From Capitol Hill to the most influential think tanks, students in D.C. have access to academic and professional events at off-campus locations across the city. But what students tend to forget is that they also have the opportunity to attend those events right here on campus. GW has about 80 centers and institutes – like the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the GW Solar Institute – that offer opportunities for out-of-class learning and discuss everything from domestic and foreign policy of Asian countries to clean energy.
But even when students are aware of these events, they often can’t attend. They’re too bogged down by classes, activities and internships to take advantage of these event opportunities, especially since most of them are held on weekdays. Students’ inability to attend events in person shouldn’t be interpreted as a lack of interest. It also shouldn’t deprive students of the chance to expand and build upon their interests or just learn about a new area.
There’s an easy solution to this problem – record all on campus events hosted by GW affiliated groups. GW’s institutes should make recording their events a priority so that their work reaches all students. Having a video or audio archive online is an easy way for students to gain access to these research institute events without additional costs – this can be through Facebook live or simply recording the event and posting it on their website. The research institutes have students and staff working for them that can undertake this additional responsibility.
Last week, three institutes collaborated to host an event on women’s empowerment and sexual health with Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development. As a student taking the anthropology of gender – a class that tackles gender roles and its impact on women’s rights – I would have loved to hear about her experience and perspective on issues like reproductive health and equal rights. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the event because of my internship. If I had online access to this event later, then I would have been able to enhance the knowledge I gained in class through new context and conversation.
GW research centers and institutes should have a standardized policy to record all events rather than choosing to record some and not others. All these centers have staff that handle their social media accounts and can help to record and post the events on their websites or social media.
Although some events on campus are already recorded, it doesn’t extend to all occasions. The Sigur Center for Asian Studies does occasionally have online recordings of events. Over the last year, they have recorded 11 of approximately 45 events they have conducted. The International Institute of Economic Policy has a YouTube channel, but has only posted 17 videos from a single all-day event since the channel was created at the beginning of the year. Of course, there are some off-the-record events, like a briefing on the Middle East with the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, but those events are the minority.
Institute events allow students to contextualize theories learned in class and find out more about a topic they’re interested in. They can also serve as a starting point for students’ thesis and research projects by offering them new ideas and perspectives. As faculty are actively involved in setting up and participating in these events, students can learn more about professors’ fields of interest and easily follow up with them about pursuing research in that area. In classes where professors make it mandatory to attend some events related to the class topic, recordings online would make it easier for students to watch them on their own time.
Events hosted by these institutes often aren’t as publicized as the ones with high profile speakers. As a result, students miss the news about these events. Online recordings of events can attract more attention because the flexibility would make it easier to access and could be promoted on social media even after the event ends.
Apart from the student benefits from wider access to these events, the institutes can use this as a platform to showcase their research beyond GW with professors and policymakers all over the world. The institutes, by bringing more attention to their work, can help build GW’s reputation as a top research institution – a goal the University has been working toward for several years.
If you didn’t get the memo, you probably missed inspiring events on immigration attitudes in Europe this semester or the Syrian refugee experience last spring, both hosted by institutes in the Elliott School. This wouldn’t be a problem if students could simply stream the events online at their convenience. Although this might be a simple issue, addressing it would go a long way in helping students fully experience all that GW has to offer.
Shwetha Srinivasan, a junior double majoring in international affairs and economics, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.
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