UWC Alumni Head to Second West Coast Conference

Emily Lin-Jones

Last year Whitman held the first-ever United World Colleges (UWC) conference on the West Coast, organized by Whitman students in partnership with the college. This year the tradition will be continued with a three-day conference at the College of Idaho from April 5-7, which several Whitman students will be attending.

UWC is a coalition of colleges, schools and educational programs that recruit students from around the world. UWC promotes a curriculum focused on international issues and working towards a future of global peace and sustainability. The Davis United World College Scholars Program is the world’s largest privately funded international scholarship program, awarding grants for UWC students to study at 90 partner institutions in the United States, including Whitman.

Since most of the Davis partner institutions are located on the East Coast, UWC alumni from Whitman and schools like Lewis & Clark have more limited experience in forming an intercollegiate community. Last year’s conference was an attempt to bring the spirit of the UWC community in the eastern United States to a West Coast setting.

“Initially at least, the hope was that having conferences like this would start attracting more UWC students to the West Coast,” said junior Thabo Liphoto, a UWC alumnus who is attending the conference.

Last year’s conference attracted UWC alumni from around the country and involved workshops and a day of community service. This year’s conference will focus on the theme of “Globalization and the Loss of Culture.”

Generally the conference provides an opportunity for UWC alumni to reconnect with each other and with the values and international perspective they learned during their time in UWC programs, explained sophomore Stephen Moerane.

“At any UWC conference there’s going to be a lot of emphasis on UWC values which you don’t find here at Whitman,” he said. “Any student could definitely benefit from UWC values. I know there are a lot of people [here] who are concerned about the environment or concerned about peace, but there’s not a lot of interest on an international scale. Mostly we concentrate on international issues.”

The trip is being funded in part by the Beyond Borders Club and leftover money from last year’s conference. Like with the conference, this year’s trip is mostly being organized by interested UWC alumni and other non-UWC students, mostly international.

“The students were the main coordinators. We staff just supported the idea,” said International Student and Scholar Advisor Kris Barry of last year’s conference, noting that the situation was similar this year. Barry spoke positively of the UWC program and its effects on students even after graduation.

“I see it as a way of bringing world citizens together,” she said. “It’s really kind of grassroots.”