On May 1, 2014, 20 people came out to hear and ask questions about the conflict in Syria, with Prof. Denis Sullivan as the night’s guest speaker. Prof. Sullivan is the Director of the Boston Consortium for Arab Region Studies, and Professor and Co-Director at Northeastern’s Middle East Center for Peace, Culture & Development. He frequently travels to the Middle East, with much of his involvement being around the refugee crisis in Jordan.
The session started with an introduction by Laur Fisher, who organized the event. “I felt dumb around my friends not knowing what was going on in the world, so I stopped talking about. That’s why I’m holding this — to be informed, to be a global citizen.”
“This session is about you,” she continued, “It’s about what interests you, it’s about what you want to know. And what I’m committed to, and what I know Denis is committed to, is getting all your questions answered.”
After a one of the participants proposed it, we adopt a group rule: there are no dumb questions.
Prof. Sullivan was lively, straight-forward, passionate, and incredibly knowledgeable. We discussed the beginnings and spreading of the Arab Spring, the state of Syria before and after the revolution, the state and numbers of refugees in neighboring countries, and the international response.
The event was slated to end at 7PM, but at 7:40PM there were still almost 20 people in the room asking questions.
“As a professor and public speaker,” Denis wrote, after the event, “one who tends to have ‘captive audiences’ (students required to attend lectures/presentations), I was so pleased to speak to your audience, 100% of whom WANT to be there, want to be informed about critical issues facing our society and our world community, and want to contribute to a meaningful discussion, with an overall goal of ‘so how can I help?’”
“This was a great forum that truly felt accessible,” said one participant, in an anonymous survey. “The professor did a great job breaking the issues down and addressing the foundational knowledge of the issue that many may have missed, while also emphasizing its complexity. Thanks so much for providing this opportunity for the community!”
The next session is on Ukraine (June 23), where Asbed Kotchikian, Senior Lecturer at Bentley University’s Global Studies Department, will be speaking.