Latin America REGIONAL CONSULTATION ON BIG ISSUES IN THE UNIVERSITY
Panama, 11-13 May 2018
The consultation was held in a retreat centre near Panama City. 18 people were present, representing three graduate students, six university professors, seven workers of the national movements, one representative of the project, and the consultation facilitator, Daniel Salinas.
The group started with some ice-breaker activities, and then listened to Rob Heimburger present on two topics: 1) the objective of the regional consultations in the context of engaging with the University, identifying their important questions and conversations; and 2) some theological reflections on engaging with the university, where some of the experiences of this work were shared around the world.
At first the participants worked individually to identify what they considered big issues in the university. This long list of issues was shared with the larger group and later in the following four work sessions the issues were sorted into categories. The issues were arranged in the following categories: university model, resources and management, values and ethics, student life, and university and society.
We worked in small groups to propose some solutions to issues. Here is a summary, by category, of what the groups came up with.
Question our current university models and propose some that:
- Make contextualisation viable in the development of knowledge and in the practice of university life
- Open lines of research and generation of knowledge relevant to our local contexts
- Recognise and integrate indigenous knowledge from different groups
- Integrate a healthy vision and practice of secularism
- Review and evaluate the contents of the curriculum structure to encourage the critical and creative thinking in their discipline by students, graduates and teachers
- Privilege ethical teaching and research practices; with transparent processes of accountability to the university and to society
- Foster interdisciplinarity in academic life, even in the methodology, from an attitude of epistemological humility towards the integrity of life
Resources and Management
- The creation of educational inclusion policies and contextualised and inclusive pedagogical models.
- Strengthen the mechanisms of management and administration of resources.
- Define selection criteria for research faculty and build a profile of the research mentor.
Values and Ethics
Generate spaces for reflection that allow the development of people's spiritualities. We propose that in this way we could generate solid value systems and a minimum level of ethics.
The challenge is the lack of strong communities capable of providing resources and comprehensive support to all who are part of the university.
University and Society
Propose to the university instances the creation of spaces that allow the student population to break with the paradigms, connect with society and be service agents in their profession. Create networks that allow the channelling of dialogues focused on addressing global realities and challenges. This will help ensure that people who are located in strategic positions within the university can influence the university’s agenda in order to open spaces that encourage reflection around the faith.
Sharing experiences and stories
In the penultimate session of the consultation participants shared stories, experiences and activities that have already been making their moves to connect with the university. Here are some examples of what people shared.
- Resources such as Bible studies or workshops that help students understand their vocation in the academic world
- Creation care projects
- Conversations about science and Christian faith
- Partnerships with other institutions such as the Faraday Institute
- Organisation of forums, conferences or panels at universities to address issues such as abortion, the Protestant Reformation, presidential elections, local plebiscites, or presentation of papers in specialized areas by Christian researchers
- Spaces for the meeting of teachers, researchers and postgraduate students in camps of the movement or during the school year
- Participation of students in student associations
In the last working session of the consultation, the group considered the question: If we did not have economic or logistical limits, what would we do to continue to engage with the university? Here are some of the ideas that emerged.
- Recognise the academic talent of the students and promote their academic career in the university, training them even in skills such as university management so that they can fill management spaces in the university
- Consolidate a Latin American network among national movements with a part-time coordinator to promote synergy and communication
- Celebrate and affirm the academic achievements of students and teachers: academic degrees, presentation of research, publications, etc.
- Creation of spaces and networks for research to be presented
- Elaborate a training project that gathers and systematises the formative experiences of the national movements and can highlight training in connection with the university and the world of work
- Training of teachers to reach their colleagues with the gospel, among others
At the end of the consultation, the participants expressed their commitment to continue promoting this aspect of the IFES mission in national movements: engaging with the university.