Academic Celebration touts Mercyhurst's international flair

Increasing global engagement at Mercyhurst College – inviting the world on to campus and sending faculty and students out into the wider world – provides the focus for this year’s Academic Celebration, slated for April 22-25 and titled “Mercyhurst: The International Arena.” Fifteen events are scheduled, and all are free and open to public.

Among the highlights is a presentation by students in Dr. Peter Benekos’ class on Contemporary Social Problems. They spent their spring break on the U.S.-Mexico border and will discuss immigration issues from the perspectives of families in both theU.S. and Mexico, as well as the Border Patrol, maquiladora workers, human rights staff, legislators and employers. They’ll speak Monday, April 23, at 5:15 p.m. in Sullivan Hall Room 1.

Also tackling a major social issue are students Ellen Koenig and Andreea Neagu, who will speak Monday at 8:15 p.m. in Hirt 213 on “Slavery in the 21st Century.” They’ll give a comprehensive view of the threats human trafficking poses today to civil liberties and human rights.

A pair of guest lecturers are featured along with the many student presenters.

On Monday, April 23, Dr. Sandra Steingraber will be visiting Mercyhurst to deliver the Sister Maura Smith Earth Day Lecture. While visiting the college, she’ll also be part of a roundtable discussion on “Cancer and the Environment” at 3:45 p.m. in Mercy Heritage Room. Steingraber is an internationally recognized expert on environmental links to cancer and women’s reproductive health, and the author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment.

Dr. Andrew Olendzki will speak Tuesday, April 24, at 8 p.m. in Taylor Little Theatre. Sponsored by the Department of Psychology, he’ll address “Buddhist Psychology: East Meets West in Theory and Practice.” He’s executive director and senior scholar at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Massachusetts.

Other programs during the four-day Academic Celebration range from European Renaissance Dance to the teaching of English as a second language to the role of the School of the Americas in U.S. foreign policy. 

Academic Celebration is a long-standing tradition at Mercyhurst, sponsored for the last several years by the Mercyhurst College Honors Program. It brings together students, faculty, staff, administration, and outside speakers to share their ideas in presentations that range from lectures and debates to fine arts performances and other creative expressions. 

“In the past few years, the international presence at Mercyhurst has increased dramatically, and Mercyhurst students have continued to reach out to the global community,” points out sophomore Megan Cody, who is co-chairing Academic Celebration with junior Amelia Diaz.

“I can’t think of a single department on campus that hasn’t been impacted by some kind of international issue or influenced by nations outside of the United States. I’m really excited, because the presenters have researched some very interesting and significant topics – everything from human trafficking to international fashion.”

Cody and Diaz have been working since fall to assemble the week’s program, with guidance from faculty adviser Dr. Karen Williams, associate professor of Spanish, and help from committee members Julissa Armstrong, Sara Driscoll, Christina Drushel,

John Ladd and Tori Smith.

Diaz said that the students organizing Academic Celebration were able to be creative, to practice leadership, and to truly learn the practice of organizing an event. “Foremost, I feel that I have become a better team player and leader,” she added.

For a complete listing of events, go to

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