Global Citizenship Conference rebrands for September

The Global Citizenship Conference (GCC) is typically held in March, but this year’s has been re-scheduled for September. For the conference’s planners, this reflects a long-discussed need for change.

Founded in 2006 by McMaster students, the GCC aimed to engage students in global and local issues and develop passionate activists and advocates. In its inaugural year, Dr. Phil Wood, Associate Vice-President of Student Affairs, referred to GCC as “the most impressive student event I have seen in my past 30 years at McMaster.”

Past speakers at the GCC included Council of Canadians chair Maude Barlow, AIDS activist and former McMaster Professor Stephen Lewis and former Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff.

Shanthiya Baheerathan, GCC Co-Chair of Logistics, explained how over the years the March timing has just not fit well into the student calendar and leaves little room for follow-up after the conference.

“The idea of having it at the beginning of the year is to build a community early on and to have a thread of student involvement continue for the whole year.”

This year, GCC has been hosting smaller but regular panel series on topics such as Idle No More and Think Global, Act Local. On March 5, they will host a panel on Refugee Health.

Shahana Hirji, Co-Chair of Programming, described how the GCC wants to put a higher emphasis on grassroots forms of engagement. Recent panel topics and local activists and instructors chosen to be on the panel are a result of the community focus.

Baheerathan also discussed funding issues that may have precluded a large-scale conference from occurring this semester. She reiterated that in addition to faculty-based funding, the GCC team will be looking to apply for external funding and community grants for the September conference.

In the past, the GCC promoted to other universities and high school students, which attracted more conference attendees.

Baheerathan wants to try to attract more students in a new way by leveraging the already large network of student clubs on campus.

“We want to establish GCC as a hub for social justice clubs on campus. Mac has a lot of different groups, and the GCC wants to create a more cohesive movement where the GCC supports clubs,” said Baheerathan.

But in order to do this, the planners recognize they will need to rebuild the GCC’s brand on campus.

Fariha Husain, Co-Chair of Networking, described how there has been diminished support for and knowledge of the GCC. Husain also emphasized how the current group is working hard to expand the GCC base and recruit students for the conference team.

“We will be looking for conference team planners around mid- to late-March for the September conference. We want to promote heavily through social media to make it a staple event. This is something that requires student interest and a robust discussion amongst student members.”

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