On Jan. 21, the College of Arts and Sciences will host a special one-credit symposium on Martin Luther King, Jr. All Seton Hall University undergraduates and alumni as well as community members from the tri-state area and high school seniors will have the opportunity to attend this event.
Dr. Peter Shoemaker, the Dean of Seton Hall’s College of Arts and Sciences, explained why the college is hosting the program.
“The College of Arts and Sciences has been working closely with Rev. Pritchett over the past few years during to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King on the 50th anniversary of his death,” Shoemaker explained in an email. “This January, we are hoping to reach a larger audience inside and outside of the Seton Hall community. Seton Hall is an archdiocesan university, and we should be a leading voice in fight for social justice.”
Dean Shoemaker mentioned that he hopes attendees walk away with knowledge that Dr. King’s legacy is still important to modern society. “Dr King’s legacy, fighting for racial justice and peace, and against poverty, is as relevant today as it was in the late 60s,” he said.
Reverend Dr. Forrest Pritchett, who is Seton Hall’s Director of Special Projects of the Freshman Studies Program, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Program and Gospel Choir, will teach the symposium. In an email, Reverend Pritchett shared the ideas behind the event.
“The idea behind this event and course offering emerged from a dialogue between the University Provost, Dr. Boroff, Dr. Peter Shoemaker and myself concerning an emerging need for the understanding of the issues of diversity, inclusion and equity,” he said.
Such inspiration is not new to Seton Hall. Reverend Dr. Pritchett explained what the Martin Luther King Leadership Program is.
“Originally established as a university scholarship, the program broadened its vision to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” Pritchett said. “Today, the MLK Leadership Program provides partial tuition scholarships to exceptional students. The program also provides these students invaluable management and leadership development opportunities. MLK Scholars learn how to oversee programs and events from design to implementation. MLK Scholars are also required to conduct research on issues regarding values, equality of access and social justice.”
Reverend Pritchett hopes Seton Hall can take this symposium and the ideas promoted in all outlets of Dr. Martin Luther King on campus to a national level.
“I hope to propel Seton Hall into the national spotlight for innovative programming through this effort,” Pritchett said. “We want to empower our constituents through this one day offering. It will also be available to our alumni networks and nearby corporations.”
The society and Pritchett are decorated for their efforts to promote diversity. He shared in an email details about their accolades.
“This honorary society received numerous other awards for its outstanding programming, including ‘The Outstanding Organization of the Year’ – an award it received twice in the last, 20 years – and the first ever ‘Organization Promoting Diversity Leadership’ award,” he said. “Additionally, President Barack Obama issued the Lifetime Achievement Award to Rev. Dr. Pritchett in Spring 2016 for his direction of the program and for leadership of an extensive number of community initiatives during his lifetime. Many of the program’s graduates have received national fellowships to pursue graduate and doctoral studies.”
Madeline Pfaff, a junior majoring in Elementary and Special Education and English, explained why she believes the symposium to be beneficial.
“I think it’s a great way to educate people on the effects things as racism and sexism have had on the world,” she said “It’s also be great to learn more about the ideas of MLK by someone who knows what they’re talking about. Anything I have learned is from a 40 minute lesson in school that usually resulted in some dumb activity, and I have a feeling is the same for many others.”
Pfaff believes the symposium may prove itself more accessible to lessons about race than a traditional class would.
“I think it is a good thing because it is a great way to educate people without making them take a full class,” she said. “Though there are assignments throughout the semester, it’s easier to complete the work then have to dedicate one’s time to a time block for a class.
Reverend Dr. Pritchett considered how Dr. King would respond to the question, “what would MLK do in a 21st century America of “walls.” the “fear of strangers” and workplace inequalities.
Kaitlyn Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.