Make The Connection

February 7, 2024 | By Cole Hatcher

'Excited for the Future'

Ohio Wesleyan Students Attend Athens Democracy Forum in Greece

Ohio Wesleyan students Saharla Loyan '25 (pictured) and Katherine DiJulius '24 were selected to participate in the Athens Democracy Forum held in Greece this fall. Loyan's video on the environment, military, and Paris Climate Accords was chosen to be played during the event.

Saharla Loyan '25 visits the Acropolis Museum during her trip to Greece to participate in the Athens Democracy Forum. (Photo courtesy of Saharla Loyan '25)

Name: Saharla Loyan '25
Hometown: Westerville, Ohio
Majors: Pre-Law and Sociology and Anthropology
Minors: Politics and Government and Women's and Gender Studies
OWU Connection Experience: The Athens Democracy Forum, organized by The Democracy and Culture Association and held in association with The New York Times

Loyan and Katherine DiJulius '24 of Strongsville, Ohio, traveled to Greece for six days in the fall to serve as student delegates at The Athens Democracy Forum. They were nominated by professors, selected by an OWU committee to represent the University, and then chosen to attend the forum by the Global Liberal Arts Alliance, an international organization founded and administered by the Great Lakes Colleges Association.

The forum explored the question, "Do we dare to hope?" Speakers and panels explored "the great and fateful clash over the future of democratic rule and fundamental freedoms, and the dangerous ideological and political fissures that have opened the world over." Loyan shares her thoughts on the experience here.

One of the spontaneous conversations I fell into (the best part of the forum) was with Namatai Kwekweza, who won the inaugural Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize later that day.

Saharla Loyan '25

My Favorite Moment

"One of the spontaneous conversations I fell into (the best part of the forum) was with Namatai Kwekweza, who won the inaugural Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize later that day. Namatai, myself, and a fellow student attendee ended up in a 30-minute-plus conversation about justice, the Global South, colonization, survivor's guilt, Africa, and so much more. It was such a joy to talk with both of them, and it made me incredibly excited for the future." (Kwekweza, 24, is a Zimbabwean pro-democracy activist and feminist with more than half a decade of experience in community organizing, social entrepreneurship, and human rights advocacy.)

Lessons Learned

"One thing that stood out to me and that I had numerous conversations with speakers, presenters, and other students about was how 'Western-centric' the forum was. While it critiqued certain aspects of the United States and mentioned the USA's failures, many speakers, moderators, and presenters still lauded the United States as this beacon of democracy when in 2023, the USA has undoubtedly proven itself not to be.

"While there wasn't this overt worship of Western European countries as well as the United States, there was still an undertone that they were doing democracy right and everyone else (more specifically, the Global South) was doing it wrong. In reality, most 'Western' countries also fail to live up to their democratic promises."

My Faculty Mentor

"Professor Dawn Chisebe has been an incredible mentor who has done so much more for me than aid me through my academic career. She is a rock on our campus and has played a significant role in my success and that of many others at OWU." (Loyan works as a student intern for Chisebe, who is a member of OWU's Department of Africana, Gender, and Identity Studies and the University's chief diversity officer.)

My Campus Involvements

"I am also president of the Pre-Law Society, a WCSA (student government) senator, and a member of several other student organizations."

Why I Chose Ohio Wesleyan?

"Ohio Wesleyan University demonstrated that it could fulfill my desire to attend a smaller institution where I could be supported and mentored through my academic and personal goals."

My Plans After Graduation

"After I graduate, I plan on attending law school and becoming an attorney."