New Symposium ‘Passport’ System a Success


Student Ambassador Noah Braun stamps a student’s passport before Thursday’s plenary session. PHOTO BY JIM MALVEN.


Last week, for the first time in a decade, Symposium Committee members used a different method for monitoring Symposium attendance: paper and ink.

Opting for a low-tech approach, Westminster found a solution to the electronic problem of malfunctioning card-reading machines by using a two-page pamphlet and stamps to take attendance.

“(The card readers) just weren’t functioning properly in the past few years, so they decided to try this idea out,” Symposium Committee Student Representative Isaac Coronel, ’17, said.

The “passports” contained information boxes for all 22 sessions and events and an area next to each box for a Student Ambassador to place a stamp showing that the student attended that session.


The inside of a passport. PHOTO BY JIM MALVEN.

Students could then take their stamped pamphlets to their professors to show proof of attendance at specific sessions.

Dr. Kurt Jefferson, assistant dean for Global Initiatives, director of the Churchill Institute for Global Engagement and professor of transnational and international studies, said the new system is easier and better at tracking attendance.

“(The passports) allow for a completely centralized system,” Jefferson said. “It cuts out middle persons like the dean of faculty, who would get the computer print-outs from the swipers and then the attendance sheets from the breakout sessions and have to take them to professors.”

Student Ambassador Alec Bise added, “The card swiping was kind of tedious – only some cards would work; some their cards on them…your professor doesn’t quite know if you attended or not.”

On Wednesday morning, prior to the Opening Plenary Session, Bise and other Student Ambassadors distributed the passports to the students, who gave generally positive reviews.

“I like that it’s so easy, because they can just stamp it,” Kolbie McNutt, ’20, said prior to the 57th Green Foundation Lecture on Thursday.

Karley Long, ’18, agreed that the system was simple.

“I think the passports are great for classes that require specific Symposium attendance,” Long said. “It provides the proof, saving both students and professors time.”

Committee Head Dr. Dawn Holliday, associate professor of biology and environmental science, added that it also has the benefits of having specific stamps for specific lectures and that the brief descriptions of breakout sessions could be helpful in deciding which session to attend.

The passport does have some downsides – Coronel pointed out that students could photocopy passports, and Holliday recognized that there is no good solution for students who lose their passport – but the committee seems to be pleased overall.

“We believe it’s a good system,” Jefferson said. “Neither this nor the old system is/was perfect . . . but this system is an improvement over the card readers.”

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