About 120 high school students from countries all over the world met at Wake Forest University on Monday night for a world café.

However, the students weren’t feasting on such global fare as Wiener schnitzel, foie gras and churros. Instead, they were participating in a group discussion based on a world café method as part of the 2013 International Baccalaureate World Student Conference.

“It’s really very exciting because Wake Forest is the first American university to be chosen to host the IB World Student Conference,” said Martha Allman, dean of admissions at Wake Forest.

Wake Forest is hosting the five-day international conference, which started Monday and will run through Friday. It is one of four such conferences. A number of the high school students are from the United States, including 30 from North Carolina, but many come from such countries as China, Denmark, Guatemala and Uganda.

The International Baccalaureate program is a course of study that presents a liberal arts curriculum from a global perspective, and includes university-level work and required examinations that are developed and marked on an international standard. Allman and Allan Louden, chair of Wake Forest’s communication department, are the local coordinators for the conference, which was a joint effort among the International Baccalaureate Schools of North Carolina association, Wake Forest and International Baccalaureate world organizations, Allman said.

Additionally, Wake Forest has had partnerships with local International Baccalaureate schools — Parkland International Baccalaureate Magnet School and Paisley International Baccalaureate Magnet School — since 2008. Other conference sites are Hong Kong; Coventry, United Kingdom; and Vancouver, British Columbia.

“The academic rigor of the program is very strong,” Allman said. “The students are interested in a global view of diversity and inclusion. They’re very service-minded and arts-minded. It’s a very good match for the kinds of students that Wake Forest looks at.”

The purpose of the event, “Generation Y World Café,” was for the students to discuss global issues in regard to theories about their particular generation. Wake Forest Provost Rogan Kersh led the discussion and spoke about characteristics central to the heart of the generation’s cohorts, those ages 18-24. “You all are more different as a group from previous generations than generations that have come before you,” Kersh said to the students.

The world café was the first of many events the students are attending during the conference. The students will examine the theme of the conference, “Social Justice: Contemplating the Past, Confronting the Future,” by exploring historical connections, judicial actions, social entrepreneurship and educational policy in the context of social justice. On Tuesday, the students watched a film and examined the Innocence Project and the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice.

In 1985, Darryl Hunt was convicted twice of the 1984 murder of Deborah Sykes. DNA results proved Hunt’s innocence in 1994, but it took 10 years of legal appeals to exonerate him. In 2004, the DNA profile from the crime scene was run in the state database at the request of Hunt’s attorneys, and the results matched a man incarcerated for another murder. Hunt was freed in 2005.

After the film, the students had the opportunity to speak with Hunt and Mark Rabil, who served as Hunt’s original trial attorney and worked on the case for almost 20 years. Rabil now leads the Wake Forest School of Law’s Innocence Project.

Also following the social justice theme, the students plan to tour the International Civil Rights Center and Museum on Thursday. On Friday, the final day of the conference, the students will present projects they have been working on throughout the week in Global Action Teams.

“Having all these students working together on projects is something we think is going to be a wonderful international bridge-building opportunity,” Allman said.

“We hope it provides them food for thought about social justice and other universal concerns. When we have this many bright, young people thinking about these issues and solutions to these issues, that’s a wonderful thing for this world.”


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