The Conference on World Affairs places its finger on the pulse of its own community as it aims to bring new life to a long-held tradition.
You’re staring into the program, pen in hand, trying to decide how to fit hundreds of hours of ideas and intellect into your schedule of just five short days. It’s a dilemma every Boulderite has experienced as the array of flags are raised around CU’s campus each spring.
The event promises to bring a world of thought leaders together in one place; this year is no different. This April 10-14, attendees will have the opportunity to see speakers such as Dava Newman, former deputy administrator of NASA and creator of the Bio-Suit; Chris Lehnertz, superintendent of the Grand Canyon National Park and CU alumna; Lizz Winstead, co-creator and former head writer of The Daily Show; and Chris Borland, former all-American linebacker, NFL football player and head injury prevention advocate.
But while committee members want to honor the beloved tradition, now in its 69th year, the Conference on World Affairs has looked to revamp its vision.
Chairwoman Betsy Hand and Director John Griffin explained several new initiatives in place for the 2017 production.
Hometown Conversations, for example, embraces a “think global, act local” philosophy. Led by experts from all around the world with support from local groups involved in the issue, this year’s featured topics are sanctuary cities and homelessness. The addition is intended to support CWA’s mission to be of service to real-world problems that affect our community, our country and our planet.
Additionally, one CWA@Night panel will be held off-campus at the Dairy Art Center to accommodate the working professional, which may alleviate the generational gap.
For those who are attending CWA for the first time, Griffin’s advice is this: “Approach it like an intellectual adventure. Resist that temptation to say, Well, I’m a political scientist, so I’m going to go to these things that are in my field. Take advantage of the opportunity to expose yourself to a whole range of experiences.”
Despite changes, Hand and Griffin agree that “[CWA] reflects the values and interests of the community, and it always will.”
Fiction: CWA is a closed organization.
Fact: No secret handshake required—CWA is a grassroots, bottom-up organization. Anyone who wants to nominate a speaker or participate can, and there are many ways to be involved. The program has over 600 volunteers.
Fiction: Lectures only. Sit down and shhh!
Fact: There are multiple opportunities and formats for every type of learning style, including Q&As, roundtable, book club and more.
Fiction: No millennials allowed!
Fact: CWA encourages younger audiences to attend. In fact, new this year is Speed Chatting, which gives students priority to sit with speakers for 10 minutes at a time to test the waters.
Fiction: Attendees will be charged an entrance fee.
Fact: Put those wallets away because CWA continues to be free of charge! This is made possible by volunteers, financial supporters, and speakers, who attend the event on their own dime.