: a conference or meeting to discuss a particular subject
From the Greek symp-po-sium
: a drinking party or convivial discussion, especially as held in ancient Greece after a banquet

Why a Symposium?

The biennial international symposium at Pacific Lutheran University is one of the ways that the Wang Center supports the university’s goal of being an ever more globally focused university. PLU is nationally recognized for its international study away experiences that immerse students in other cultures and allow them to examine the complexity of global issues from other local, national and regional perspectives. However, not all PLU students are able to take advantage of these study away programs. Even with 50 percent of every PLU graduating class participating in a study away program for a month or more (the national average is under 3 percent) it means nearly 50 percent do not. For these students we need to bring the world to them and the campus, and the symposia are part of this effort.

Each year brings significant changes to the increasingly diverse and challenging world in which PLU graduates will live and work. Some of the challenges these changes bring are new, some are old and some are only now being recognized. Through presentations by professionals, authors, academics and hands-on practitioners, the symposium is designed to stimulate serious thinking on a single global challenge. If one is at all in doubt about this being a different world, consider that there are now 193 counties following a labyrinth of political systems and economic models, and a global population that now exceeds 7 billion.

Just as the symposium reaches out to challenge the assumptions and understanding of the PLU campus community, so too is it intended to reach out to the broader Puget Sound Community.

Previous symposia have been Legacies of the Shoah: Understanding Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, China: Bridges for a New Century, Norway’s Pathways to Peace, Advances in Global Health by Non-Governmental Organizations, Understanding the World though Sports and Recreation and Our Thirsty Planet – A look at Earth’s most precious resource.




FEBRUARY 25-26, 2016

“Resilience”, derived the from Latin resilire, meaning to rebound or recoil, was first used in the early seventeenth century to describe the ability of materials such as wood, iron and bronze to withstand severe loads without breaking. Used now in a wide range of fields including epidemiology, psychology, business, biology and ecological science, public policy, post-disaster recovery and community development, the term has evolved into a concept that describes the capacity to withstand and overcome the stress and devastation related to traumatic events such as violent conflict, forced migration, major epidemics, natural disasters and climate change.

The 2016 Wang Center Symposium will gather scholars, writers, artists and practitioners to explore the concept of resilience in individuals, communities, organisms, organizations and systems from an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspective. It seeks a complex and multifaceted understanding of what one author describes as the “dynamic process encompassing positive adaptation within the context of significant adversity.”1 The two-day conference will attempt to answer some of the following questions: What factors contribute to resilience? Are these factors intrinsic or extrinsic? Are there cultural, social, economic and environmental factors that can contribute to, or impede, the efforts of the most vulnerable to overcome adversity? Are individual, ecological and social resilience(s) interrelated? Can resilience be “built” or “learned”? What do natural processes teach us about resilience? How helpful is it to develop resilience-based policies? What are examples of effective and creative responses for nurturing resilience beyond the trauma of devastation? What might these responses teach us about the nature and dimensions of resilience? Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Biological and ecological resilience
  • Case Studies in post-trauma resilience
  • Class, ethnicity, race and/or gender and resilience
  • Disaster risk-reduction and resilience
  • Genealogies of resilience
  • Interconnections among individual, social and ecological resilience
  • Neuropsychology of resilience
  • Resilience-focused policy and institutionalization
  • Arts and self-expression (film, literature, testimony, etc.) and resilience
  • “Seeding” resilience, literally and figuratively
  • Theological, religious and inter-faith approaches to resilience
  • Transitional Justice and Post-conflict resilience
  • Vulnerability and resilience in the context of climate change

1 Luther, Cichetti and Becker. “The Construct of Resilience: A Critical Evaluation and Guidelines for Future Work”. Child Development Volume 71, Issue 3, pages 543–562, May/June 2000.