Wedged between a segment on French music and billboard hits, junior Oly Zayac strives to spark conversations surrounding global issues one Sunday night at a time.

The Focal Point, the WSOE program she helps lead, pursues one goal: addressing national and international issues.

Her goal brought together Mussa Idris, assistant professor of anthropology, sophomore Alex Ball and junior Ben Lutz in an in depth conversation on the global refugee crisis Sunday.

Throughout the 60-minute segment, the complex issue was treated without any panel-like formalities or complex terms. Instead, it was broken down and given a local context.

They group delved into political complexities involved in the mass migration of Syrian refugees to Europe and the barries of asylum-seeking processes in border European countries.

Idris, whose area of research regarding refugees primarily lies in North Africa, urged the community to tackle the refugee crisis as a global phenomenon, not necessarily concentrated to certain regions of the world.

“This is not something that should only be left to European countries,” he said. “Communities all over the world — including the African union — can provide support and help.”

Idris also shared his personal experiences when he was a political refugee in the United States from Eritrea.

Lutz, whose undergraduate research revolves around the Jordanian response to the Syrian refugee crisis, highlighted the layered treatment he said the topic deserves.

“It’s such a multifaceted issue that involves more than one country, community or issue,” he said. “So it should be treated that way.”

He urged the community to seek educational opportunities and service learning initiatives in Greensboro, a national “hub” for refugee communities. The Kernodle Center for Service Learning offers a variety of programs that cater to new immigrant and refugee populations in Alamance County and Greensboro.

Ball served as an example of a student who has sought to help the global refugee crisis in the local context. Ball leads the Global Neighborhood’s First-Friends Initiative, a program that pairs the neighborhood’s students with a new immigrant refugee family in Greensboro. Students this year are working with a family from the Democratic Republic of Congo, offering them English and computer classes.

The Kwitondas are a family of nine, including seven daughters ranging from ages 7 to 20. Ball said through opportunities to visit them in their home, the students have formed a mutual bond of trust and friendship.

“The educational component goes both ways,” he said. “They learn something from us and we learn so many things from them.”

Ball stressed the importance of finding local ways to tackle global issues.

“There’s only so much a panel can do,” Ball said. “By going out there and helping the local community, so much more can be done.”

Idris underlined that by shaping the refugee experience in Greensboro, students are directly impacting the global issue.

“The crisis is a global phenomenon,” he said. “Supporting your local efforts, even if it seems smaller on scale, will be impacting this larger, worldwide issue.”

Zayac said an issue as large as the Syrian Refugee Crisis required a variety of student and faculty perspectives.

“Unless you follow the issues surrounding the crisis on a daily basis, they might not make a whole lot of sense,” she said. “I hope that with bringing Dr. Idris on the show, students could get a better understanding of the crisis as a whole as well as his experience as a refugee. And in bringing Ben and Alex, students could have a better understanding of how to get involved no matter how small.”

To Zayac, having students and professors discuss these issues in lay terms helps perpetuate the significance behind the crisis — especially when it may seem distant to college students.

“We watch the news and hear stories, and these might affect us emotionally,” she said. “But we can’t truly understand a story until we hear it from someone we connect with.”

Zayac envisions the show as a platform that allows students to contribute to a conversation and is dedicated to breaking larger conversations down in the perspective of Elon students.

As a firm believer in the power of dialogue in sparking further discussion, interest and change, Zayac said she thinks the importance of the show transcends its weekly 60 minutes on air.

“When we involve ourselves in these conversations, it allow students to open up a whole new level of discussion,” she said. “We are no longer listening — we are part of the conversation. We can create the conversation.”

The show officially began two years ago, and Zayac has been involved with it for the past year and a half.

Next week, Zayac, and her team of news directors on “The Focal Point,” hopes to tackle the heated election campaigns from both the democratic and republican sides.

When choosing their topics of discussion, they try to emphasize issues that are prevalent in the news but also relevant to the Elon community and college context.

Lutz, who said he was thrilled to be part of the show, said the most powerful aspect of it is what happens after the show ends.

“When people talk about what they heard and continue the conversations [after the show],that is directly impacting intellectual climate,” he said.


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