Peter Schwartzman, Associate Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies, described the Bioneers enviornmental conference as “holistic,” covering everything from local food to social justice.
A branch of the Conference, called Beaming Bioneers, will be held at Knox Nov. 4-6. The event, which Schwartzman was influencial in bringing to Knox, will include DVDs of the keynote speakers from the main conference in California as well as 12-15 local workshops and discussions, including topics such as human trafficking, local energy solutions, nonviolence and monarch butterflies.
The broad range of subjects “encourages us to break down boundaries of what we feel responsible for,” post-baccalaureate and member of the event’s steering committee Michelle Gerber said.
The pairing of big name speakers with local workshops allows students to see “people who are just like you” and are making a difference, as well as people working on large international projects, sophomore Carrie Stephen said, who attended the conference last year.
For the past 10 years, as many as 63 Knox students have been traveling to Bioneers conferences.
Schwartzman described the event as “an upper conference.” It has a positive emphasis, focusing on what people are doing.
“It revitalizes me, rejuvenates me,” he said.
The conference “helped me realize my potential,” Stephen said.
Another past participant in Bioneers, junior Yeojin Yi, also loved the experience.
“People come together and share their knowledge to bring awareness of our environment,” she said.
“It’s really exciting,” Gerber said, “because it gives us a chance to come together as a community and push ourselves to make some positive changes.”
Schwartzman hopes city council members, religious leaders and other Galesburg community members will come together at the conference; he has planned a community discussion Saturday night for this purpose.
“It’s one thing to go to Louisville, but that’s not our community; to bring it here has such a greater power potential,” Schwartzman said.
Schwartzman first approached Bioneers about having a Beaming Bioneers event at Knox because it was becoming economically prohibitive for so many students to travel to Louisville, Ky., where Knox students attended the conference in the past.
According to Schwartzman, their answer was, “‘Absolutely, we’d love for you to host it,’” and a steering committee including Schwartzman and three post-baccalaureate students was formed. They began planning for the event.
The committee members are now working out the last of the details for the conference and focusing on advertising.
Although everyone has high hopes that many students will take advantage of having the conference so close, Schwartman worries about attendance, in particular whether students will commit to at least a full day, which he said is necessary for the full experience.
“You have to immerse yourself in it,” he said.
Knox and the steering committee are doing their best to make the conference accessible to everyone. It is free to Knox staff, students at any school and unemployed people. The charge for all others is $10 for the entire conference.
“That’s really a reflection on Knox College and the values that it holds … We want it to be inclusive,” Schwartzman said, adding that the college has dedicated significant resources to making the conference possible.