Interdisciplinary arts conference enlightens students

Wilfrid Laurier University’s Religion and Culture Society hosted its tenth annual Interdisciplinary Arts Conference, “Wake Up! The World Awaits You” on Saturday, Mar 26. The conference featured 14 student presenters, representing both undergraduate and graduate programs at WLU, a keynote performance by beloved musician Fred Penner, and a finale performance by musician Irshad Khan, and poet and spoken word artist Sheniz Janmohamed.

The Religion and Culture Society’s nine executive members began organizing the conference in September. The group’s vice president Laura de Buono explained, “We opened it up for students from every graduate and undergraduate program in Ontario because the purpose of the event is to be broad and inclusive.”

President Helen Reid summed up the event. “Everyone stepped up to the plate and made decisions together, it was truly a transparent and collective effort.” They received a large numbers of applications, settling on 14 presenters all from Laurier, and representing a variety of programs including global studies, film, English, and religion and culture. Each of the lectures explored various subjects, all of which were connected, in some way, to the theme of the conference. The five judges, two graduate and three undergraduate students, responsible for reviewing presentations awarded the best presentations honours to undergraduate student Judith Ellen Brunton and to graduate student Saliha Chattoo – both religion and culture students.

The opportunity to feature Khan and Penner as performers in the conference occurred by chance. After seeing him in concert in the fall, Reid contacted Khan to tell him about the conference, and to ask him if he would like to partake in it. He eagerly accepted. Penner became involved in the IAC after Reid rediscovered his music, and felt compelled to reach out to him and express how moved she was by him. He too expressed his desire to participate in the conference, and at the end of February, he was named the event’s keynote performer. Penner’s performance was engaging and enlightening, with him serenading the audience of approximately 150 people in the Senate and Board Chamber with some of his most beloved songs.

Both Reid and De Buono were extremely pleased with the turnout for the event. In addition to the substantial audience at the Penner performance, the classroom presentations also featured an impressive crowd, with one talk drawing approximately thirty people. Reid excitedly proclaimed, “The conference definitely could not have gone better.”

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