is “an academic conference or seminar”, according to the New Oxford English dictionary.  The SIUE CAS Colloquium has been more than just an academic conference.

While many academic conferences and seminars focus on one particular field of study, the SIUE CAS Colloquium opens the floor to all departments.  The themes chosen by the steering committees for this event are often broad, open to a wide variety of interpretations.

“I was very impressed with the range and quality of the presentations that were present at this year’s colloquium,” stated Larry LaFond, associate professor of English language and literature and associate dean of CAS  “The CAS Colloquium has become an established part of academic life at our University, and a very effective forum for the exchange of ideas.”

With interpretations of “Thinking about America” left to the presenters, it allowed for a wide variety of topics from mediated views of mental illness to civil rights issues, from environment, climate, and society to missionary writings about Indians.

The presentation types ranged from academic papers presentations to round table discussion to panel discussions and included one-act operas, poetry, jazz music, steel drummers, and a guided bus tour of East St. Louis.  Students and faculty shared the floor at many of the presentations.

“A surprising, and very welcome, aspect of this year’s colloquium were the large number of students that participated through presenting papers, posters, or performances,” said LaFond.   “We had 76 faculty and 74 student presenters–150 in all–a clear success.”

In scope, the Colloquium was about as diverse as one might find in any university.

“Although this is only my second year here [at SIUE], I was impressed not only by the diversity of themes but also by the depth and relevant issues faculty and students are working on,” said Aldemaro Romero, dean of CAS.  “I think [the Colloquium] went well. The only “problem” was that with up to five concurrent sessions at a time, I could not attend all of the presentations I wanted to hear. I felt like a kid in a candy store” .

LaFond said that an exact count of attendees was hard to gauge because of the location of several of the events was the Goshen lounge, an open lounge area in the Morris University Center where many students, faculty, staff, and campus guests could have watched portions of the event and then moved off around campus.

“It appears the overall attendance was roughly between 790-820 people.  I believe this is quite a bit better than the attendance we saw in 2008 and 2010,” stated LaFond.  “I believe anyone who attended a significant number of sessions came away with new perspectives on America.”

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