On Thursday, Feb. 27 and Friday, Feb. 28, Taylor hosted its third annual CARE Conference.
Kara Riggleman, the program services director for the orphans and vulnerable children major (OVC), said the conference was designed to be conversational. A new feature for this year’s conference was the opportunity for students to present their research findings.
“We believe that this is a field where many can contribute their unique voices and experiences, so I’m thrilled that our conference is reflective of that,” Riggleman said.
Scott Moeschberger, a leading professor of the OVC program, believes the 12 undergraduate presentations allowed students to engage the ideas in the conference through their scholarship.
Moeschberger said that the OVC major is rooted through faith and a part of Taylor’s DNA.
“The main purpose of the conference is to encourage each other to join around these topics and create an educational space,” Moeschberger said.
Students presented on adoption, reactive attachment disorder and orphans in Ukraine, Haiti and the Middle East.
Mallory Robertson, a freshman special education major with an OVC minor, said one of her goals in attending the conference was to gain credibility for her opinions.
Robertson wants to be involved in the campus community that cares for overlooked populations. She was pushed to acknowledge the things happening around the world through the conference.
“It’s all so sad and breaks your heart, but it’s still happening whether we realize it or not,” Robertson said.
The conversation leaders were Sarah Quezada, Tendai Masiriri, Michael Gerson, and Shannan Martin. Some topics included immigration and policies, sex trafficking and child soliders. Speakers on these topics also proposed solutions to these problems and commented on how Christians should interact with them.
As a social work major and Arizona native, junior Garrett Kaiser attended the conference because the subjects are close to his heart. He is especially focused on current immigration law trends and foster care.
“There was a lot of obvious concern for underprivileged groups which is really close to the core values of social work, my own values and the values of Jesus,” Kaiser said.
He found putting faces and names to the current issues was powerful. “I loved that they had a lot of ministries super involved, specifically with orphans and vulnerable children, putting up their exhibits and collaborating at the conference.”
Kaiser said the conference helped him grasp a broader view of the issues in the discipline. He found Quezada’s talk on missions being a worldwide issue, not just international, to be most impactful.
“We are often trying to take an approach of avoiding things and pushing them far away,” Kaiser said. “But everybody realizes that something has to be done.”
The conference was also designed to bring students together across academic circles. Josh Garrels, an Indiana-based singer/songwriter, performed on Feb. 27 for the student body. His faith showed through his biblical themed music.
Washington Post columnist, Michael Gerson, spoke in chapel and in an afternoon session on Friday. He focused on values the media should uphold and the ethics of his career.
“Even as a public relations student, I understood the need to make journalism [and public relations] into a profession with sound morals,” said senior Hannah Leystra.
Sophomore OVC major Rachel Fiscus said imagining her life without a stable household gave her a passion for vulnerable children. She said the conference balanced stories and statistics well and captured both heart and mind.
Fiscus was challenged to be hopeful in dealing with the past trauma of the children and was encouraged through the talks. She wants to work in foster care in the future, dealing particularly with adolescent trauma.
The OVC program seeks to be genuinely invested in the lives of others.
“That neighbor can look like someone in the dorm, in Grant County or Upland, a foster family or a biological family,” Fiscus said. “That’s something I definitely want to take away. It’s so easy to just be focused on where we’re going, and that’s so not how Christ was.”
The third annual OVC CARE Conference sought to empower students with the knowledge of hurting populations. One of the program’s taglines is: “You can choose to act or not to act, but you can’t choose to unknow.”
Taylor University works to equip student leaders with a passion to be the hands and feet of Christ. The CARE Conference allowed students to participate in this redemptive work at home and around the world.