January 23, 2015 | Katie Salyer

The Faith and International Development Conference brings together like-minded students from across the continent.

From Feb. 5-7, more than 200 students and professionals from schools and organizations as far away as southern California will gather at Calvin College for the Faith and International Development Conference.

The conference, celebrating it’s tenth anniversary this year, is completely student run and led. According to student co-director Emily Lawson, this is the “greatest challenge and also the greatest part [of the conference.]”

“From beginning to end, student ideas have kept it going,” said junior international development studies major Abby Paternoster, noting the length and success of the conference. “It’s all been a student idea, all student run. I’m not sure how many other things on campus can say that.”

Learning through listening

Sophomore civil and environmental engineering major Emily Lawson and junior geography and international development studies major Gabe LePage are co-directing this year’s conference which is entitled “Healthy Humility: Learning to Learn.”

The co-directors says the theme is rooted in Christ’s own humility. “American development workers get high level educations and often go on to get masters and PhDs in their fields. We get way more formal educations than the people we’re serving. We come in thinking we have all the answers. Even with all our formal knowledge, we still have things to learn,” said Paternoster who serves as a general assistant for the conference. “We need to stop and listen to people instead of coming in guns blazing, saying that we have all the answers.”

Lawson, as an engineering major, has an interest in water and the mechanics to make it available to everyone. She had the opportunity to study water and development last January on an interim trip called “In Search of Water in Kenya.” On that trip she discovered even more about her passion for available clean water.

Learning through sharing

Lawson says the conference provides students with various opportunities to engage in dialogue around development practices and how to best serve others.

“There will be plenty of opportunities for students to meet with organizations; there will be Q&A sessions, breakout sessions and topic tables where students will be able to sit down to dinner and talk,” said Lawson.

Speakers for this year’s conference include Director of The Peace Corps, Carrie Hessler-Radelet, World Bank Social Development Specialist Michael Woolcock, as well as Calvin professor and vice president of the Board for the Association for a More Just Society Kurt Verbeek. These speakers will give “TED Talk style” lectures—short, powerful talks usually 18 minutes or less—on their respective topics.

Lawson hopes the conference will be a great opportunity for students and professionals to talk. “We want to raise questions and passions, allow people to see that drive within themselves,” she said.

Built into the conference is a time to put steps and action to lectures. “At the end of the day, it’s not just about words, it’s about action—putting love into action.”

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