The Fletcher School’s 2012 Talloires Symposium was one for the record books, as nearly ninety guests attended the multi-day conference. The Symposium, held each year at the end of May, aims to convene alumni in a remarkable setting in order to inspire fruitful and engaged discussion.
Each year, participants of the Talloires Symposium, hailing from all over the world, spend two intensive days learning about and debating a current issue. The theme of the 2012 Talloires Symposium was, The Middle East after the Arab Spring: Changing Political and Strategic Landscape. Conference participants eagerly engaged with the topic, and intense discussion followed each presentation.
The Symposium opened on Friday evening on a social note, where Dean Stephen W. Bosworth welcomed participants at a reception, held outside in the Priory’s expansive garden. Guests were then treated to a brief piano concert, before making their way across Talloires to La Villa des Fleurs, one of Talloires’s many highly praised restaurants, for dinner and conversation.
Saturday held the bulk of the conference, with both morning and afternoon presentations. Keynote speakers, Dr. Vali Nasr, F84, Professor of International Politics at the Fletcher School, and Dr. Randa Slim, Adjunct Research Fellow at the New America Foundation and a Scholar at the Middle East Institute, began the morning by offering their opinions on the Middle East after the Arab Spring in the context of their work.
The Symposium’s Faculty Lecturer, Dr. Leila Fawaz, the Issam M. Fares Professor of Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean Studies at the Fletcher School, spoke on Saturday afternoon. The afternoon session evolved into a panel discussion with Doctors Nasr, Slim, and Fawaz, and Dean Bosworth. Participants found Dr. Fawaz’s talk compelling, and the panel was eagerly engaged by symposium participants during and after the presentation.
Fletcher alumni who attended the Symposium enjoyed themselves and were thrilled by the chance to reconnect with fellow alumni. Many participants return year after year for the Talloires Symposium. Even the Fletcher School’s “oldest walking alumnus,” as she describes herself, was in attendance.
Peggy Kirby, F37, now 98, flew from New York City to Talloires on her own. In spite of her nonagenarian status, Kirby participated fully in the three-day Symposium, discussing current events with her fellow alumni – many young enough to be her grandchildren – and happily recounting stories of what Fletcher was like when she was a student.
The Talloires Symposium is one of two annual events the Fletcher School hosts; in addition to Talloires, Fletcher organizes a symposium in London in the winter. The Talloires Symposium, however, offers participants a chance to interact with Tufts on a broader scale. Pete Mumma, Associate Director of Alumni Relations at the Fletcher School, commented, “Everyone I spoke with, alumni and staff, felt that this year’s Symposium was a great success.” The Alumni Relations department is already looking ahead to next year’s Symposium, as are the alumni; many alumni booked their hotel rooms for next year upon checkout. Next year’s Talloires Symposium will be held May 31 – June 2, 2013.
Talloires, a picturesque village nestled in the foothills of the Alps on the shore of Lake Annecy, is home to Tufts University’s European Center. The European Center, founded in 1979, is housed in an eleventh century former priory. The Priory was bought by Donald and Charlotte MacJannet in the mid-twentieth century. Mr. MacJannet, A16, worked tirelessly to support international learning through the schools and camps he ran throughout France.
Today the Tufts European Center welcomes Tufts students, college students, and high school students, as well as conference participants, throughout the year. International exchange and cultural understanding are seen as pivotal to participating in today’s challenging world. The Tufts European Center’s mission of facilitating and promoting international understanding aligns closely with those of the Fletcher School and of the Talloires Symposium.