Annual symposium brings border policy experts to UI
Foreign policy will collide with border affairs at the University of Idaho’s 2015 Borah Symposium, a three-day annual lecture series supported by the Borah Foundation and the Martin Institute.
Experts will give presentations regarding this year’s theme, “Troubled Borders: Sovereignty, Disease, War, and Refugees,” Monday through Wednesday.
Benjamin Kirchmeier, UI customer support manager in Information Technology Services and co-chairman of the Borah Committee, said the committee decided to focus on troubled borders because it’s both internationally and regionally relevant. He said he hopes audiences will gain the general understanding that there are a variety of things arousing conflict — not just political lines.
“Everyone knows about political borders and boundaries, and there are so many things that transcend borders — healthcare issues, climate and ecological issues and war,” Kirchmeier said.
Martin-McClure Student Ambassador Alysha Van Zante will present “Healthcare and Refugees in Idaho” at 11:30 a.m. Monday in the Bruce Pitman Center’s Vandal Ballroom. Kirchmeier said this year is the first time the symposium scheduled a student speaker.
Van Zante’s focus is related to world events and issues to the State of Idaho, Kirchmeier said. Van Zante spent the summer and fall of 2014 representing the Martin Institute and McClure Center for Public Policy in researching international refugees who relocated to Idaho.
“I think her topic will be really interesting, and it’s cool how it applies to her experience with the McClure Center,” said Samuel Hermann, UI senior and co-chairman of the Borah Committee.
A documentary screening of “Climate Refugees,” a film directed by Michael Nash, will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre. Kirchmeier said the film addresses issues such as drought and sea-level change that affect political borders of certain states.
Patricia Carrick, a registered nurse who recently returned from Sierra Leone, will present her lecture, “Global Pandemics and Cross-Border Medical Emergencies” at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Vandal Ballroom.
Carrick will share her personal experiences in dealing with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Kirchmeier said. She was there when tensions were high between African countries in the fall of 2014, she said.
Hendrik Spruyt, professor from Northwestern University, is the symposium’s plenary speaker. Kirchmeier said Spruyt’s address, titled “Development of Territorial Sovereignty, Why It Matters,” would bring together all of the elements presented throughout the symposium. Spruyt will give the address at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the International Ballroom.
According to Kirchmeier, Spruyt’s 30 years of research has primarily focused on political sovereignty and border issues, which compliments the symposium’s theme perfectly, he said.
A panel discussion with Idaho’s Consul General of Mexico Guillermo Ordorica and Washinton’s Consul General of Canada James Hill called “Transboundary Issues in North America” will take place at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Vandal Ballroom. Gillian Coldsnow, Northwest Public Radio assistant manager of Programming and Operations, will moderate the panel.
The last event is author and global affairs expert Thomas Barnett’s keynote address, titled “Troubled Borders,” and will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the International Ballroom.
Kirchmeier said Barnett’s focus and experience comes from analyzing Russia, or the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Borah Committee hopes he will speak about the recent incursion of Ukraine, Kirchmeier said.
The Borah Symposium is sponsored by an endowment Idaho Sen. Borah left to UI. Kirchmeier and the Martin Institute manages it. Kirchmeier said there are other sponsors who helped fund some of the events, including the School of Journalism and Mass Media and the Environmental Science and Geography departments.
“Senator Borah wanted the study of the conditions for war and the possibilities for peace to be something that continually came up to students as they went through their undergraduate and graduate roles here,” Kirchmeier said.
Members of the Borah Committee are appointed every two years, and the committee includes several staff members along with student representation, Kirchmeier said.
Hermann said he believes having students on the committee benefited the symposium.
“We get to see both sides of what people are going to think of the symposium,” Hermann said. “We get to see both understandings — what students are going to think versus what faculty and staff are going to think.”
Hermann said both students and the general public have incentive to attend the Borah Symposium, especially this year.
“This year it’s really cool because there’s a huge variety of topics and they relate to issues that are very pertinent in terms of world security and peace,” Hermann said. “It’s important for students and community members alike to have an understanding of how these different issues can affect issues like border security and sovereignty.”
Jamie Lunders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org