20th Anniversary Committee Builds Toward a Significant Milestone
As Soka University of America prepares to celebrate two decades of educating global citizens on May 3, 2021, it has announced a 20th Anniversary Steering Committee to lead initiatives to mark the milestone and expand the university’s singular mission.
The Steering Committee comprises the Soka Leadership Council, two representatives of the Soka Student Union, one representative of the Faculty Executive Committee, Director of Community Relations Wendy Harder, Director of the Library Hiroko Tomono, and Professor Phat Vu. Its work will be carried out by seven project-based subcommittees.
“The overall theme is to recommit to the principles upon which SUA was founded and particularly to our mission of education for global citizenship,” President Ed Feasel said. “I was one of the founding members of the Aliso Viejo campus, and at the beginning we focused a lot on that mission in the curriculum. But over this last year, given what is happening in society and also at SUA, I have really come to feel that education for global citizenship is also very much about an ethic or value that people hold. There are spiritual and ethical dimensions to our mission that I don’t think we have emphasized, but which are needed right now.”
Following the unprecedented global events and challenges of 2020, including incidents on Soka’s campus, it became clear to university leaders that the founding principles need to be more thoroughly and consistently modeled.
“The issues that we are confronting regarding race,” Feasel said, “are part of this effort to foster global citizens.” To support that goal, in addition to the 20th Anniversary Committee’s work, the university will also collaborate closely with the new Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Human Rights and its new Unity and Diversity Council, whose efforts will be more clearly defined next semester.
What it takes to create culture
The effort to recommit to the founding principles of SUA requires fostering a culture of global citizenship that can simultaneously be studied, examined, discussed, and experienced. (A thorough review of those principles can be found on a new 20th anniversary web page, which also showcases a timeline of milestones over past decades.)
“The second stage of SUA is global citizenship in action, moving from a theoretical to an actual experience of being a global citizen,” Feasel said.
To that end, the new committee’s work will span four broad areas: dialogic, through a number of new centers and events that will curate conversations across campus communities; pedagogical, with a refreshed implementation of the study of global citizenship across curricula; environmental, with campus updates to honor SUA founder Daisaku Ikeda’s unique definition of global citizenship; and a new Soka Global Citizen Award annually presented to an individual who embodies global citizenship.
While the qualities of global citizenship—wisdom, compassion, and courage—are innate, they are not dominant in our society, Feasel said. “It takes concerted effort to live by those qualities. There should be a global citizenship class at every level of education in every school throughout the world, because I think that’s what’s needed to enhance those qualities in individuals in society so that we then make better decisions, take better action, and make better policies.”
If SUA is able to successfully convey and practice its founding principles, Feasel said, the university can become a model for educational institutions around the world.
Bringing the plan to life
To implement the 20th Anniversary Committee’s various initiatives, the following seven subcommittees have been formed:
- Curriculum and Mission Subcommittee, co-chaired by Michael Weiner, Tomoko Takahashi, and Kevin Moncrief, will examine how to meaningfully embed Soka’s mission of fostering global citizens more explicitly into its curriculum in this next phase of growth.
- Community Engagement Subcommittee, co-chaired by Kevin Moncrief, Hyon Moon and, Katherine King, is planning three community-wide presentations and dialogues on creating a culture of global citizenship, the importance of dialogue, and upholding and championing human rights.
- World Summit of Educators Subcommittee, co-chaired by Bryan Penprase and Tomoko Takahashi, will be planning the June 2021 World Summit, with a focus on education for global citizenship, which will include participants from all levels of the educational community. The summit was last held in 2016.
- Campus Enhancement Projects Subcommittee, chaired by Arch Asawa, will implement various campus projects to commemorate the 20th anniversary, supported by the Sohokai Alumni Association, which has pledged to raise $500,000 for the effort, of which $263,000 has already been raised. Enhancements include displaying the founding principles of Soka in the first floor atrium of Founder’s Hall, a new reception area on the third floor, new displays in Gandhi, Pauling, and Maathai halls, honoring the legacy of the namesake of each, and opening the special guest residence to the community.
- Theme-Related Events Subcommittee, co-chaired by Asawa and Wendy Harder, will soon develop programming in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions.
- Global Citizen Award Subcommittee, also co-chaired by Asawa and Harder, seeks to “recognize an individual for efforts, either throughout their life or for a major event/initiative, that embody these essential elements of global citizenship and address key issues facing society and the world” with a prize of $25,000 to further their work.
- 20th Anniversary Event Subcommittee, co-chaired Asawa, Harder and King, will oversee planning for Soka’s 20th anniversary dedication day, May 3, 2021.