The Wolf-Kuhn Institute of Ethics hosted its biannual undergraduate conference, “Life Examined,” on March 26.
The conference, which is co-sponsored by the Institute of Ethics, the Office of Student Research, and the Department of Franciscan Studies, Theology, and Applied Ethics, has been a staple at SFU since 2007.
“The purpose of this event has always been to provide students with the experience of a professional conference,” said Art Remillard, professor of religious studies and director of the Wolf-Kuhn Institute of Ethics.
Like most university lectures, students must write papers or design posters, which they present to an audience, followed by a question-and-answer session.
The highlight of the “Life Examined” conference, according to Rémillard, is the opportunity to network.
“The really fun part of any conference is meeting other people who are doing similar things,” he said. “Because of this, we wanted to make sure other schools were involved.”
The conference was well attended.
“Everyone who came was within driving distance,” Remillard said. “In the past, people came from all over the country to attend the conference. Still, it was refreshing to be able to host an in-person conference again.
The conference was divided into five sessions, some of these sessions having sub-sessions. The featured speaker was Colonel Fred Johnson, who spoke at length on storytelling and wellness.
Johnson discussed his combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and how his struggle with mental health prompted him to co-found “Shakespeare with Veterans,” a project that invites veterans to engage with Shakespearean texts to share their stories.
“What I’ve learned the most in my life as a storyteller is that the starting point is vulnerability,” Johnson said.
“The starting point is to recognize that you don’t have all the answers and that you need to open up on the outside, but also on the inside.”
According to Rémillard, this type of introspection is precisely what makes the humanities so important.
“The liberal arts have the ability to allow us to examine our lives, and the lives of the people around us, in very deep and revealing ways,” he said.
“As you start to get into these stories that we’ve told over time, through all the different ways we tell stories, we’re trying to figure out what it means to be human.”
Johnson’s full speech can be found on YouTube under the title “Col. Fred Johnson on Storytelling and Wellbeing – Life Examined.