Prominent panellists on Egypt due at Glendon symposium

The 13th Annual International Studies Symposium, Beyond Myths: Dialogues on Contemporary Egypt, organized by Glendon’s Independent Study Committee (ISC), is set to go on Saturday, Feb. 23, with the participation of several high-profile politicians, scholars and members of Toronto’s Arab community.

The ISC is also looking for volunteers to help make the symposium a success and it is trying to raise funds for an educational trip to Egypt in the spring.

Among those participating in the symposium are Farkhonda Hassan, secretary general of the National Council for Women in Egypt; Aida Graff, president of the Arab Community Centre of Toronto; Yahya El Wathik Bellah Ahmed, commercial consul of Egypt in Toronto; Heba Nassar, head of the Economics Department at Cairo University; Michael Grant, desk officer for Egypt at Canada’s Department of External Affairs; Emad Shahin, a visiting professor at Harvard University from the American University in Cairo; and several scholars from various Canadian universities working in related areas.

The symposium, created and mounted entirely by seven undergraduate students in Glendon’s Independent Studies Program, will provide a full day of interactive panel discussions, keynote addresses, as well as Egyptian cuisine and entertainment. With the objective to build relationships between Egypt and Canada and to promote a broader understanding of Egypt within the international framework, the symposium will also provide participants with the opportunity to become more informed of the religious, economic and political dilemmas faced by this modernizing state.

Left: Symposium organizers from Glendon’s International Studies Program, Genevieve Light (left), Anais Kadian, Laura Monteith, Rachael Dempsey, Hani El Masry, Jenilee Ward and Kate Bobko

The students chose Egypt  as this year’s theme because it is the oldest and most populous country in the Middle East and its political importance has shaped the region throughout its history. In addition, organizers believe Egypt’s geographical position and geopolitical situation have had an effect on its economic development and its political relations with neighbouring states.

As it shapes its modern identity, Egypt must balance the demands of a modern state. This includes joining good governance, democratization and human rights with its traditions rooted in ancient cultures and religions. The social, political and economic forces influencing the formation of this nation-state make Egypt a fascinating case for students of international studies.

But the symposium is much more than a conference. All through the 2007 fall term, the seven participating students attended a series of seminars on Egypt, aimed at providing them with a solid foundation of knowledge about the region and engaging them in research on specific related topics.

While the symposium is the largest and most public manifestation of the project, a field research trip to Egypt is proposed for the spring along with the publication of the symposium’s proceedings and research papers during the summer.

The success of these major undertakings is heavily dependent on the help of volunteers for the symposium and of donations which are crucial for the realization of the field trip and the publication.

The organizing committee is encouraging students to volunteer for various tasks during the day of Feb. 23rd. Help is needed for setting up, registration, ushering, coat-check and clean-up. Anyone interested in helping out is asked to contact the symposium’s director of logistics, Hani El Masry, at

Donations to the field trip and the publication are very warmly welcomed. They can be directed to Marie-Thérèse Chaput, Glendon’s director of advancement, by calling 416-487-6801 or by e-mail at (if a tax receipt is needed). Donations can also be made online at the Egypt Symposium Web site (if tax receipts are not required), where additional information about the symposium and the project, as well as a review of previous such events, can be found.

Submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny.