Virtual Conference Provides a Unique Opportunity

The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.
― Abigail Adams

This year, COVID provided students with many unique challenges and opportunities. One COVID-related opportunity was an invitation by Wake Forest University’s professor Michael Lamb, who invited Dr. Pierce and the TASIS Class of 2021 to participate in the International Leadership and Character conference. Under normal circumstances, this high-profile event would take place live, and would thus be exclusive to physical audiences. This year, however, the conference was hosted virtually by Wake Forest University and the Oxford Character Project.

Students listened to the Honorable Madeleine K. Albright and the Honorable Colin L. Powell, as well as leaders from Harvard University, Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University, The US House of Representatives, the American Society of Engineering Education, the American Medical Association, and more! Seniors discussed some of the most pressing questions facing their generation this century. Conference organizers asked students to consider the following questions:

  • What obligations do professionals have for advancing the public good?
  • What distinctive virtues are most important to ethical leadership for professionals?
  • How can character be educated or improved among current or aspiring professionals?
  • How do specific institutions, incentives, and cultures form or de-form the character of professionals? 

TASIS seniors participated in the conference through the hybrid learning model. Hybrid learning is an internationally friendly, flexible teaching style, which has been adapted for use by TASIS teachers to serve the diverse learning needs of our students. Some students participated asynchronously from their home countries, viewing recordings and responding to questions and ideas in their digital notes. Others were given the privilege of participating in the conference live and were invited to contribute their own comments and questions to the esteemed panelists.

Senior Humanities (AP) and Theory of Knowledge (IB) students engaged in stimulating class discussions after the sessions. The conference provided food for thought well into the weekend. Referring to a talk by Eric Beerbohm, Professor of Government at Harvard University, TASIS senior Zackir explained, “This talk was a very interesting analysis on the current political landscape.” After listening and responding to a keynote address by Jonathan Lee Walton, Dean of Wake Forest Divinity School, senior Erica remarked, “I related with that a lot. To be able to hear from an expert about something he is so passionate about – directly from him – is a really different and educational format.”