Missives from Salzburg, Austria

DSC_1900Eight students and their Faculty Advisor, Dr. Tim Kelly, will be attending the Global Citizenship Alliance‘s Global Citizenship Seminar for students in June 2017. You will be able to follow their adventures in this extended entry. Dr. Tim Kelly and the students will be composing and posting their observations.

The eight students who participated in this conference excelled and made WVC proud. Administrators at the conference reported this: “You brought a stellar group of students to Salzburg–eager, engaged and knowledgeable. It was a real joy to observe how they absorbed every part and aspect of our program and seemed to grow tremendously in the process. WVC can take a great deal of pride in having selected such an impressive first cohort of students to attend a GCA seminar! They set the bar high for all the many students of West Valley College which we hope will succeed them in the years to come.”

And Dr. Kelly wrote: “What an amazing week it was in Salzburg.  My students couldn’t stop talking about how much they learned from it all, showing me that the presentations and small group work had a huge impact on them.  Thank you for putting on such an important conference.”

Salzburg Conference – 6/12/17 – Day 1

“The hills are alive with the sound of” …students talking about important global issues!  We have finished the first day of this Global Citizenship Seminar, and it’s already clear how much we are all going to get out of this incredible conference in Salzburg.

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The location at the Schloss Leopoldskron on the outskirts of Salzburg’s old town gives a feeling of isolation, yet anyone who has seen the Sound of Music will immediately recognize the building complex as the home of the von Trapp family; thus there is a familiarity that comes with a visit to the Schloss, even if your visit is for the first time.  In reality, of course, the von Trapp family did not actually live here as you soon learn on a tour of this palace that was built in 1736 and has had an amazing 180 year history.

DSC_1497A guide explains the paintings in the Marble Hall used for banquets.

There even are some ghost stories, including one about a Nazi officer who lived here as a caretaker and killed himself after murdering his family (an Austrian version of Stephen King’s The Shining?)  The ghost of Max Reinhardt, Europe’s most famous theater director who bought the Schloss in 1918 and renovated it into its current splendor (before losing it under anti-Semitic laws targeting Jewish property holders), is also said to linger above the dining hall as he stands in the corner on the balcony watching his guests enjoy themselves (as he used to do in life).

DSC_1501Students gaze in wonder at the century old paintings in the Chinese room.

DSC_1492Aaron checks out the chapel in the Schloss (yes, every respectable palace had one!)

As for our own West Valley students, they appear to have adjusted well to the jet lag (they arrived on the 11th while I arrived by train this morning after a 4 night stay in Vienna).  Perhaps it is the food here that has pepped them up.  Both lunch and dinner were absolutely delicious and consisted of local Austrian cuisine such as wiener schnitzel, stuffed tomatoes, and apple strudel.  How much weight we are all going to pick up at this conference from these banquet style meals remains an unanswered question!

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Brynna and Amber are ready for orientation, while Cade discovers what wiener schnitzel really is made of!

So is the conference all just tours of a two century old palace and lots of good things to eat?  Absolutely not.  Despite the jet lag, we all got down to work this afternoon with an orientation meeting for students laying out the major themes of the conference.  Among the questions they were asked to consider is “why are they here” and “what does global citizenship mean?”  These are questions we picked up in small group discussions after dinner, building on them to include empathy, poverty, social obligation, and individual responsibility – among other issues.

Our first group discussion, combined with students from San Jose State and Central Michigan University, was in all honesty quite exciting to watch the active engagement on the part of students (while faculty advisers are specifically asked by the program coordinators to say as little as possible during these group discussions).  Our Austrian hosts challenged the students to answer difficult, at times even uncomfortable questions (is it justified to deprive American citizens in prison the right to vote?  Should society take a larger role in seeking to reduce crime through means other than incarceration?)  I asked students to think about what they were ready to accomplish as a “global citizen,” and even more importantly HOW they intend to accomplish such goals.

Students grapple with the definition of “global citizenship” at the first Small Group Discussion.

