Venezuela symposium examines issues pertinent to development

Over 150 people attended Glendon’s 14th Annual International Studies Symposium, Venezuela: From Bolívar to Chávez, on Feb. 28 to learn about the social policies, economics and trade as well as the security issues affecting this Latin American country.

The keynote address was given by Gregory Wilpert (left), a German-American sociologist and freelance writer, editor of and author of Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History & Policies of the Chávez Government (2007). There were several speakers from Canada and the US, including James Counts Early, director of cultural heritage policy at the Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution. Early was part of a panel discussion looking at North American and Venezuelan relations.

Maria Victor, a Venezuelan sociologist and policy analyst, spoke about geopolitics and security at the conference, along with writer, journalist and activist Judy Rebick, former president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women from 1990 to 1993 and co-founder of – an online news and discussion site. Rebick is the Canadian Auto Workers Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice & Democracy at Ryerson University and the author of Transforming Power: From the Personal to the Political (2009).

Mirna Quero de Peña, consul general of the Venezuelan Consulate in Toronto and José Rodriguez de la Sierra, head of the political section of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Canada, also attended the symposium.

Participants could attend either “Spanning the Americas: North America & Venezuelan Relations” or “Economic & Trade Perspectives on Venezuelan Development: Past, Present & Future” as one of the first panels of the day. They were then able to choose between “The Geopolitics & Security of Venezuela in Latin America” and “The Development of Venezuelan Social Policies” as the second panel. The four panels examined issues highly pertinent to the development of Venezuela. 

During the intermission, guests sampled authentic Venezuelan inspired cuisine and listened to a performance by Eliana Cuevas (right), a Venezuelan-born, Toronto-based Latin American vocalist, and her band. Following Wilpert’s keynote speech, everyone was invited to attend the final panel of the day, “Chávez: The Man and the Movement”.

The symposium was organized by the 2008-2009 Independent Research Committee (IRC) of Glendon’s International Studies Program, which consists of fourth-year students Andrew Campbell, Katherine Hall, Nicholas Hersh, Andrea Hiebert, Avril Lang, Ekaterina Malyuzhinets and Clara Wong.

Glendon’s annual International Studies Symposium is a project entirely conceived and managed by students. It was initiated during the 1995-1996 academic year by a group of highly motivated students, eager to deepen their knowledge and experience of foreign countries or regions and their relationship with Canada. The key to the project’s success lies mainly in the boundless enthusiasm, dedication and creativity of those involved.

Left: Members of the current Independent Research Committee, Andrea Hiebert (front left), Clara Wong, Ekaterina Malyuzhinets, Avril Lang, Andrew Campbell (back left), Katherine Hall and Nicholas Hersh

In 2003, the symposium on Russia: The Challenge of Change was the recipient of the Student Leadership in Internationalization Award from the Canadian Bureau for International Education; and in 2004 the symposium on India: The Challenges to an Emerging Power received the Award for Excellence in Internationalization from Scotiabank and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

For more about the Venezuela symposium, visit the Venezuela: From Bolivar to Chávez  Web site. Pictures of the conference will be uploaded shortly. For information about previous projects, visit Glendon’s International Studies Web site.

The 15th Annual International Studies Symposium, planned for 2009-2010, will focus on the Caribbean Islands.

Submitted to YFile by Clara Wong, communications & logistics director of the Independent Research Committee on Venezuela