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The College of Education Studies (CES) has invited six educational researchers, activists, and practitioners from across the world to give lectures on a diverse range of topics related to global education this spring. Starting on Feb. 15, 2023, the Global Education Speaker Series takes place weekly in the Fries Center for Global Studies (FCGS), where the speakers share insight into their work with a hybrid audience.

The six speakers and their talks include:

Petul Gomez, “Retos y amenazas: la importancia de preservar la cultura e idioma Chuj (Challenges and threats: the importance of Chuj culture and language preservation)” (Wed Feb. 15), Dr. Nancy Kendall, “Sex education in US and Malawi” (Wed, March 1), Fabrice Lookly, “LGBTQ+ Rights in West Africa” (Wed, March 8), Mamadou Ly, “National language education programming in Senegal” (Wed, March 29), Dr. Alex Allweiss, “Transnational Indigenous Rights”  (Thurs, April 6), and Dr. Miriam Thangaraj, “Child Rights in India” (Wed, April 26).

Visiting Assistant Professor of Education Studies Teresa Speciale, whose research and teaching focus on the policy and practice of comparative education, language, and human rights, first conceived of the Speaker Series as a program designed to demonstrate the University’s ongoing effort in internationalization.

“Wesleyan and by extension CES are committed to… bringing more global perspectives and voices to the Wes community,” Speciale wrote in an email to The Argus. “The creation of my position at CES as a Visiting Assistant Professor in Global Education is one manifestation of this commitment. So this speaker series is one of (hopefully many more to come) opportunities for folks at Wes to learn with and from scholars, activists, and educators from around the world, in particular around issues concerning education.”

After consulting the Co-Chairs of CESAdjunct Professor of Spanish Louise Neary and Professor of Psychology Steven E. Stemler, Speciale reached out to the staff at FCGS, who offered their support and a provided a venue for the events. According to Speciale, CES Administrative Assistant Kim Molski has played a key role in managing the logistics, which included catering, publicity, and setup and breakdown of the physical space. CES student liaisons Zariah Greene ’24 and Zoey Chen ’23 have also been heavily involved in the execution of the series. In addition to CES and FCGS, the Speaker Series is co-sponsored by the University Network of Human Rights and the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.

Associate Director for Intercultural Learning in FCGS Anita Deeg-Carlin spoke proudly of the collaboration.

“We at the FCGS are only as successful at reaching our internationalization goals as we are integrated with the broader campus; I suspect that we are happy to partner with anyone on campus who wishes to promote global learning and intercultural dialogue,” Deeg-Carlin wrote in an email to The Argus. “By definition, it’s going to be intersectional and interdisciplinary and requires all perspectives, so I am very excited that CES initiated this series and that we can support them and their speakers.”

Deeg-Carlin also highlighted the diversity of the Speaker Series both in the range of topics addressed and the wide geographic focus of the talks. 

“I hope that students are inspired by the talks to articulate their passions even a little more clearly, and from a new perspective,” Deeg-Carlin wrote. “Issues like indigenous language preservation, sex education, LGBTQ+ rights, human rights, and child labor are universal challenges that are best addressed together. This series is a wonderful opportunity to expand our perspectives about a topic we care about and improve our ability to address them.”

Echoing Deeg-Carlin’s comment on the diversity of topics, Neary elaborated on how the Speaker Series aligns with CES’ core mission.

“The field of Education Studies (in other words, the study of education and educational systems)  is interdisciplinary, and one of the College’s great strengths is this transdisciplinary approach to the field,” Neary wrote in an email to The Argus. “Built into the mission of our program is the exploration of educational policy and opportunity globally. This speaker series is one way in which we can bring in perspectives from people working across different areas of the world.”

To this end, Speciale stressed that one of her two primary goals of the series is to provide a learning and discussion space for the campus community to better understand what education could and should look like. 

“Learning about these issues and contexts not only expands our knowledge of what is happening around the world, but it also lets us learn more about our own education systems and experiences,” Speciale wrote. “That is what the field of comparative and international education is all about, and that’s the goal and purpose of the courses I teach here at Wes as well as my research with students in Senegal.”

The featured speakers, all friends, colleagues, and mentors of Speciale, have not often had the chance to discuss their work. Speciale also hopes to offer a place for marginalized voices in the field of education to shine.

“My second goal is to provide a space for folks who are too often left out of elite academic spaces to talk about the amazing work they are doing in their communities,” Speciale wrote. “Too often it is only voices from the Global North, who are educated in institutions of higher education in the Global North, who are the ‘spokespeople’ for entire countries and communities – especially with Indigenous communities.”

Speciale brought up the example of Petul Gómez, the first speaker in the series who joined virtually to talk about Maya Chuj language rights and revitalization in Guatemala on Wednesday, Feb. 15. According to Speciale, Gómez told her that this was his first opportunity to share his work with an audience in the U.S. 

“It was therefore really important in putting together this series that we bring in speakers from not only different geographic regions, but also different professional, disciplinary, and community connections,” Speciale wrote.

