Gockel Symposium reaches ninth year

Dr. Chad Stebbins - Director of the Institute of International Studies

Dr. Chad Stebbins – Director of the Institute of International Studies

As the centerpiece of the Mexico-themed semester, the ninth annual Harry and Berniece Gockel International Symposium will be held at 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Taylor Performing Arts Center and Webster Hall auditorium.

The Symposium, first held in 1997, was created after the Gockel’s donated part of their estate to Missouri Southern so that the Symposium could be created. It is hosted by the Institute of International Studies.

Harry Gockel had been a faculty member of Southern since 1939, when it was still Joplin Junior College. He retired in 1972, and died in 1984. The program from the 2004 Symposium states his wife Berniece was “an ardent supporter” of the University, and maintained a relationship with Southern following Harry’s death.

The 2004 program reads, “their wish was that ‘the Symposium or conference … discuss international affairs, governments and politics, including issues of historical, economic, geo-political, social or current affairs. Authorities in these disciplines shall be invited to the Symposium or conference to lecture and discuss these issues with the students, faculty and people of the region.”

This year, the Gockel International Symposium: New Horizons in U.S.-Mexico Relations, will feature speakers Armand Peschard-Sverdrup and Loretta Bondi. Peschard-Sverdrup is “regarded as one of the leading experts on Mexican politics in the United States and Mexico,” read the Symposium Web site.

Bondi is “an independent researcher and advocate focusing on international security, international organizations and coalitions, human rights, U.N. and regional sanctions, and the arms trade.”

Dr. Chad Stebbins, director of the Institute of International Studies, stressed the importance of the event.

“If people can only attend one event for the themed semester, this would be the one to go to,” he said.

The first talk, “U.S.-Mexico Relations: From Drugs and Thugs to a More Strategic Partnership,” will be given by Peschard-Sverdrup at 9:30 a.m. in the Taylor Performing Arts Center.

His talk will focus on the U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship, covering many issues affecting both countries, according to the Symposium Web site.

When the Symposium reconvenes at 7 p.m., Bondi will give a talk, “Medium-size Powers and Multilateral Action: The Case of Mexico.” Bondi said her talk will be a “case study of Mexico and what it has done during [Vicente] Fox’s presidency.”

She will also discuss the “failures and successes” of Mexico’s attempts at promoting international human rights, and will showcase Mexico as an “example of how a medium-sized power could shape international security.”

Bondi said her book, Beyond the Border and Across the Atlantic: Mexico’s Foreign and Security Policy Post-Sept. 11, more closely examines the U.S.-Mexico relationship.

“There is a long border shared,” she said, “and well-known problems. Both countries fear [post-Sept. 11] international criminals taking advantage of the porosity of the border.”

Bondi said at the beginning of their respective administrations, Presidents George W. Bush and Vicente Fox shared a “common political trajectory,” regarding a relationship between the United States. and Mexico as a “top priority,” which “subsided after 9-11.”

Bondi also said that the two presidents have “shared values and … a mutual understanding.”

“Mexico remains a central country concerning American foreign policy,” she said.

Peschard-Sverdrup will be giving a second talk at the 7 p.m. session, “Mexican Politics: Countdown to the 2006 Presidential Elections.”

Peschard-Sverdrup’s talk will focus on the aftermath of the 2000 election of Vicente Fox, the first opposition candidate voted into office in 71 years. It will examine whether the Fox Administration has delivered the change they promised and the effect it will have on the 2006 presidential elections.

The Symposium will be moderated by Dr. Tom Simpson, associate professor of social science, and will feature a question and answer session. Admission is free and all are invited to attend.