Global Scholars host multi-panel event 'The Future of Southeast Asia'

By Hannah Sherwindt '18, Global Scholars candidate

Poly’s Global Initiatives Program (GIP) works to educate and inspire students to become citizens of the world by hosting various travel programs, cultural immersion opportunities, and events. GIP’s most recent event was “The Future of Southeast Asia”, a multi-panel educational event focused on exploring religious, political, and territorial issues in the region. Along with GIP leaders Ms. Diederich and Mr. Caragher, fellow Global Scholar Ian D. ‘18 and I partnered with the Los Angeles World Affairs Council (LAWAC) to arrange the event, select speakers, and moderate the panels. We were able to find this event through a grant made available thanks to the joint efforts of the Poly Advancement Office and our Facing Global Challenges course.

The event featured expert panelists discussing topical regional issues ranging from territorial disputes in the South China Sea to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. Panelists included Thai Consul General Tanee Sangrat; Indonesian businessman and real estate executive Thomas Malayil; Indonesian Consul for Information, Cultural, and Social Affairs Endang Wirawan; religious scholar and public intellectual Reza Aslan; and UCLA professor Dr. George Dutton.

After a short introduction by LAWAC’s CEO and four-time Emmy-winning journalist Terry McCarthy, our program began with a panel on political issues and international relations in Southeast Asia. This first panel was both engaging and interactive, as students had the opportunity to win t-shirts by answering Asia-related questions asked by the Thai Consul General. The second panel of the night featured Mr. Aslan and Dr. Dutton, and focused on issues of religious extremism in Southeast Asia. Moderated by Ian D. ‘18, this panel brought to light the importance of recognizing historical ethnic and religious tensions and the intersection of national and religious identities when discussing international disputes.

As Poly’s first entirely student-organized GIP event of this scale, “The Future of Southeast Asia” was a remarkable success. In attendance were students, parents, and faculty, as well as guests from outside the Poly community. In the words of student attendee Nick W. ‘18, “the two exceptional panels provided insight into the religious and geopolitical dynamics of a region just now reaching international dominance.” We hope that guests left the event with both a more nuanced understanding of the challenges facing Southeast Asia and a newfound interest in engaging in global news and affairs.