Keeping the campus IN FOCUS
Now in its second year, Moravian’s IN FOCUS program has provided several respected speakers and other innovative programming to support this year’s theme of Poverty and Inequality.
IN FOCUS was established to enable members of the Moravian College community to explore complex issues from multidisciplinary perspectives and engage in analysis and activism about important challenges facing human beings and the world.
Four topics were identified as central and critical: poverty and inequality, sustainability, health care, and war and peace. Each year, academic and co-curricular activities will center on the appropriate theme. By grappling with complex problems and examining them from different perspectives, Moravian’s graduates leave well-prepared to contribute to a just global society.
Centers for Investigation
In order to better manage the resources and information available within each year’s topic, four Centers of Investigation were established. Two faculty members head each of these centers, and are supported by the IN FOCUS committee in addressing each topic and planning out each year’s goals.
The Centers perform the following actions:
- Lead efforts to develop interdisciplinary majors and/or minors.
- Work with Reeves Library staff to identify resources and to showcase faculty research and publications.
- Work with the Leadership Center to develop experiential learning opportunities outside of class and service-learning opportunities that directly connect to class.
- Provide support for faculty who do research in the area.
- Work with the college grants writer to seek outside funding to support research and programs in their area.
This year’s Center of Investigation is led by Sonia Aziz, assistant professor of economics and business, and John Reynolds, professor of political science.
Because this is the first year in the four-year cycle, the IN FOCUS committee and the campus community, has faced a learning curve as to exactly what IN FOCUS is all about and how best to utilize the resources identified by the centers. Higher expectations will accompany each new theme, as the cycle repeats itself and long-term research, planning and programming is put into place.
“This then [IN FOCUS] becomes part of the identity of the college, distinguishing us from other schools, and from anything we’ve done in the past,” says Aziz. “We will see the institutionalization of the newly identified areas of focus and its effect on students and faculty.”
Reynolds speaks of the enthusiasm for the approach that grew and gathered momentum as the fall semester passed, and it has become evident that others on campus are recognizing the program’s great potential.
“It’s aspirational and can take a couple years to truly know it as we work through the challenges,” he says. “What this year also has brought about is the recognition of the possibilities of what this could mean for the college. IN FOCUS has the potential to be transformative.”
As the first leaders of the first Center of Investigation, Aziz and Reynolds realize they are being watched to see how they organize the year. Aziz defines IN FOCUS primarily through the newly institutionalized Centers of Investigation, and states that as the name suggests, the Center’s role is to investigate. She stresses the importance of acknowledging that IN FOCUS is not all about programming—not just a series of events or speakers tied to the theme, but about pursuing knowledge resulting in outcomes that matter.“The infrastructure is now there and we can reinvent the way we do our work here,” she says. “It’s our responsibility to keep it evolving, to actively investigate, and support others, faculty and students alike, to do the same, not just schedule events.”
“IN FOCUS will become part of, and support, faculty and student scholarship,” adds Reynolds. “We won’t simply be receptors … an audience. We won’t just be consumers of knowledge, but also contribute to the production of it.”
Aziz would like to expand IN FOCUS’ work beyond Moravian’s borders, collaborating with other colleges and universities and abroad. She already has formed an affiliation with an organization in Bangladesh whose work is focused on helping children at risk, specifically as it relates to their lack of clean, safe drinking water.
Her five-year renewable agreement with ICDDR,B (Center for Health and Population Research), an international health research institution located in Dhaka, allows Moravian students to study and do research in Bangladesh, and can be a real boon for the college.
“This type of collaborative agreement puts Moravian on a different playing field; Columbia, Johns Hopkins and Smith are other institutes which also have agreements with ICDDR,B,” she says. “This is something that sets us apart from other colleges of our size and profile.”
The work the organization does with rural health issues and in serving the poor links it to poverty and inequality, and Aziz calls the collaboration a “unique research context in its proximity to poverty” that “represents opportunities for faculty to further research” and of course for the students who may further their education in the fields of South Asia.
Upcoming IN FOCUS events include:
February 14, noon, Johnston Hall -- Rev. Jesse Jackson lecture. One of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures, the Reverend Jesse Jackson will present a lecture focusing on poverty and inequality. The program, A Conversation with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Poverty and Inequality, is sponsored by the office of Institutional Diversity, IDEA, Moravian Theological Seminary, Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges, and the IN FOCUS program.
March 1, 6:30 p.m., Prosser Auditorium, HUB – March 1, 6:30 p.m., Prosser Auditorium, HUB – Children’s Coalition of the Lehigh Valley PA State Budget Summit. Sharon Ward, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and Ron Cowell, President of the Education Policy and Leadership Center are the speakers in this Family Policy Summit.
Key policy developments in the 2013 PA state budget relating to the needs of children, especially in low-income families, will be discussed. Public education, school finance, early childhood education, family and child well-being including health care, nutrition, housing and abuse will all be part of the conversation. Sponsored by the political science department.
March 31, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., PPHAC, room 102 - symposium, The Crash of ’08: Reflections on and Lessons from the Great Recession Faculty, alumni, student and community speakers join to explore the causes, impact and lessons learned from the economic crises of the past four years. Presented by the Alumni Association’s Lifelong Learning Program.
April 2 4 p.m. PPHAC, room 102 - Research Symposium with Diane Husic – Lessons from South Africa: Is Climate Change the "New Apartheid" of the 21st Century?
Diane Husic actively participates in the U.N. climate change meetings as a civil observer. Her role is to provide expert advice when needed and to relay progress back home. Dr. Husic has played a crucial role in bringing Moravian into this conversation (Moravian is one of six liberal arts colleges that permits students and faculty to attend as civil observers.)