Spotlight on Education: EWC International Graduate Student Conference Attracts Global Participation

Click the audio icon to listen to the keynote address by EWC Non-resident Senior Fellow Marcus Noland.


Conference participants engage in discussion following Marcus Noland’s keynote address.


Conference Co-chair Carl Polley welcomes the conference participants.


Conference Co-chair Neneng Rosmy presents the conference report.


Dancers from Ka Pa Hula O Kauanoe O Wa'ahila halau perform a welcoming hula and chant.


EWC Non-Resident Senior Fellow Marcus Noland delivers keynote address at conference.


Conference participants engage in discussion following Marcus Noland’s keynote address.


Some of the conference presenters gather to share their reflections after the keynote address.

"The IGSC started out just less than ten years ago as a student discussion series, internal to the East-West Center,” reflected conference co-chair Carl Polley during his opening address. “It has now become one of the largest international graduate student conferences in the Asia Pacific region.” 


Now in its eighth year, the East-West Center’s International Graduate Student Conference (IGSC) is steadily increasing in international scope and prestige, attracting more students from the U.S. mainland and universities in other countries than ever before. “The high turnout reflects, especially in precarious economic times, the perceived value of a face to face exchange of ideas in a welcoming setting, the relatively small number of graduate student conferences widely addressing the Asia Pacific, and the growing visibility of the East-West Center as a venue for collaboration by serious students of the region,” commented EWC Education Program Director Terance Bigalke.


Over 140 graduate students representing 25 countries from 54 different universities across the United States and Asia Pacific region gathered at the EWC’s Hawai‘i Imin International Conference Center to present their research. The interdisciplinary gathering, planned and organized by EWC graduate degree fellows as an exercise in leadership, is the largest of its kind worldwide. This year the IGSC organizers also raised more than $4,000 to help support conference expenses. 


The primarily self-funded presenters were selected from more than 300 graduate students who submitted paper abstracts. Close to 60 of the presenters are from outside the U.S., more than 40 are from Hawai‘i, and the remainder are from the U.S. mainland. Thirty-seven EWC fellows’ abstracts were accepted this year through the blind review process.


"The unique thing about the IGSC is the vast diversity of the topics and the high quality of the presentations,” remarked conference co-chair Neneng Rosmy. “Not only is it a great opportunity for students to get experience presenting their papers, but they also receive valuable feedback and excellent, albeit sometimes challenging, questions from the audience. As one of the biggest scholarly gatherings of international students in the world, it provides a great place to learn from each other's research." 


Mary Hammond, EWC Dean of Education, noted the level of professionalism and collegiality at the conference. She recalled a few occasions where a co-panelist or audience member offered a recent research study to a speaker as a source for additional information, and she observed audience members sharing innovative ideas on how to take the research presented to the next phase.  “The feedback was truly appreciated.”


The conference also reunited several friends from Nepal who were graduate students on Fulbright fellowships across the U.S. Their reunion sparked a deep dialogue about their learning on their respective campuses and ways to implement what they are learning back home when they finish.


The three-day conference held in mid-February included nearly 40 panel sessions in a number of areas focusing on the Asia Pacific region and its interactions with the United States. Many sessions were filled to capacity with standing room only. Panel topics ranged from Regional Economic Cooperation to Energy Security and Climate Change, from Dispute Resolution and Peacekeeping to Inequality in Education, and from Civil Advocacy and Ethnic Identity to Sexuality and Gender Equity.


EWC Non-resident Senior Fellow Marcus Noland, a leading economist with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, delivered the conference’s keynote address on the “Twilight of Globalization? A View from the Asia Pacific." In his presentation he emphasized that “the sustainability of globalization will reflect an interplay of both interstate politics at the diplomatic level and domestic politics within individual countries.”  He also outlined the recent history of economic challenges in the Asia Pacific and the role of international institutions leading up to the current global financial crisis. As one ideological effect of the financial crisis, he stated, “You will see less pressure through the U.S. Government and less pressure from the IMF and other organizations for countries in Asia to liberalize their external finance.” Click hereto listen to the keynote address.


Center researchers and staff, as well as University of Hawai‘i faculty provided collaboration critical for the conference’s continued success through participation on abstract review committees, moderating panels, and mentoring. "Our success is fueled by many years of work and dedication, from student volunteers, East-West Center staff, UH faculty, and from visiting professors," stated Polley.