I’m sure we could have gone on for another hour, but by 9 pm it was time to wrap it up.  After all, a nice warm bed awaited them (and I do mean warm since the Schloss is not air conditioned and the temperature here is in the low ‘80s – with thunderstorms!)  Tomorrow the real work begins. Over the next few days I will ask our students to contribute their own impressions of the conference, so stay tuned.

Salzburg Conference – 6/14/17 – Days 2 and 3

What does the word “privilege” mean? Does it refer to class? Opportunity?  Since they make up part of that 2.7% of the world population that has a college education, are the students at this conference therefore part of the “privileged”? Does culture make people, or do people make culture? How can we look at a map as a cultural artifact, and what can it tell us about the map-maker’s national culture? How should human rights issues be prioritized (between high and low)? Should they be prioritized? Are certain rights more important than others? How can the efforts of an aid group for an all-girls primary school in an Afghan village serve as a model for community empowerment and the alleviation of poverty, not to mention progress towards gender equality?

DSC_1488As these questions illustrate, students are being immersed into the important issues of the day as they daily sit through at least three 1.5 hour presentations PLUS two work group sessions where students not only discuss the issues of the day but must devise an end of the conference project that puts forward an action plan to promote global citizenship in some way.


Champa Patel, Director, South Asia and South East Asia, Amnesty International

These action plans will be based on the presentations made by speakers at this conference, all of whom the students have found to be excellent.  While I wish I had time to tell you about all of them, let me focus on two in particular.  Champa Patel from Amnesty International (and a past speaker at West Valley College’s own Global Citizenship Conference) sparked some fierce debate in the room as students argued (constructively, of course) over how to rank an envelope full of pieces of paper with “rights” on them.  Should universal health care be a human right?  How about the right to life?  Or to work?  Or to be a citizen of a country?  And if these are all rights that should be accepted, how should they be ranked?  It’s a fantastic exercise to get students engaged (and one that even had the faculty advisers arguing with each other over how to rank the rights).

DSC_1585Another fascinating presentation was on the development of maps.  Why do world maps look so different depending on the nationality of the map maker?  What kind of messages (cultural, ideological, subversive) are conveyed through these maps?  The purpose, of course, was not just to show students how maps are made differently, but rather how maps can serve as cultural artifacts.  If we can understand the cultural meaning behind the map, we are that much closer to understanding the interrelationships (both domestic and international) fostered by globalization.

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So, it has been an enlightening three days so far.  I could not be more proud of our West Valley College students, as they tend to be the first to speak up when it comes to questions during the presentations; and they are also driving the discussions during the small group work with their conference participants from San Jose State and Central Michigan State.  I’ve been encouraging them to write down their impressions of the conference so that I can add them to the blog; I’ve had no luck yet, but I’ll keep pushing them!

Tomorrow we head off to Dachau Concentration Camp.  Our WVC students are well prepared for this (as prepared as anyone can be for such an experience) after I required that they read Elie Wiesel’s Night.  I again expect that they will take the lead in group discussions after the trip.

More to come if time permits!

Salzburg Conference – 6/15/17 – Day 4 – Visit to Dachau

Back in the Fall of 1991 when I was a Rotary Scholar, I first visited Dachau.  I remember being so overwhelmed by the experience that I took very few photos, feeling that to do so would show a lack of respect for the sacred ground that the camp had become.  I felt hollowed by the experience; numb; empty; sad.  These feelings were all the more heightened when I immediately went into Munich which was celebrating its Oktoberfest.  The contrast between the two – a death camp and a celebration of life – couldn’t be more evident.

The Jourhaus where prisoners entered into the camp.

DSC_1762Twenty-six years have since passed, and over those years I have become much more knowledgeable about the Holocaust; so today when I went through the camp, my experience was different.  The camp still has a numbing effect on me, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by it all as I was the first time.  Still, time seemed to slow down for me in the camp, both in my walking and breathing.  I spoke in a whisper.  While I took photos this time, I did so in a way that sought to maintain respect for the ground we were on (i.e., taking photos as an historical record rather than merely as a sightseeing artifact.)

