Kurt Jefferson: The Self-Proclaimed ‘Traffic Director’ of the Symposium
BY JIM MALVEN
This past week’s Hancock Symposium was the sixth coordinated by Dr. Kurt Jefferson since he was appointed director of the Churchill Institute for Global Engagement in 2010.
Jefferson, assistant dean for global initiatives and a professor of transnational and international studies, served on the symposium committee from 2006-2007. Three years later, as part of his Churchill Institute appointment, Jefferson took on the newly created role of symposium implementer and has been the main overseer, planner, and orchestrator of Westminster’s annual lecture series ever since.
Each year as early as June, Jefferson begins the nearly four-month-long process of planning the Hancock Symposium.
“For a two-and-a-half day event, it requires enormous planning, [which] does take most of June, July, August and September,” he said.
In the beginning, Jefferson’s duties entail occasional meetings with symposium committee members and talking with speakers about logistical issues. However, once classes begin, he coordinates and attends meetings much more frequently, and any unresolved issues become more pressing.
When the week of the symposium arrives, Jefferson is almost always preparing for the big event somehow, whether it is attending a meeting, greeting a guest, or driving to the airport.
Even though Jefferson’s role demands a vast amount of his time, he said he has “grown to love” his job.
“I’ve seen how [the symposium] impacts our students and how they not only love it, but how they grow from it,” he said. “That is what makes it worth it.”
While in college, Jefferson served as the student body president, and the position allowed him to meet former UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden and civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael.
According to Jefferson, Westminster students have the opportunity to meet “scores of historical, business and other great leaders via the symposium” every year. His goal as the Hancock Symposium coordinator is to enhance students’ academic experience and give them the ability to “rub shoulders with America’s leaders.”
Although Jefferson has been at the center of many great symposia – and he believes that “all,” even those he has not helped out with, “have been great” – he gives credit to many other members of the Westminster community for making the symposium possible.
“Thanks to David and Linda Hancock, future generations will experience this transformative experience,” Jefferson said, referring to the endowment made by Hancock, ’67, and his wife in 2013. “We are thrilled for this gift, since it was not always guaranteed we would keep the symposium moving ahead.” Jefferson added: “Thanks to the continued leadership of Dean Perry and our new president, Dr. Akande, the Hancock Symposium will keep marching forth.”
When asked how long he intends to coordinate the annual symposium, Jefferson replied, “as long as Westminster will allow me to.”