CIS image

The Critical Issues Symposium returns

CIS image

LET’S GET CRITICAL — The topic of each CIS program is chosen by recommendations from the faculty and students. (Photo: CIS)

The Hope College Critical Issues Symposium (CIS) takes place on Sept. 27 and 28 this fall. The topic is Economic Inequality in a Democratic Society and will feature several speakers and local organizations to provide discussion on this subject.

For almost 30 years, Hope has set aside a day each year with no daytime classes so students and faculty can take part in this discussion. Past topics include: Engaging the Middle East: Understanding Contemporary Changes and Technology and the Future of Being Human and Reconciliation: Hope in a Divided World. These topics are not random. Alfredo Gonzales, the CIS Co-Chair and Dean for International and Multicultural Education, explains the process.

“My office solicits topics from faculty and students at the conclusion of each CIS program,” Gonzales says. “Thus, the topic of ‘economic inequality’ comes to us from approximately 18 months of students and faculty recommendations.” CIS is open to the community as well and events are free. Students, faculty and community members can also serve on CIS committees or help facilitate CIS sessions. It is a long process to find speakers, arrange transportation for the many visitors and make sure each session runs smoothly.

This year CIS kicks off with a keynote address from Chuck Collins at 7 p.m. in Dimnent Chapel on Tuesday Sept. 27. Collins is a Senior Scholar and Program Director on Inequality and Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. He is also a co-editor of, an online portal for those seeking information on wealth and income inequality (from His address will explain why inequality matters and what the American people can do to fix the issue.
Wednesday Sept. 28 includes a keynote address as well as sessions throughout the day. David Phillips will begin the day with an address at 9 a.m. in the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts. Phillips is a research assistant professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame. His address will explain a solution to inequality that requires a response from the heart and the mind. Both attention to personal experience as well as economic research are important when tackling this issue.

Following this address various community organizations will speak about inequality in Holland. You can hear from Holland Rescue Mission, Good Samaritan Ministries and more in the Knickerbocker Theatre at 10:15 a.m. On-campus departments and organizations are also getting involved in CIS. Starting at 1:00 p.m. in various locations, focus sessions and department sessions will expand on inequality in regard to those specific areas. For example, Markets and Morality is co-sponsoring a session titled: “Growth, Demography and the Recent Convergence of Global Incomes” at 1:00 in Vanderwerf Hall, room 102. The GROW Initiative for Diversity and Conclusion will hold one of their Community Conversations as part of CIS. Starting at 4:00 pm in the Maas Center, the session will discuss the economics of Jim Crow.

For a full list of CIS speakers with locations and times, visit If you are interested in getting involved in CIS committees, please contact Alfredo Gonzales at

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