DSC_1730Our 8 West Valley students walked through the famed “Arbeit macht frei” gate as a group, yet almost immediately broke up into pairs or explored the camp alone.  Indeed, in my opinion, the camp can only be appreciated as a solitary experience in which you read the displays on your own; you smell the pine in the barracks; you feel the heat of the sun baring down on you in the roll call square; you stand in the gas chamber and look up at the faux shower heads in the ceiling (though these chambers were never used at Dachau); DSC_1754you walk with trepidation into the crematorium and stare into the blackness behind the open oven door.    (And though I do believe the camp is best experienced alone, I kept my 12 year old daughter by my side as we walked through the crematorium so that she would have the emotional support if needed to witness it.)

So these were my impressions, but what were the impressions of our students?  Read on…

Isaiah Woods
Going into the camp, I anticipated an experience as one would on a field trip.  However, as I physically stepped through the gates, my intentions on learning about the camp were shifted to emotionally visualizing the disembodied spirits that walked the grounds.  I decided to look at the camp as it was: a concentration camp. DSC_1748 I attempted to disregard the signs and refrained from using my audio device.  In this way, I could overwhelm myself with the atmosphere rather than with the context.  I looked at the camp as if the prisoners were still on the camp grounds.  Through this perspective, I was able to detach myself from retaining information and instead understand the horrific acts that took place here.

Aunika Santos-Aguirre
Hawaiian culture is a very spiritual culture, one that I was fortunate to spend the better part of my childhood living in.  Today, I understood and felt that deep sense of spirituality that comes from tuning out every possible sound except nature and my thoughts as I walked through the roll call area and down along the barracks.  It wasn’t like someone was haunting me. It felt like they were telling me their story. It was a sober place much like a church.  I felt as though I needed to whisper.  So when I saw so many people take pictures of every little thing, I got very upset and wanted to tell them to stop – please!  This is a graveyard; people lost their lives if not a part of their souls here.  It commands your attention and without a doubt you will give it.

Bryanna Crumley
DSC_1769Visiting Dachau was a wonderfully eye-opening, yet painful experience.  There’s so much to take in at the memorial site that it gets overwhelming very quickly, and at times I felt like I wouldn’t be able to continue because it was so emotionally taxing; yet I knew it was my responsibility to continue on and educate myself even if I was uncomfortable.  What was most powerful for me personally were the personal accounts of survivors.  It’s one thing to see numbers and statistics about how many people suffered there, but the first-account stories takes the experience to a whole new level.  As global citizens, this learning experience is crucial to understanding the past and how we can move forward to protect the future. 

 Amber Valentine
Dachau.  Going there I was expecting to have a lot of emotions and feel really sad after. But being there in the middle of the wide open space felt like I was living through someone else’s eyes.  I think I did too good a job of distancing myself from hard feelings because most of it felt unreal.  Is it wrong to feel that way?  I think sometime in the future it will hit me with everything that I saw today.

Aaron Latta
DSC_1741Dachau is a physical manifestation of an all too common and horrifying reality.  This phantom of the holocaust provides an example of how to react and prevent this pattern of manufactured murder.  By accepting the history of the holocaust as an educational opportunity, Germany has created a society that is inherently the antithesis of the totalitarian nightmare under Hitler.  Through this reflective learning, the people of Germany have enticed a garden of peace out of the self-inflicted conflagration of genocide.  There is a plentiful supply of self-inflicted scars of our own that could use the same treatment. 

Mikela Lazari
DSC_1742The Dachau Memorial site has a power that affects each individual differently, and for me it was in a few different steps. First, it felt wrong to speak or even think about anything other than what each wall and stone represented.  Next, I started taking in the beauty presented by the trees and nature surrounding the concentration camp, only to realize that in the eyes of those imprisoned there that this beauty was instead a representation of all that had been taken from them.  Going through the barracks and witnessing the isolation rooms made me want to break down and cry.  Having read Elie Wiesel’s Night, this visit felt undeniably real and current.  It is so easy to brush off terrors in history and call them the past, when in reality they are the blueprint for our present day injustices. 

