On Jan. 25, more than 20 College of the Holy Cross students will explore the complex relationship between the United States and Mexico along its shared border as part of the eighth annual Presidential Scholars Public Policy Symposium on campus.
The annual symposium provides an intellectually challenging forum for Presidential Scholars to explore issues of public policy with their peers. Previous topics have included the college admissions process, global warming, U.S. immigration, global health issues, domestic violence, genocide prevention and the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.
All Holy Cross Presidential Scholars hold academic merit scholarships, most of which are awarded based on achievement in high school, ranging from music (Brooks Scholar), classics (Bean), and science (Luce). Presidential Scholars also include students who are Charles A. Dana Scholars, Sheehan Family Scholars, Rev. William FitzGerald, S.J. Merit Scholars, and Theodore T. and Mary G. Ellis Scholars. Finally, members of the College Honors program are also invited to take part in the symposium.
The symposium will put students at the forefront of current hot-button issues, such as immigration, drug trafficking and transnational violence, that affect populations on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Bridget Franco, assistant professor of Spanish, will facilitate “The United or Divided States: U.S.-Mexico Border Simulation” which she piloted in her Introduction to Latin American and Latino Studies course in the fall of 2012.
By engaging students in a creative forum with no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ solutions, the pilot simulation required students to be independent problem solvers, encouraged critical thinking, and inverted the traditional top-down lecture format,” says Franco. “The student feedback from the pilot simulation was overwhelmingly positive, and I am very excited to see the Presidential Scholars in action at the symposium.”
Each player has selected a specific “real life” role and will adopt this perspective for the duration of the negotiation process, explains Franco. High-ranking officials from the Mexican and U.S. governments will debate pressing issues with human rights activists, militia minutemen, maquiladora border workers, global business developers and representatives from environmental protection agencies. Competing agendas, unexpected alliances and a high-pressure, time-sensitive environment provide students with a unique, first-hand look at the intricacies of international negotiations and allow them to analyze complex domestic and foreign policies from different theoretical and practical perspectives.
This year, the symposium featured a guest appearance by Rev. Peter Neeley, S.J., who served as an expert consultant. Fr. Neeley is the assistant director of education with the Kino Border Initiative, which works with migrant men, women and children along the border of Nogales, Ariz. and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Fr. Neeley will also be giving a lecture, “With Christ on the Border,” in Rehm Library at the College on Jan. 27 at 4 p.m. Read more about Fr. Neeley’s lecture.
Participants in this year’s symposium come from all four class years and a wide variety of majors, including biology, classics, economics and accounting, mathematics, music, psychology, and religious studies.
The Symposium was sponsored by the Office of the President and the Office of the Dean, and coordinated by Prof. Suzanne Kirschner, director of College Scholar Programs and associate professor of psychology.
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