Annual Quaker conference comes to Guilford

From the sublime to the mundane.

— Jim Hood, Professor of English & Creative Writing

The semester will be over, but the learning will continue well into summer.

This summer, Guilford College will once again host the Friends Association for Higher Education conference from June 15-18.

The annual conference brings together faculty and staff from the 17 Quaker colleges, universities and study centers that make up the FAHE for presentations on research, new initiatives and spiritual fellowship.

“I have had a sense that these conferences are very much like a meeting for worship with an attention to education,” said Kathryn Hood, ’76, outreach coordinator for the Friends Center and clerk of the local arrangements committee for the conference.

The conference has happened every summer since 1981. Last year, it was held at the Woodbrooke Quaker Centre in Birmingham, England. It was last held at Guilford in 2014.

“We’ve hosted it twice before,” said Deborah Shaw, assistant director of Friends Center, who serves on both the local arrangement and program committee for the conference. “It’s supposed to go around to all of the Quaker institutions, but not that many of them are willing to host it or are really that involved Quakerly anymore.”

This year, the conference theme will be “Global Education, Global Quakerism.”

“When Deborah and I came up with the theme … it was in an attempt to expand and broaden what can sometimes be a very North American focus on Quakerism,” said Wess Daniels, William R. Rogers director of Friends Center and clerk of the Program Committee.

The conference will include presentations by Diya Abdo, chair and associate professor of English, on founding Every Campus a Refuge, and by Gwen Erickson, Friends Historical Collection librarian and College archivist, who will speak about Guilford hosting the international 1957 World Gathering of Friends. David Niyonzima, who serves as the vice chancellor of the International Leadership University in Burundi, Africa will also speak.

Senior Yves Dusenge has also been invited to speak, as have some other young Friends.

At Guilford, the local arrangement committee is working on everything from programming to ensuring that there are enough golf carts for those that need them.

“From the sublime to the mundane,” said Jim Hood, professor of English, who is serving on the local arrangements committee this year. “But all of those things are really important.”

There will also be field trips, including an “Alternative Greensboro” tour lead by Andrew Young, volunteer coordinator for the Bonner Center, the International Civil Rights Center and the College farm.

Many of the people involved with planning the conference at Guilford have been attending the FAHE conference for many years.

“There’s a core of people that I’ve been at this conference with many times over the years, so I’m looking forward to seeing them,” said Shaw. “I’ve never felt ‘less than’ in that group because I don’t teach in the classroom.”

The FAHE includes institutions like George Fox University in Oregon, Earlham College in Indiana and Friends Theological College in Kenya, so the conference provides a space to bring faculty and staff together who otherwise would not be able to meet.

“(It is great) to spend time with Quakers that work in higher education, and just to share ideas and stories and thoughts and frustrations occasionally,” said Jim Hood. “There is a rich spiritual component as well.”

While the conference takes place after the semester is over, students, as well as faculty and staff, are welcome to register. Even those who have not registered can attend the plenary presentations, the presidents panel and one workshop.