Symposium to offer context, dialogue on issues facing U.P.


Graphic courtesy of Beaumier U.P Heritage Center website

Justin Van't Hof

When it comes to events it can be hard to find one that tackles a topic people are interested in. With a large array of speakers and topics, that’s not the case for this year’s Sonderegger Symposium hosted by the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center and Center for U.P. Studies. The presentations focus on the theme of what it means to belong to a community and what it means to be an insider or outsider. 

The event takes place over Zoom on Friday, Nov. 6, from 8:15 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. There are two different rooms attendees can view presentations at and the full schedule is hosted at the Center for U.P. Studies page. 

“I like that the symposium has a sense of playfulness to it and then also weaves in heavy topics. The decolonization topics are a bit heavier and they cause people to have to wrestle with their own thoughts and ideas which I think is great,” Joe Lubig, Associate Dean for Education, Leadership and Public Service and one of the event planners, said. 

The topics include presentations from community members and faculty who have directly worked with or felt the theme of being an insider or outsider. Presentations on what is a Yooper, Native American school mascots, being LGBTQ in the U.P. and many others focused on topics from sports to invasive species. The group behind the planning of the event wanted the symposium to have broader appeal to attendees. 

“There’s a lot of things going on in our society with Black Lives Matter and immigration and all of these issues going on … For me as a scientist we always think of invasive species and the environmental history of the region. It made a lot of sense to think about who belongs in the U.P., who comes to the U.P. and how did we make this community we think of as the U.P.,” Jill Leonard, one of the event planners and a biology professor, said. 

The symposium will host keynote speaker, Michigan State Representative for the 23 District, Darrin Camilleri (D). He will speak on his experience as Michigan’s youngest Latino and first ever Maltese-American elected to the Legislature being elected in 2016. 

“He’s bringing that broader theme perspective of being an insider and outsider as a teacher moving into politics. I think he’ll be able to hit on those broader themes [being an insider or outsider] in his keynote address,” Lubig said. 

The symposium is free and open to NMU students and the general public. Dan Truckey,  Director of the Beaumier Center, encourages those attending to go outside of their comfort zone and learn more about the history and current issues facing the U.P. 

“Part of what the symposium is for is to educate students on campus about the broader issues about the U.P. Many students who come to school at NMU aren’t from the U.P. and oftentimes don’t know more than the surface level of what they can see around them,” Truckey said.  

One of the biggest hurdles Truckey mentioned was having to work through the virtual format and still offer ways to keep attendees involved. Having varying styles of presentations to allow topics to be more approachable and thoughtful to attendees, Truckey said. 

“I hope those who attend take away new learning to the extent they can share it with others. I hope it sparks questions for people. I hope that someone who is in a session and disagrees on the surface with someone who is presenting it inspires them to do their own research to extend that learning and challenge it and maybe come to the realization that the presenters were right and are glad they looked into it. It’s supposed to inspire conversation and ideas and the beginning of new knowledge,” Lubig said.