Michelle Jin Kelly (12 years old)
DSC_1737Despite reading Elie Wiesel’s
Night, I was not emotionally prepared for this experience, and it has left me thinking how people as horrible as the SS troops and Nazis could even be called human.  Dachau is an example that we must learn from in order to never repeat this horrid, inhuman time in history.  And as Wiesel said, we must always remember the victims so that as “not to let them die a second death.”

Salzburg Conference – 6/16/17 – Day 5

A group photo of the WVC Salzburgers before heading into the Dachau Camp.

The work continues into our 5th day of the Salzburg Conference on Global Citizenship.  Today students debated a number of issues specific to the refugee crisis happening not just from Syria but nations in turmoil around the world.  Is the Travel Ban imposed by the Trump administration based on national security?  Race?  Religion?  What are the myths regarding illegal immigration into the U.S.?  Students were asked a question, told to take a side, and defend it.

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Cade and Harley duke it out over issues pertaining to illegal immigrants coming into the USA.

So what’s the point, you may be asking yourself, of sending students to Austria to debate issues that many of us bring up in our own classes when it comes to race/ethnicity, class, and gender?  First off, the conference presenters are mostly European (except for one presenter from Afghanistan and another who is an American ex-pat who lives with his family in Salzburg).  They can provide an “outsider’s” perspective that our students simply are not going to get in American classrooms.  When a European scholar in American history gives a presentation on how countries around the world view the United States, that has resonance with students when they are hearing it outside of America.

But there is a second benefit this conference has produced that was unanticipated.  WVC students are engaging in discussions with students who share a far more conservative perspective than students within California.  This has led to some interesting obstacles among some of the student work groups in creating an action plan to promote Global Citizenship as the Central Michigan University students believe that some of the issues San Jose State University and WVC students want to promote are too liberal.

Our friends from Central Michigan University.

It has also created other conflicts over how to define certain concepts such as globalization, a term that the business students from SJSU have a positive view of, but the Michigan students have a negative view of due to the depressed economy in their state’s domestic industries.  As faculty advisers have been instructed to let these student groups remain student directed, it has been fascinating to watch how these opposing regional blocs work through their differences.

Our friends from San Jose State University.

As students put together their final action plans tomorrow for a presentation to the whole conference, we shall see whether those differences can be worked through.  Personally, I’m optimistic that they can be.


Harley, Mikela, and Isaiah share a fun moment down by the lake.

Day 6 – 6/17/17

The student groups had their presentations today, and they were nothing short of phenomenal!  If there were any ideological disagreements between participants based on their home region (as I explained there appeared to be in the previous post), it was not noticeable in the final product of the project.  Each of these groups were able to pull together an amazing amount of material and opinions, AND then produce (in just a few hours) a coherent demonstration of their action plan.

IMG_20170617_204444There were no PowerPoint presentations or speakers getting up in front of the room.  This was definitely old school as students working in their groups could use nothing more than a poster.  Each group had a corner of the room and only a poster to work with.  As conference participants mingled from group to group, two presenters would stand next to the poster explaining the action proposal and answering questions.  They would then be replaced by two other presenters after 5 minutes so that everyone in the group had the opportunity to present.  Students from the three colleges attending the conference were divided evenly into the groups, so each of the four posters had WVC student participation (which is why I am posting photos of all four posters and groups).

IMG_20170617_211253Before you start reading the posters, let me give you some context.  Students were required to present a particular plan of action to advance the conservation of global citizenship based on what they have learned over the last 5 days.  For instance, would the action plan focus on human rights?  On globalization?  On promoting awareness of world poverty?  Ethnic and religious conflict in the developing world?  Once the topic was decided upon, the groups would zero in on a particular audience.  As these are college students, all four groups put together an action plan that would primarily be based at the college level, but the reach of the audience differed between the groups.  Some focused on college students, while others targeted elementary/secondary education kids and/or the general community.


