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14th Atlas Week turns attention to education, South Asia

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Junoon: Pakistan’s most successful rock band  will play next Friday as part of Atlas Week. Photo Courtesy of Atlas Planning Committee

Junoon: Pakistan’s most successful rock band will play next Friday as part of Atlas Week.
Photo Courtesy of Atlas Planning Committee

The fourteenth annual Atlas Week will turn its attention to education and South Asia, welcoming keynote speaker Shabana Basij-Rasikh and Pakistani rock band Junoon as its headlining guests. The 2014 program will offer 130 events over the course of seven days, with topics spanning the globe and over 50 percent of the programming hosted by students. This year marks the first time Atlas Week will host a musical performance, in addition to a kick-off event and a culinary special with guest Samina Ahmad.

Atlas Week will run from March 31 to April 4, and this year’s theme is “Education: Igniting the Flames of Change,” focusing on the work of Basij-Rasikh in Afghanistan. Basij-Rasikh is originally from Kabul, and she founded School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA) while she was attending school in the U.S.. SOLA is both a non-profit aimed at helping Afghan women gain access to education and jobs and the first girls’ boarding school in Afghanistan. In her keynote symposium, titled “Dare to Educate Afghan Girls”, Basij-Rasikh is expected to talk about her work in Afghanistan and the belief that educating young Afghan women is the most effective way to affect change for women in Afghan society.

According to Michelle Lorenzini, assistant professor of Political Science and the head of Atlas Week, the decision to invite Basij-Rasikh was informed by the hopes of hosting a South Asian-themed program.

Junoon, Pakistan’s most commercially successful rock band. will perform with his full band on April 4 in an event that looks to explore the work of poet and theologian Jalaluddin Rumi.

Salman Ahmad, Junoon’s front man, and Samina Ahmad, a medical doctor, activist, television personality and Salman’s wife, will host a collection of formal events during the week: Samina will discuss holistic approaches to wellness and Salman will give a talk on civic education and women in politics Pakistan. In another event the husband and wife will talk about their work with the Salman and Samina Ahmad Global Wellness Initiative (SSGWI), a non-profit organization based in New York which works to facilitate interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue, health and wellness and music education across the world.

Atlas Week has also expanded its Coffee and Conversation programming following the success of last year’s event.

In addition to the discussion held with Basij-Rasikh, Atlas welcomed nominations for members of the SLU community to host their own talks.

According to Nebu Kolenchery, a senior in the College of Public Health and an Atlas intern, the idea for the series was inspired by a conversation between members of SLU’s Political Round Table. Some students found that, while they can attend social justice talks and hear from influential individuals, there was little opportunity for an actual discussion.

“You never get to… react to what you’re hearing about,” Kolenchery said.

This year’s series will feature Shannon Potter, a resident physician at the SLU School of Medicine, Luke Yarborough, an assistant professor of Middle Eastern History, and Sara Rahim, a senior in the both the College of Public Health. Each event will provide an opportunity for students to have a more personal conversation about the host’s experiences and ideas.

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