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Conference to discuss human development

Amanda Gray | Monday, February 22, 2010

The second annual Human Development Conference will bring students from all over the country and world together to discuss the best ways to address global development and aid.

The conference’s theme will be “People, Power and Pragmatism: The Future of Development in Our Changing World” and will take place on Feb. 26 and 27. 

“We all really have a passion to bring change to the world, to make a difference,” senior and co-chair of the conference Barbara Vi Ho said. “I remember … someone saying, ‘It’s not enough to have a heart. You have to have a heart that sees.’ We have to understand the contexts of the situations that we’re entering, the people and the culture that we’re trying to work with.

“I think the conference is the center of that,” she said.
The conference will feature research from 43 different countries, Jeremy Tamargo, senior and publicity manager for the conference, said.
“It’s a student-led conference, with a committee of student members,” Tamargo said.
The conference is in tune with the mission of the University, Andrew Seelaus, senior and co-chair for the conference, said.
“If you look at the mission of the University, it’s totally in line with [the conference],” Seelaus said. “There’s definitely an interest on campus.”
In addition to there being interest on campus, Tamargo said the conference fills a need. 
“Catholic social tradition teaches us that solidarity and preferential option for the poor,” he said. “As long as there’s a need for development, there’s a need for this conference and the need to keep students engaged.
“They shouldn’t just be in the classroom, but taking that scholarship out of the classroom and applying it with action, creating social change.” 
The conference’s focus is broad enough to incorporate students from every major, Ho said.
“Because it is a multi-disciplinary conference, it provides a venue for people of all different disciplines to present how they think they can make a change in the world,” Seelaus said.
With the broad focus, Ho said she hopes students will begin to see development in a different light.
“I would hope that it would open their eyes to seeing human development as involving so many different fields,” Ho said. 
Tamargo said big organizations should not be the only ones doing development work. 
“It starts with your own agency and taking action,” Tamargo said. “That’s the starting point.”
Seelaus said he hopes the conference will be an opportunity to show that students are taking action.
“[University President Fr. John] Jenkins talks about making [Notre Dame] a preeminent research institution in the country, and I think this is just another great venue for us to showcase that, both graduate and undergraduate student research,” Seelaus said.
Lacey Haussamen, advisor from one of the conference’s sponsors, the Ford Family Program, said she sees the conference as an opportunity for students to participate in an academic forum.
“One thing I think is so special about this conference is that it gives students a chance to really participate in an academic conference,” Haussamen said. “It gives them an opportunity to present their research, particularly undergraduates who haven’t had that experience before.”
Tony Pohlen, also an advisor from the Ford Program, said the different viewpoints offered at the conference help breed ingenuity in thinking.
“Maybe one third of the presenters are Notre Dame students, but the others come from universities from across the country and internationally,” Pohlen said. “It brings together students that have had these amazing experiences around the world to present their work, but also to discuss their viewpoints.”
The conference will involve students from other universities as well, Seelaus said.
“We’ve got people coming in from various colleges, and if those people have a slightly different perspective to human development that maybe is better in one realm while we are better in another realm, if we can put that together, we can make things happen,” Seelaus said.
“This is one event that the Ford Program is sponsoring that really allows students to be engaged in that discussion [of development],” Pohlen said. “It’s not just faculty giving lectures. It’s not simple courses that we’re introducing.
“It’s students really engaged in development issues contributing to the thinking and the solving of those problems that affect people around the world.”
Registration ends tonight and can be completed at online at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies Web site, but people are invited to attend even if they do not register.
The event will be held at the Hesburgh Center for International Studies, with the reception and dinner in the Monogram Room of the Joyce Center.