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Imagining Our Neighbor The 2023 Being Human Conference

2023 Being Human Panel

When someone tells you to imagine almost anything, the first thing that comes to your mind may be castles in the clouds or your boss handing you a blank check. However, this year's Being Human Conference, invited students, faculty, and friends to “Imagine Our Neighbor” through art, literature, theology, and other disciplines.

 Each year, the conference weaves together academic disciplines to engage with Biblical anthropology as the basis for a liberal arts education. The guest speakers for this year’s conference included Mary McCampbell ’94 and Daniel Nayeri, author of Everything Sad it Untrue. In addition, students and faculty members across campus submitted various works in literature, visual art, and other academic disciplines that explored the conference theme.

The conference opened with Daniel Nayeri’s Chapel talk on the parts, purpose, and power of a story. Using pieces of his family’s journey from Iran to Oklahoma, Nayeri encouraged listeners to heal through a story rather than harm—to create rather than destroy. 

“Use your stories as Jesus did,” said Nayeri, “to give humans their shared humanity and dignity.” 

Mary McCampbell spoke in several classes and gave an  academic lecture on Tuesday. McCampbell focused on how good art can disrupt us and speak the truth of reality in front of us. She encouraged us to see art as a way to engage with our neighbors and think through how art specifically shapes empathy. 

Professor Jeff Morton joined both speakers for a discussion panel moderated by Dr. Robert ErleBarham. Each panel member answered different questions ranging from how art and disruption interact to more about themes of displacement that often surfaces in the arts.

The student award presentations marked the end of the conference but not the end of its influence. As students, faculty, and friends go out, they can find encouragement from Nayeri to share in the community of humanity,“to forgive each other and share in the inconvenience of loving our neighbor.”

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