Morning Keynote

Gregor Thuswaldner, Ph.D., Whitworth University Provost and Executive Vice President
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Gregor Thuswaldner (Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) joined Whitworth University as Provost and Executive Vice President at Whitworth University in July 2020. From 2016 to 2020, he served as Dean of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Humanities as well as Acting Provost at North Park University in Chicago. Before coming to North Park, he was a professor of German and linguistics at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts (2003-16), chair of the Department of Languages and Linguistics (2006-2012), as well as Senior Fellow and Interim Director of the Center for Faith and Inquiry. In 2006, he received Gordon College’s Distinguished Junior Faculty Award. He has published books, journal articles, and book chapters on literary theory, linguistics, literature, culture, history, politics, religion, and higher education. His latest book publication is the co-edited volume, with Stephen Dowden and Olaf Berwald, Thomas Bernhard’s Afterlives (Bloomsbury, 2020).

Keynote address: The Promise of Interfaith Dialogue in the ESL Classroom and Beyond

Summary: Intolerance, hatred, and violence against religions have been on the rise in the US and worldwide. Education is the most powerful antidote to religious intolerance. In order to create a more just and tolerant society, students need to learn about different religious traditions and interact with people of various faiths. Interfaith dialogue seems particularly difficult in a time when white Christian nationalism is on the rise. However, as this presentation demonstrates, interfaith dialogue provides tools for peace- and bridge-building that seem particularly important in our present moment.

Afternoon Keynote

Sarah Peterson, Washington State Refugee Coordinator, Washington Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance
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Sarah Peterson is the Washington State Refugee Coordinator and oversees the Washington Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance (ORIA). Before taking on this role in 2014, Sarah spent 15 years working with refugee and immigrant communities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Sarah attributes her passion in working with people from other countries to the rich experience she gained as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala. When she returned to the U.S., she earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW) from the University of Pennsylvania. During her tenure in Philadelphia, Sarah gained a broad range of experience in the nonprofit sector. She worked as a foster care social worker serving Unaccompanied Refugee Minors. She managed the Pennsylvania Asylee Outreach Program, helping individuals granted asylum navigate systems and remove barriers to achieving self-sufficiency. For five years, she directed the refugee resettlement program at HIAS Pennsylvania, helping to establish a citywide refugee health collaborative.

In 2018, Sarah received the Governor’s Award for Leadership in Management and in 2019, received recognition from the Islamic Center of Tri-Cities for her support for refugee resettlement. She has served as the Vice President of the State Coordinators for Refugee Resettlement (SCORR) from 2017 through 2019. Sarah lives in Seattle with her husband and daughter and enjoys running, hiking, and exploring the Northwest.

Keynote address: Welcoming Washington: How ESL programs serve as a key strategy to support integration and belonging

Summary: Washington state has a long legacy of welcoming people from refugee and immigrant backgrounds. Since 1979, more than 140,000 people have resettled in Washington’s local communities through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Supporting the integration of newcomers involves many different members of our communities, and English as a Second Language Programs play a critical role in helping people to learn English, to build a community, and to gain important knowledge and information needed for people to rebuild their lives. Join me in discussing how Washington can continue to be a welcoming place through policy changes and a pandemic, and the role that ESL programs play in these efforts.

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