MC ‘Community Conversations' series designed to encourage campus discussion about Iraq

March 6, 2003

Reprinted from the Highland Echo
Written by: David Rasnake, Communications Assistant

With the prospect of war with Iraq looming, a group of Maryville College faculty are hoping to encourage an open dialogue about the issue with three upcoming community events. Organized by Drs. Maria Siopsis and Crystal Wright, the series, entitled “The Iraq Question in Real Time,” will bring representatives from the community, government officials, and experts together for a month of discussions and lectures on the different issues surrounding the “Iraq Question.”

On Thursday, March 27, MC will host speaker Jon Wolfsthal, Deputy Director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Wolfsthal, an expert on arms control and proliferation of nuclear weapons, is the author of several books, including his most recent, Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction, with Joseph Cirincione and Miriam Rajkumar. Wolfsthal will speak and then respond to questions about the current situation with Iraq, or arms proliferation in general. The event begins at 7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center Music Hall.

Filmmaker Gerard Ungerman will visit the MC campus on Tuesday, April 8 to show his documentary expose “Hidden Wars of Desert Storm.” Narrated by actor John Hart and including interviews with notables General Norman Schwarzkopf and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, the film “explores some of the more controversial questions of the [last] war,” according to Ungerman. The film will be presented at 7 p.m. in Wilson Chapel; a question and answer session with Ungerman will follow.

The series will conclude Tuesday, April 15 with a panel discussion. Representatives from the community, activists, experts, and officials will gather to discuss issues raised by the other sessions. Panelists include Charles Bowers, retired US Ambassador to Europe and Latin America, and a representative from the Oak Ridge Peace Alliance. MC Assistant Professor of History Dr. Dan Klingensmith will moderate the discussion. The forum begins at 7 p.m. in Wilson Chapel.

The purpose of the series, according to psychology professor and “Community Conversations” organizer Dr. Crystal Wright, is to encourage community members to “consider with an open mind the many different perspectives on current political and social issues in light of ongoing developments, and reflect on those ideas in view of their own knowledge, values, and experiences.”

Wright emphasized that the events intend only to provide an opportunity for open discussion and the knowledge individuals need to take informed stances on global issues: “Our intent is to present to the Maryville College community as much information and as many perspectives as we can in order to facilitate individuals' development of their own opinions,” stated Wright. She expressed that the series events are designed to be “unbiased and informative” rather than persuasive.

Organizers encourage all MC community members to both attend and use the information provided to better understand their own positions on the issue. Ultimately, Wright and others involved in the “Community Conversations” series see events of this kind as a vital part of the college community: “The Maryville College mission statement begins by saying that ‘Maryville College prepares students for lives of citizenship and leadership...,’ and the Community Conversations series is an important part of this process of developing ourselves as engaged citizens and leaders,” Wright said.

This is the first year for the “Community Conversations” series, which organizers hope will become an annual event.

All of this year’s events are free and open to the public.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2013 semester is 1,168.