In just a few days, over 15,000 scientists, clinicians, policy makers, and activists will gather in Amsterdam for the 22nd International AIDS conference. Again this year, I’ll be lucky enough to be a delegate at this preeminent meeting, accompanying several members of Warner Hall Eating House at Davidson College. Over the next week or two, the students will use this blog to introduce themselves, share their experiences at the conference, and reflect on what they learned. Before we start our trip, though, I wanted to briefly share a little background about this trip.
Let’s start with an obvious question: Why are members of an eating house, largely considered a social organization, attending a conference? Like other eating houses, fraternities, and sororities at Davidson College, Warner Hall Eating House has a strong ethos of service and philanthropy. For Warner Hall, HIV/AIDS is the focus of their efforts. Since I became involved with Warner, their members and I have looked for ways to add an academic component to their HIV/AIDS-related service and philanthropy. Thanks especially to two Warner Hall alumnae, Betsy Gammon and Caitlin James, that goal became a reality. They worked tirelessly to develop a travel grant that enables Warner Hall members to attend this biennial international meeting. In 2014, the first group of Warner Hall members attended the 2014 AIDS conference in Melbourne. In 2016, three members attended the conference in Durban, S.A. And now, three more students are on their way to Amsterdam for the 2018 conference.
Now for another question: What’s the benefit of this travel grant? The students who attended past conferences returned to Davidson with a renewed commitment to Warner Hall’s HIV/AIDS service and philanthropic efforts. They returned to Davidson more passionate about issues related to public health and social justice. They returned better prepared to live lives of leadership and service. However, the benefits don’t stop there. Yes, we spend a week discussing HIV/AIDS with colleagues from around the world. But we also get time to talk about and reflect on so many other issues, outside of the confines of an academic requirement. To me, attending this conference with these students encapsulates all that is good about Davidson College. I’m looking forward the upcoming week. I hope you follow along as we enjoy our adventure.