Following Gómez’s talk on the maintenance of the Mayan language Chuj, attendees connected virtually with Dr. Nancy Kendall of the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Mar. 1 for a talk on the impact of US-led funding and politics on sex education in Malawi. On Mar. 8, Fabrice Lookly will give a lecture on LGBTQ+ Rights in West Africa. After spring break, three more talks will follow—namely “National Language Education Programming in Senegal” by Mamadou Ly on Wednesday, Mar. 29, “Transnational Indigenous Rights” by Dr. Alex Allweiss on Thursday, Apr. 6, and “Child Rights in India” by Dr. Miriam Thangaraj on Wednesday, Apr. 26.

According to the organizers, the talks have been well attended so far. 

“Each speaker discusses such different topics so we have different people coming each week, and that is great!” Speciale wrote.

Deeg-Carlin, who attended the first talk by Gómez, was also pleased by the turnout. To Deeg-Carlin, the multilingual format of the talk made it a rich conversation.

“It was very well attended,” Deeg-Carlin wrote. “It was great to have the guest speaking to us remotely from his home and in his preferred language of Spanish, and then to have many of our audience members able to address questions to him in Spanish!”

Neary expressed her gratitude for the insightful lectures and the learning opportunities they have provided.

“Prof. Teresa Speciale has put together an amazing array of speakers,” Neary wrote. “I am happy that technology allows us these interactions with educators and researchers from around the world. It’s a great series and I hope we continue to learn from and be inspired by its speakers.”

Chen, too, has greatly enjoyed the events so far. 

“I believe it will bring a more global perspective to Wesleyan’s education studies,” Chen wrote in an email to The Argus. “The previous two talks broadened my knowledge of Chuj culture and sex education in Malawi, and they really helped to raise my social awareness of these issues. Helping with the talk made me feel like I was contributing to these universally important matters.”

Greene, the other student liaison, stressed the significance of the series for Wesleyan students.

“The Global Education Speaker Series…has taken all the lessons we’ve learned in COVID about accessible learning and broke down traditional barriers that keep us learning from very familiar faces and experiences,” Greene wrote in an email to The Argus. “We have gotten to hear from speakers with perspectives shaped by the work they do around the world through Zoom. Personally, it has helped me remember that the world is more than just Wesleyan students in the U.S.” 

On the broader subject of global education, Neary similarly emphasized that the issue of access is key.

“Access to education—who gets to be educated?” Neary wrote. “Who decides what that education looks like? How can we as a plural society ensure that education is seen as a human right? Look at what’s happening in Florida and how that connects to (other) authoritarian governments across the globe.”

To Deeg-Carlin, this aspect of communication also holds paramount importance. 

“If we’re to communicate well, we need to listen for all voices, maybe most importantly, the quiet or silent ones,” Deeg-Carlin wrote. “Why are they quiet? Or why can’t we hear them? How can we address barriers to understanding together? What do we need to learn?”

According to Speciale, the current conversation surrounding education has historically been very flawed and exclusive. As such, she argued that it is crucial to recognize those whose voices have been systemically silenced in civic discourse surrounding human rights.

“From my position as a white American woman working at an institution like Wesleyan, I would say that one of the root issues is whose voices are included in answering these types of questions and whose are excluded,” Speciale wrote. “We need to really interrogate the hows and whys of how these questions and answers are framed and who is ‘in charge’ of deciding upon and implementing ‘solutions.’”

In the context of Wesleyan specifically, Neary pointed to both CES and FCGS as departments at the forefront of fostering global education.

“There are many faculty on campus who have been researching and collaborating with colleagues across the globe for decades,” Neary wrote. “Prof. Gottschalk is one example of CES faculty who has devoted his research to global issues of religion, knowledge and society. Wes faculty is multilingual/multicultural, and language study is central to the Fries Center and its vision of international education.”

Deeg-Carlin, who joined FCGS last June, also praised her colleagues’ eagerness and creativity in embracing global education initiatives. She added that conversations around fair education can bring discomfort, they are also crucial for growth.

“There are certainly tensions there as we strive toward equitable representation of geographies, socioeconomics, cultures, disciplines, identities, etc.,” Deeg-Carlin wrote. “But those are the areas that present opportunities for growth, discovery, and change. We have to lean into those purposefully and evolve with them.”

Speciale also spoke highly of FCGS’ current efforts in improving access to study abroad programs and international fellowships, and commended other faculty who do work internationally and with immigrant and diaspora communities in the U.S. She additonally called on all students to take active responsibility in interrogating the structural inequities of education.

“I think we as a Wes community should continue to strengthen and expand these initiatives in ways that are attuned to the power dynamics inherent in being an elite university in the U.S.,” Speciale wrote. “And students have a major role in leading this kind of work – ask difficult questions, don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable in naming and confronting privileges, and be purposeful in figuring out how to help make the world a world you are proud to be part of.”

More information about the Global Education Lecture Series can be found here.

Sida Chu can be reached at schu@wesleyan.edu.

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