In the midst of political turmoil across the nation, two Central Michigan University faculty members are fostering dialogue and learning around "questions that matter."
Their efforts have launched the Critical Engagements initiative, with a theme this academic year of "People on the Move: Borders, Boundaries and Migration." Students, faculty, staff and area residents are participating in classroom conversations, projects, research and special events.
“By having conversations about tough topics in the world today, we create a crossroads of knowledge and individual experiences.” — Christi Brookes
"People are hungry for a place to plug in — to work together in exploring ideas and expanding our perspectives," said Christi Brookes, chair of the world languages and cultures department. "By having conversations about tough topics in the world today, we create a crossroads of knowledge and individual experiences."
"What it means to live against a wall"
The first Critical Engagements keynote event this fall is a presentation by Marcello Di Cintio, a Canadian journalist who has traveled the world's most disputed edges to meet the people who live or have lived alongside razor wire, concrete and steel.
His book, titled "Walls," notes, "Some walls define 'us' from 'them' with medieval clarity. Some walls encourage fear or feed hate. And every wall inspires its own subversion, either by the infiltrators who dare to go over, under or around them, or by the artists who transform them."
Di Cintio's presentation begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16, in the Powers Ballroom. Attendance is free.
Through his travels to areas such as Algeria, Morocco, Israel, Palestine, India, Montreal, Belfast and the U.S.-Mexico border, Di Cintio looks at the humanity on both sides of walls and fences.
"Marcello takes us beyond politics, to a space higher education was made for. He pushes us to be thoughtful, to have dialogue, to reflect on something that goes beyond Twitter," said Greg Smith, chair of CMU's history department. "You get beyond the bullet points to the people. They're real people. They have names. They aren't just statistics."
Brookes, whose expertise includes border and transnational studies, is a leader of CMU's internationalization project. She and Smith jointly created Critical Engagements with support and involvement from multiple department chairs and Pam Gates, dean of the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences.
"The idea is to come together as a community of people pursuing all sorts of projects, research and teaching, and realizing how all of those can fit around a common theme and address today's most difficult issues," Smith said. "There comes a point when you realize we're all working on pieces of the same problem, from different but related perspectives. You realize we really are One CMU."