Roughly 50 students and faculty explored the theme of individuality at Binghamton University’s first Pathways conference on Sunday.
Held in the Anderson Center, Pathways, an open-access interdisciplinary conference, featured talks from six professionals centering around originality and individualism.
Activities at the event included giveaways and dance performances from Binghamton Bhangra and the Philippine-American League’s Modern Dance group (PAL Moda). Student artists also had their work on display outside of the auditorium.
Student Association (SA) President Jermel McClure, a senior majoring in political science, spoke about the importance of self-reflection at the event. McClure said he wanted to participate in the conference so he could give younger students a knowledgeable perspective on individuality.
“My message is that it is important for students to self-reflect and be intentional about all the decisions they’re making,” McClure said. “And that they’re making those decisions because they reflected and believe those are the right things, not because society is telling them to.”
Phillip Demarest, co-founder and organizer of Pathways and a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience, said he believes the conference helps bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and artistic expression. According to Demarest, he was inspired to create Pathways by reactions to the 2016 presidential election.
“What stimulated me to bring on this event was the recent election,” Demarest said in an interview. “Not in terms of the outcome, but with how people dealt with disagreement.”
According to Demarest, the main goal of Pathways is to create its own professional documentary, which would include footage from the conference and advocate for critical thinking and increasing the spread of academic knowledge in a creative way.
John Beck, a freshman majoring in biology, said he attended the event to hear from Ryan Vaughan, one of the speakers at the event and an adjunct professor of English at BU. According to Beck, he hoped to gain insight from Vaughan’s talk about media influence and humor as a form of medicine.
“I saw an advertisement for it on the [BU] website and thought it seemed interesting,” Beck said. “Vaughan brought a unique perspective about the importance of humor in an individual’s life and how underappreciated and undervalued humor is.”
Another speaker at the event was David Sloan Wilson, distinguished professor of biology and anthropology at BU. Wilson’s talk focused on the biological perspective of individuality, or evolutionary theory, by questioning the definition of an individual organism.
“It’s a more complicated question than you might think,” Wilson said. “You and me are both organisms, but a group can also be an organism. It is even possible for us to fall apart as organisms.”
Other speakers at the event included Eric Dietrich, a professor of philosophy; Kirsten Prior, an assistant professor of biological sciences; and Diane Clemente, a licensed clinical social worker and private-practice psychoanalyst.
According to Demarest, he plans to have more events like Pathways in the future.
“We’ve been working for about a year now organizing this conference,” Demarest said. “The experience has been wonderful. Pretty stressful, but wonderful.”