Guest column: Third biennial Northern Colorado Human Trafficking Symposium was a great success

Symposium logo

Editor’s note: The following guest column was written by Lumina Albert, associate professor of Business and Management, and founder and executive director of the Center for Ethics and Human Rights at Colorado State University.

The 2022 Northern Colorado Human Trafficking Symposium, a premier and distinctive international conference, was hosted through Colorado State University as a two-day virtual event Feb. 17-18.

With over 1,000 registrants that included students, faculty and community members, and a host of speakers that included survivor leaders, allies and advocates, the Symposium was an incredible success. The symposium is a biennial conference that seeks to engage and educate on the issue of human trafficking through research, training and collaboration.

The theme for this year’s symposium was “Empowering the Global Frontlines.” The motivation for this theme was the acknowledgement by the symposium team that trafficking is both a local and a global issue disrupting and destabilizing the health, security and well-being of individuals and communities, across continents, countries and counties.

Lumina Albert
Lumina Albert

Attendees from across the globe

The symposium organizers sought to bring to prominence the importance of global collaborations across geographic and cultural boundaries, the sharing of talents and resources, and uniting strategically with compassion and in solidarity, to succeed in the fight against trafficking. Attendees and presenters at the symposium included individuals from across the world, including Uganda, India, Bolivia, Mexico and Brazil, as well as from different parts of the United States, including Ohio, Washington, D.C., and Colorado.

The first symposium was held in 2018 at Colorado State University with over 400 attendees, and the second was held in 2020 with over 800 attendees. The 2022 symposium had three tracks, a “101” Awareness and Education track, a “201” Professional and Advanced Training track, and a “301” Research Track.

In the 101 Track, attendees learned about the basics of human trafficking and how they could be involved in the fight against human trafficking. In the 201 Track, professionals received advanced training and professional development. Many professionals operate in fields where they interact with individuals who are vulnerable to trafficking or who experience trafficking, and the 201 Track helped provide advanced training for professionals to detect, prevent and fight trafficking in their respective professional roles. The 301 Track highlighted cutting-edge quantitative and qualitative research in human trafficking and modern slavery, and emphasized discussions of contemporary issues, emerging topics and research methodology in the field.

Collaborative effort

While the 2022 symposium was hosted by a team that volunteered with the newly formed CSU Center for Ethics and Human Rights, it is a shared and collaborative effort of multiple organizations and individuals that are passionate about ending human trafficking. Recognizing that the fight against human trafficking can be won only by a concerted team effort, sponsorships were provided by the Richardson Foundation, U COUNT Campaign, Hope Roots, The Neenan Company, G.L.O.B.A.L. Justice and other organizations. Several departments and units within CSU were generous in contributing their time, talent and resources for the success of the symposium, including the Provost’s Ethics Colloquium, Office of Admissions, the Department of Management in the College of Business, as well as the Walter Scott Jr., College of Engineering.

CSU Provost Mary Pedersen
CSU Provost and Executive Vice President Mary Pedersen

Mary Pedersen, provost and executive vice president of Colorado State University, provided the welcome address at the event.

“The impact of CSU’s world-class research, academic and engagement enterprises benefits communities and all types of ecosystems globally,” she said in her address. “We are very proud of what we do daily to help address some of the greatest challenges in human and animal health, the environment and sustainability, data sciences and analysis, agriculture and world food systems, public discourse and democratic institutions, just to name a few. We care about the planet, and we care about the quality of life for our fellow citizens. Certainly, human trafficking is one of the world’s greatest challenges; that is why all of you are here today committing your energy to doing more to help stop this affront to human dignity.”

CSU President Joyce McConnell also provided a letter of support for the symposium.

Mayoral proclamation

Following the provost’s address, Fort Collins Mayor Jeni Arndt presented a mayoral proclamation to the community of attendees, in which she proclaimed February 2022 as “Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.”

The Symposium also featured keynote speakers: Honorable Judge Robert Lung of the 18th Judicial District of Colorado and Member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking; Kelly Dore, executive director of the National Human Trafficking Survivor Coalition; and Agnes Igoye, Uganda’s deputy national coordinator for the prevention of trafficking in persons and director of Uganda’s Immigration Training Academy, as well as breakout session presentations by survivors of domestic and international human trafficking, professionals, academic researchers in the field and influential allies against modern slavery.

The topics covered in the symposium included child exploitation, gender violence in trafficking contexts, protecting children from online sexual exploitation, global human trafficking, familial human trafficking, trafficking in supply chains and other important topics.

More information on the symposium, including some recordings and PowerPoint slides of sessions will be uploaded on the official symposium website soon, and a list of symposium speakers as well as members of the symposium team are available online.

About the Center for Ethics and Human Rights

The newly formed Center for Ethics and Human Rights at Colorado State University was formed with the goal of tackling the world’s most pressing ethics and human rights issues.

Spanning all eight colleges at CSU, the center was officially approved by Faculty Council last May and Pedersen in June. It will be housed in The Institute for Learning and Teaching and the Office of the Provost.

“The decision to support the development of a CSU Center for Ethics and Human Rights was simply the right thing to do given our mission of academic and research excellence, our institutional values of equity and social justice, and the need to prepare the next generation of leaders for an increasingly complex world,” Pedersen said. “Its impact will be significant, and I am grateful to Dr. Albert for leading the call to establish this center and accepting the role of executive director.”

As stated by Pedersen, the impact of the Center for Ethics and Human Rights is already being felt in the Northern Colorado community and beyond. Paulette Hansen, director of career development at The Neenan Company, one of the symposium’s sponsors, said: “The symposium team hit a home run this year! The work that is being done by the organizers and participants of the symposium is critical for our community. I was very impressed with the quality of the program and all that I learned about human trafficking and what is being done to fight it. There is so much more to do.”