Outlook

Conferences old and new making waves on hot-button issues

Friday, March 30, 2012

President Earl Potter

For 50 years St. Cloud State’s Winter Institute has been breaking the ice on conversations about significant and timely issues related to the economy.

The venerable event has brought to campus a succession of renowned economics experts to jump start these discussions, including Federal Reserve chairmen, Nobel laureates, authors, educators and leaders of industry. Each winter the institute focuses on a timely theme. This year’s topic, Green Economic Growth, brought insights shared by an environmental scholar, economics professor, energy executive and former Environmental Protection Agency analyst.

The Winter Institute is a signature event for our university’s economics faculty and students and for the community and business partnerships it has built. In just three years two other St. Cloud State-hosted summits – the Power in Diversity Leadership and the Global Goes Local conferences – have emerged as the same kind of game-changing collaborations.

All three events address issues that are highly relevant to every Minnesotan, offering avenues for lively discussion and serious conversations about how to meet the changing needs of our increasingly diverse society. All three are galvanizing scholars, activists, community and political leaders with the kind of solid, eye-opening information and opinion sharing that leads to significant solutions to very real issues.

The Power in Diversity Leadership Conference was created and launched by Multicultural Student Services staff and students inspired by the networking and sharing of ideas they experienced while attending the Big Twelve Conference on Black Student Government. They came back with a desire to transfer the sense of empowerment they were feeling to other college students.

Because of their commitment to making this big idea a reality, the Power in Diversity Leadership Conference has become a major force for helping student and campus leaders develop the leadership and mentoring skills that make them more effective agents of cultural change and social justice.

A highlight of this year’s January conference, which attracted nearly 500 registrants from regional colleges and universities, was social critic, philosopher and Princeton Professor Cornel West’s presentation which challenged students to look beyond themselves and their immediate surroundings in order to become better leaders.

The third annual Global Goes Local Conference in April promises to continue attracting widespread interest and kudos for its timely attention to the consequential and sometimes controversial issues relating to immigrant Minnesotans. 

Organized by the interdisciplinary Faculty Research Group on Immigrant Workers in Minnesota and co-sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and the School of Public Affairs, the Global Goes Local Conference gives stakeholders in Minnesota’s new immigrant communities an opportunity be participants in research and presentation of issues they face in their struggle to secure substantive citizenship in the United States.

These discussions have implications for social and political change in a state that has experienced significant demographic changes in recent years as a result of immigration activity. According to recent census data, Minnesota now has the largest Somali population in the U.S. with more than 32,000 residents. The count of residents of Hmong descent in Minnesota rose 46 percent to 66,181 in the 2010 census, and the population of Latino/Latina residents in Minnesota rose 50 percent.

Some of the topics that will be covered in keynote and panel presentations during this year’s Global Goes Local conference April 9-11 include: 

  • The Impact of Arizona and Alabama Anti-immigrant Laws on Minnesota’s Immigrant Efforts to Secure Citizenship Rights
  • The African American Historical Experience in Minnesota as Migrants 
  • Student Research Panel on Somali Housing and Workplace Issues
  • Undocumented Students Speaking on Challenges to Securing a University Education in Minnesota
  • Hmong Political Organization Issues in Minnesota

St. Cloud State is pleased to share these programs with the public – in most cases at no cost. We are grateful for external sponsors who have joined in helping to extend these presentations to broader audiences. Last year’s Global Goes Local conference was co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center and the United Way of Minnesota. The Winter Institute’s community co-sponsors are the Initiative Foundation, St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce and the St. Cloud Times.

The Winter Institute, the Power in Diversity Leadership Conference and the Global Goes Local Conference each inform our teaching in multiple academic disciplines. They also have a tremendous impact on our surrounding communities by increasing understanding and awareness of critical social issues. I am proud to say they are making waves and making a difference.

From the President
Earl H. Potter III, President 

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