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Tackling Grand Challenges: Wrapping Up A Community Table

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By: Katie Kleinhesselink, DU Grand Challenges Program Manager, CCESL

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It’s hard to believe that another A Community Table has come and gone. When the steering committee began planning back in Fall 2019, we couldn’t have imagined what Spring 2020 had in store. If anything, we worried about a late spring snowstorm dampening turnout (forgive the pun), so we decided to pivot from our traditional one-day event to a weeklong one. Fast forward to March 2020. 

In the face of the COVID pandemic, we pivoted again, taking A Community Table virtual and keeping it open for the entire spring quarter. 172 registered tables later (plus more unregistered conversations!), I’m so glad we did. 

While hosts facilitated conversations on a wide range of critical social issues, one clear theme runs through the feedback sent so far: A Community Table offered a space for folks to explore how COVID has irrevocably affected almost every aspect of our lives AND to dream of new futures in a post-pandemic world. Over the past few months, several hosts have shared their stories in this newsletter. Today, we are delighted to share the following reflection from Alisha Stanton, Program Manager in the Office of International Education: 

Internationalization and COVID-19: Where Do We Go From Here? 

Living with the ongoing dynamics of the current global pandemic, we are at the forefront of rethinking what worked in the past and creating new practices and ideologies that speak to the new realities. The spread of COVID19 will impact the way we operate domestically as well as internationally. To explore this issue, The Office of International Education (OIE) hosted two conversations in collaboration with DU Dialogues and DU Grand Challenges. Our conversations brought together collective voices in a dialogue to explore COVID’s impact on internationalization and possible paths forward. 

One of the themes that emerged from both sessions focused on rethinking internationalization at home. Participants shared thoughts about new ways to connect cross-culturally and internationally, both virtually and within our own communities. Participants shifted from looking at internationalization as a travel-dependent concept to a broader model that values relationships and intercultural exchange with international students on campus, international organizations based in and around Denver, and new opportunities made possible in our virtually connected world. 

The need for spaces that foster connection and togetherness was a common theme, specifically those that nurture connectivity online/virtually. Looking to our local and international communities, we see the need for, and the many possibilities that might arise from, collaboration and opportunities to learn from one another. 

In the spirit of building these spaces and exploring collaboration, OIE hopes to both continue this conversation and begin new conversations around international education’s role in addressing systemic racism. We hope you’ll join us in the new academic year. 

Our thanks to Alisha for sharing this story! And our thanks to all of you for hosting and participating in A Community Table conversations. We are sifting through feedback from conversation participants now, and recording your thoughts on what issues DUGC should address and ideas for action. Be on the lookout for more information about our findings and opportunities to get involved in the new academic year!