Academic scholarship at its finest was on full display at the Rockville Campus February 26 during the 10th annual Student and Alumni Colloquium. The event showcased intensive research undertaken by undergraduates and alumni across all academic disciplines, linked together by the theme of this year’s Colloquium, Building a Culture of Respect: Promoting Global Awareness Through Diversity, Inclusion, and Cross-Cultural Understanding. More than 20 students and alumni presented their findings on diverse topics to which they felt both personally and emotionally connected.
Michael Crittenden, a retired Army combat medic in his second semester at MC, presented his paper, Robbing the Future by Stealing the Past: The Effects of Conflict on the Cultural Heritage of Iraq and the World. An audience of more than 130 listened as Crittenden flashed images of ancient historical sites where priceless Iraqi artifacts have been either destroyed or looted—sites Crittenden himself is familiar with, having taken part in operations to recover these stolen artifacts during his 18-month tour of duty in Iraq. Reliving his wartime experience through the research he undertook was emotionally taxing for Crittenden, and yet he feels it is important to pay homage to what happened.
“I honestly never agreed with why we were over [in Iraq], but I feel it’s very important that the things that were sold can be brought back, and that the things that are there now can be protected,” said Crittenden. “Because when we left that country, that’s when ISIS pulled in and all those places that I had visited, many of them were destroyed … No one will ever be able to visit them, see them. I’ll never be able to bring my son there.”
I embodied the main character after myself because I always wanted a deeper connection with my culture
A strong pull toward the past and her African American heritage is what inspired Anjenee Cannon, an MC student who will graduate in the spring with an AA in general studies and pursue a BA in creative writing. For her project, Cannon wrote an original short story, The Sweetest December, which explores the budding relationship between a biracial college student from Brooklyn and her grandmother, an elderly black woman from the South.
“I went to private schools all my life, and it wasn’t until I got to college that I started learning about black history,” said Cannon, who had to delve deep into the fraught history of African Americans and her own family history in order to write her story. “I embodied the main character after myself because I always wanted a deeper connection with my culture, and I embodied Maybelline after my own [90-year-old] grandmother.”
The colloquium is part of the Global Nexus Program led by Enas Elhanafi, who is also associate director of Community Engagement at MC. She could not have been happier with this year’s colloquium. “All topics presented were thoughtful, informative, and deeply concerned about real-world issues, which reflects students’ strong sense of social responsibility and accountability toward what happens around the world,” Elhanafi said. “Each student presented a piece of the colloquium theme puzzle. At the end, they created together a magnificent, lively, and culturally rich mosaic that inspired a global connection through well-supported perspectives on important ideas and issues. It was a true engaged learning experience for all, students and attendees.”
Global Nexus’s focus is on community-engaged learning experiences, according to Elhanafi; it aims to enrich minds, engage hearts, and transform communities by increasing knowledge and understanding of global communities and their cultures. It helps individuals and communities to connect locally and globally through education, partnerships, advocacy, and service, building on the international nature of Montgomery College, where there are more than 170 countries represented. To that end, the 2019 Colloquium seemed to be the living embodiment of Global Nexus’s values and initiatives.
Perhaps Cannon summarized the experience best: “I came to the colloquium hoping to inspire others with my project, and instead I left feeling even more inspired by the projects of my fellow presenters. That is the beauty of the colloquium.”