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Wofford ‘Engaging Our World’ with social justice conference Oct. 12-14

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

United Nations Foundation official featured speaker for Oct. 12-14 event 

'Engaging Our World' Conference Oct. 12-14, 2007SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Wofford College will host the third annual “Engaging Our World” social justice conference for the Southeast Friday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 14, featuring United Nations Foundation senior adviser Gillian Martin Sorensen.

The conference, which is expected to draw about 200 attendees, opens on Friday evening and will feature workshops on Saturday morning that address topics from economic development and fair trade to Darfur and health care. 

“At the conference, college students will be empowered, enlightened and engaged by speakers from national non-profit organizations, such as Oxfam, Bread for the World, United Students for Fair Trade, in addition to Ms. Sorensen from the United Nations Foundation,” says Regina Fuller (Wofford Class of 2010), one of the Wofford students planning the conference.  Justin Greene (Class of 2008) also has taken a lead role in organizing the conference.

Oxfam is sponsoring the conference.  Other organizations, including Bread for the World, United Students for Fair Trade, and various South Carolina statewide agencies, also will have a presence at the conference and may lead workshops as well.

The Engaging Our World Conference was conceived at the 17th Annual Conference of the National Student Campaign against Hunger and Homelessness at Loyola College Baltimore, Md.  Students from universities in the Southeast came together at the end of the conference and decided to put together a regional equivalent to be held at various locations throughout the South.  The conference would focus not only on hunger and homelessness but other issues on local, regional and global levels, as well as social justice.

Ideally, a parallel conference will eventually exist in every region throughout the United States, creating a culture of student civic engagement on not only a local and national level, but international as well.  “This, in turn, will hopefully translate into a lifestyle that extends beyond college and into the ‘real world,’” Fuller says.  “In achieving this, students will actively shape their future and the world we live in.”

The first conference was held at Berea College, Ky., in 2004.  Last year’s conference was held at the University of Louisville, Ky.

The conference this year at Wofford will be the first time it is held outside of the state of Kentucky and further down South.  “We hope to capitalize on past conferences and boost attendance to an all-time high,” Fuller says.

The conference opens on Friday, Oct. 12, with programs in the evening on Wofford’s campus.  Saturday afternoon conference attendees will have a choice of several options – attending the Wofford versus Gardner-Webb football game, touring downtown Spartanburg, or attending a debate on issues.  Sunday will feature an interfaith worship service and a closing ceremony.

Gillian Martin Sorensen, senior adviser at the United Nations Foundation, will be the featured speaker at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Spartanburg Marriott at Renaissance Park.  Her talk will be preceded by a variety of programs earlier in the day on campus.

Sorensen is a national advocate on matters related to the U.N. and the U.S.-U.N. relationship, addressing audiences as diverse as Rotary International and the Air Force Academy; University students; staff and Members of Congress; newspaper editorial writers and television correspondents.

From l997 to 2003, she served as assistant secretary-general for external relations on appointment by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  She was responsible for outreach to civil society including non-governmental organizations around the world.  She was the contact point for Annan in relations between the U.N. and parliamentarians, the academic world, religious leaders and other groups committed to peace, justice, development and human rights.  As a member of the secretary-general’s inner circle, she had a role in his communications strategy as well as schedule planning. She was also the contact point for certain Host City matters.

Prior to that assignment, Sorensen served for four years (1993-1996) as special adviser for public policy to Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali where her duties included directing the U.N.’s worldwide 50th Anniversary observances in l995.  Sorensen earlier served for more than 12 years (1978-1990) on appointment by Mayor Edward I. Koch as New York City Commissioner for the U.N. and Consular Corps, head of the city’s liaison with the world’s largest diplomatic community.

In the fall of 2002, on leave of absence from the U.N., she was a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government (Institute of Politics) at Harvard University.  Sorensen is a graduate of Smith College and studied at the Sorbonne.  She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Women’s Forum and the Women’s Foreign Policy Group. She previously served as a board member of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting on appointment by the president of the United States.

For more information on Gillian Sorensen, visit www.apbspeakers.com.

Registration for the Engaging Our World conference is $35 per person.  To register on line or for more information, go to www.wofford.edu/engagingourworld.  (The conference is free to Wofford students, but registration is required.)  A full schedule, including speaker topics, is available on the Web site.

For information, contact Regina Fuller at fullerry@wofford.edu, Justin Greene at greeneja@wofford.edu or Lyn Pace at pacelp@wofford.edu or 597-4402.