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University hosts International Baccalaureate World Student Conference

August 8, 2017
students standing on Eastman quadStudent attendees of the International Baccalaureate World Student Conference 2017 pose on Eastman Quad with Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Last week, the University of Rochester hosted more than 200 high school students from around the globe for the sixth annual International Baccalaureate World Student Conference.

The University has long had a special relationship to the International Baccalaureate program, a rigorous pre-college educational system emphasizing critical thinking: Rochester was the first university in the Northeast to offer scholarships to students with International Baccalaureate, or IB, diplomas, and about 10 percent of incoming students each year come from IB schools.

IB schools—like Rochester—value curricular innovation

“Like Rochester on the college level, the International Baccalaureate program has for 50 years led students in an innovative approach to curriculum,” says Jonathan Burdick, the University’s vice provost for enrollment initiatives and dean of admissions and financial aid. “It’s one that requires them to choose a few subjects they love most and immerse themselves in them to high levels of mastery.”

International Baccalaureate started with one school in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1968 and today is offered in more than 3,400 schools in 150 nations.

The University also hosted the world conference in 2015. Last week, students came from nations including Cambodia, China, Egypt, Mozambique, and New Zealand, and states as far away as Oregon, Texas, and Idaho. They explored the theme “Defining and Defying Boundaries” with a broad spectrum of speakers and classes.

man and young woman

Maria Jose Cardena Vargas of Medellin, Colombia poses for a photo with Politico’s John Harris after his keynote talk. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Politico’s John Harris delivers keynote

The keynote speaker was Rochester native John Harris, co-founder and editor in chief of the political news organization Politico. Harris has strong ties to the University. His parents, brother, father-in-law, and sister-in-law all earned degrees from Rochester.

“It’s a special place to me,” Harris says. “I feel like I’m a surrogate member of the community.”

Harris’s talk, entitled “Change and continuity in media and politics: A survivor’s guide to the daily madness,” focused on Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency—how it happened, and what the future holds. Students asked questions ranging from whether Trump’s strong personality overshadowed his political views to parallels between Trump and Richard Nixon, the only American president to resign.

“The questions were great,” Harris says. “You can tell how much the students care about what’s going on in Washington.”

Students take in campus, city life

Students were housed in Susan B. Anthony Hall and engaged in social events such as a Rochester Red Wings minor-league baseball game, a trip to Niagara Falls, and a talent show. They had plenty of time to see the River Campus, and at least one has the University of Rochester on her radar.

Giselle Chavez, a rising junior at Journeys School in Jackson, Wyoming, says, “I definitely am considering coming here.” With interests ranging from theater to architecture, she adds, “I also love the diversity here. The chaperones were so diverse, and so in unity with each other.”

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