On March 26, 2015, Peace Islands Institute (PII) held its 7th annual Academic Forum at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. The Academic Forum was formerly known as the Academic Dinner in years past. Last year, the event transitioned to include audience participation in the generation of thought and ideas around the topic of the event. This year, the Pennsylvania PII Advisory board agreed to rename the event to reflect the decision to conduct the event as a workshop that included a workshop leader and group facilitators driving the discussion around the event topic.
The theme of this year’s event was “Open letter to Gov. Tom Wolf: How can students be better prepared for success in higher education and beyond?” It was an interactive forum for expert educators from local institutions to brainstorm proposals and initiatives to help students be better prepared for higher education. Dr. Tim Horner was the MC and the workshop leader. The keynote speaker was Ms. Kathleen McGinty, Chief of Staff for the Governor of Pennsylvania.
The highlights of the event started with a keynote speech by Chief of Staff Kathleen McGinty. She was candid about the Governor’s education plan and spelled out multi-point key strategies on where the Governor stood. This was the foundation for what was to be a productive workshop that followed. The MC and workshop leader then explained how the workshops should be conducted and the roles of the facilitators at each table. Each of the tables were asked to brainstorm three ideas, have a group discussion about the gathered ideas, and then have a designated person at the table announce the ideas to the audience. Dr. Bill Madges of St. Joseph’s University documented those ideas real time and projected them to the audience as they were being announced. The workshop leader then asked each table to gain consensus on their top three from the table and to have those reported back to the audience.
At the conclusion of the event, a rough draft document was born with ideas collected from the participants. The MC announced that this valuable information will be formed into the open letter and, with approval from the Advisory Board, will be delivered to PA Governor Tom Wolf. The MC also announced that the letter can be shared with those interested in seeing it.