Global School hosts academic city conference
Wilbraham & Monson Academy, which consists of students from some of the largest cities in the world, hosted “The City: An Academic Conference” on campus April 4.
The day-long academic conference included Trinity College professor Xiangming Chen as the keynote speaker, and a panel discussion regarding the local casino project with Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, Massachusetts State Senator Gale Candaras, and Denise Jordan, Chief of Staff to Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno.
The Academy has embraced a city theme throughout the academic school year. WMA includes students from Beijing, Boston, Dhaka, Istanbul, Mexico City, Moscow, Osaka and Seoul, to name a few.
“This conference served an important role in helping students understand the worldwide trend of people moving away from rural and suburban areas and migrating to live and work in cities,” WMA Head of School Rodney LaBrecque said. “In 25 years, when our graduates will be nearing the apex of their careers, I hope that such ‘extracurricular’ education will have prepared them to live well in this new world.”
Recent studies show more and more people living in city settings. From 1982-2012, the United States (74%-82%), China (21%-52%) and Russia (71%-74%) all grew in regards to urban population. The conference also involved the students partaking in a case study, where each student adopted an identity on the topic of a casino being built in that person’s city.
“For us, it was important for the students to see how difficult urban decisions are when multiple constituencies don’t agree,” said Walter Swanson, Director of WMA’s Center for Entrepreneurial & Global Studies. “The casino seems to be the hot topic in the region right now so we used that as fodder. But ultimately, what we want the students to do is know how to argue from different positions, understand people who think differently from them, and develop the skills to arrive at a compromise.”
Mr. Chen’s speech, titled Making and Remaking Cities, explained how cities are becoming more populated and why it’s essential to revitalize urban areas such as Springfield and Hartford. The three panelists were candid, with each giving their reasons for supporting and not supporting casinos in their respective areas. Sometimes they agreed on certain issues, but other times they did not, which made for an entertaining and real presentation. New England Public Radio host Susan Kaplan moderated the panel discussion.
“I think it was interesting for our students to see there were people from the public who had varied and sometimes strong opinions on the matter,” Mr. Swanson said. “What they need to understand is when they enter into urban areas and it’s congested, people are going to have different opinions and not agree. Yet, ultimately, they share one neighborhood and one city, and they all have a vested interest in, yet often varied opinions on, how to improve their quality of life. “Hopefully the day resonated with the very diverse student body that we have.”
The conference also include presentations by: Richard Walker of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; Guy McLain, Director of the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History; Marla Michel, Director of the Business Growth Center of Springfield; Michael Mathis, President and COO of MGM Springfield; Serin Houston, Visiting Professor of Geography at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley; and Mary Steele, TV Producer of WaterFire.