While the posters below lack the oral explanation group participants provided during the presentation, the photos of each can give you a sense of the tremendous creativity that students put into these projects.

Brynna and Isaiah’s group.


Cade and Aaron’s group.


Aunika and Harley’s group.



Amber and Mikela’s group.


Tomorrow is our last night in Salzburg, so I will make one last entry at that time about our experience here in this amazing city.

Day 7 – Final Full Day

Today, our final full day in Salzburg, was a day for concluding arguments and reflection.  It was also about celebrations for all that the student participants have accomplished.

DSC_1879The Conference organizers, Jochen and Astrid, led a final panel that sought to make connections between the different presentations and discussions over the week.  They urged the students to stay committed to what they learned at the conference, and most important to spread the word about global citizenship and make converts.

DSC_1890Students were then given several hours of free time to spend with each other, either on the palace grounds or in the city, strengthening the connections that they have built over the week.  For instance, our West Valley students have made some strong ties with San Jose State participants, and the SJSU adviser has already approached me about doing a joint mini-conference on their campus where all of our students can get together and stay connected (it also helps that the SJSU adviser and I are, as we discovered, practically neighbors – and so we hope to keep an ongoing exchange between our programs strong.)

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DSC_1938Our conference came to an end with a series of events that capped off what has been a truly amazing week.  A reception in the library, followed by a concert in the Great Hall lobby of the palace, and then a banquet that exhibited the same excellent quality of dining that we have had all week in our meals.  It will be for our students a night to remember.

So, has this Global Citizenship conference had an impact?  That’s the most important question, isn’t it?  I’ll end this blog by letting a few of our students speak for themselves:

From Harley Rose
Coming to the Global Citizenship conference has really given me the chance to take a step back from all current ideas (political, academic, social) and put myself in the shoes of another person.  My level of empathy has grown immensely since being here and I have had many a realization, in terms of my self-awareness and how important that concept is for every human on this planet to be.  This seminar has added to my life in more ways than I thought any one particular item or event could even contribute in a single way, and I am humbled by this amazing experience.  If the entire world could go to this seminar, the entire world could get on with working together and working towards a single great common good for all of mankind.

From Cade Story-Yetto

DSC_1923My experience with the Global Citizenship Alliance Seminar has deepened my passion for political change and progression.  Seeing the varying issues of our past brought up through the trip to Dachau, and the intensifying problems of our present highlighted in our Afghanistan lecture, we can begin to see how we as global citizens are so important.  In being global citizens, we must not only take time to learn these issues, we must also challenge ourselves to construct effective solutions for the sake of humanity.  In bringing these problems to light, the seminar has given us a platform to do just that.  The brilliant leaders of the seminar have also shown us the value and necessity of empathy, and that empathy will be the impetus to this group’s move toward solutions.  Overall, I have had an incredibly enriching and life-changing experience, and will remember this for years to come!

From Mikela Lazari
DSC_1888This trip has truly challenged me and helped me become better prepared for my intended career in International Law.  To be surrounded by individuals seeking the same answers as you, while presenting their ideas and beliefs that differ from your own is a frustration I have grown to love.  In the past I have had no trouble speaking my mind and making a persuasive case.  This week I have truly been put to the test in the best of ways; while living in a beautiful city filled with history and culture, I have been blessed to learn from every individual that I have been exposed to.  Day by day I am amazed by what I didn’t know the day before and hope to learn the next day.  I am humbled to have been a part of this experience and excited to have taken another step towards becoming a Global Citizen.

DSC_1900The West Valley College Salzburgers of 2017

It’s been both a privilege and an honor being their adviser the last few months.  Thanks for reading this blog.

Tim Kelly


Aunika Aguirre-Santos


Mikela Lazari


Dr. Kelly working with Brynna, Cade, Mikela, Isaiah

2 thoughts on “Missives from Salzburg, Austria

  1. Pingback: Study Abroad Program Photo Exhibit | WVC Global Citizenship

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