Successful Global Education Symposium Brings Scholars Together

by Tom Hanlon  /   Jan 25, 2021

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Hosted by International Programs, the symposium was held in person in 2019, online in 2020—and looks to go hybrid in 2021.

The College of Education began its annual Global Education Symposium, facilitated and hosted by the Office of International Programs, in 2019. The idea was simple: to give the College’s growing number of online students a chance to meet each other in person, on campus, get a feel for the “Illinois experience,” and engage in a variety of professional development activities.

“I wanted to give my graduate students a chance to present, because I would overhear that they were anxious to present,” says Allison Witt, director of International Programs. “I wanted to help them build their confidence in that context.”

The students got that chance—in person—during Homecoming Week in 2019. (They even got to attend a thrilling upset, as the Illini beat #6-ranked Wisconsin, 24-23.) Also invited were the program’s international partners. “It was a great chance for us to share our research and ideas together, in person, and engage with scholars from around the world,” Witt says.

The second annual symposium, of course, ran into the snag of a global pandemic, so it was held online. Not ideal in terms of bringing everyone (literally) together—but more people were able to attend the virtual symposium.

“It actually ended up being great,” Witt says. “Students who wouldn’t have been able to come to campus were able to participate.” The symposium included workshops, presentations, and panel discussions on a variety of themes, including global education and policy, global migration and education, diversity in local and global contexts, research-based practice in schools, and adult and professional education.

So, both 2019 (in person) and 2020 (virtual) were great, with each holding unique advantages over the other. What does that mean for 2021?

“We’ll do both!” Witt says, laughing. “We’ll have a robust campus conference and at the same time a really robust online conference, so everyone gets to participate wherever they are in the world, and we can all share and get that practice experience of a conference and just build community.”