European Alumnae Symposium

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Preliminary Weekend Overview

(Event times may be subject to change)

Friday, October 6, 2017

10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.

Symposium Check-in at the Albert Hotel (33 Dzirnavu St.)

10:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.

Free Tours sponsored by 

10:00–11:30 a.m. or 1:30–3:00 p.m.
1.5 Hour Walking Tour of Riga

Walking Tour of Riga. Sights covered: Old city including House of Blackheads, Freedom Monument, Dome Square; Art Nouveau District

Location: Meet at the Albert Hotel lobby.


4:30–5:45 p.m.
Champagne Reception at the Riga City Hall (Rātslaukums)

Participants will be welcomed with Latvian rhubarb champagne and Latvian folk music by the ensemble CANTATA between 4:30–5:00 p.m., followed by the opening address from the chair of the European Alumnae Council and a welcome by Nils Ušakovs, Mayor of Riga, Nancy Bikoff Pettit, US ambassador to the Republic of Latvia, and Mount Holyoke College Acting President Sonya Stephens.

6:00–7:00 p.m.

Concert at St. Peter’s Church (19 Skārņu St.)

Violin and piano concert performed by Mount Holyoke College music professors Linda Laderach and Larry Schipull. The enlightening fifty-minute musical program will be comprised of twentieth-century composers from the US and Latvia. 

7:20–7:40 p.m.

Ferry Ride to Riga Sunset Lounge by River Boat

River Boat “VECRĪGA” – a modern and popular passenger boat—will take us on the Daugava River to Riga Sunset Lounge. The ferry’s location is a five- to seven-minute walk from St. Peter’s Church. A guide will be on hand to bring us there. If you do not wish to ride the ferry, the restaurant is approximately twelve minutes by taxi.

6:00–11:00 p.m.

Opening Buffet Dinner at Riga Sunset Lounge (5k–14 Andrejostas St.)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

All talks will be held in the Soros Auditorium at the Stockholm School of Economics (Strelnieku iela 4a).

Special stalls with locally made crafts and souvenirs will be open throughout the day in a special section of the venue.

Note: For those who could not check in on Friday, a check-in desk will be open from 8:15 to 9:00 a.m. at the Soros Auditorium at the Stockholm School of Economics (4a Strelnieku St.).

9:10–9:40 a.m.

Keynote: How Culture Saved a Nation, the Story of Latvia’s Strength

The keynote address, delivered by Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, former president of Latvia and folklore scholar, will give an overview of Latvia’s communist past and democratic present within a cultural context. Vīķe-Freiberga will shed light on the question of how Latvian culture saved a nation during the Soviet era, including the role Latvian folklore, music, literature, and language has played in the revitalization.

Speaker: Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, former president of Latvia and folklore scholar

9:45–10:15 a.m.

Identity: Latvia as a Member of the EU and NATO

An introduction to Latvia’s role in present day politics. The relative size of Latvia’s territory and population, as well as its proximity to Russia, means that cooperation with Western partners is crucial to its survival and independence from its powerful neighbor.

Speaker: Žaneta Ozoliņa, professor of international relations, University of Latvia

10:15–10:45 a.m.

Life in Soviet Latvia: How We Lived and Survived; What Made us Laugh and be Happy
A visual presentation and discussion on life in Soviet Latvia from 1945–1990, demonstrating through poetry, film, literature, and artwork how Soviet repression made Latvia’s people stronger, more creative, and resilient. The presentation will be based on the book How we lived, how we survived, what made us laugh, what made us happy: Latvia during 1945–1990 by Ilga Kreituse.

Speaker: Mārtiņš Daugulis, research fellow at Latvian Institute of International Affairs; Riga Stradins University, faculty of European Studies.

10:45–11:15 a.m.

Coffee Break and Networking Opportunity with Panelists

During coffee breaks, please visit the stands showcasing Latvian souvenirs, including eco-friendly foods, sweets and cosmetics.

11:15–12:15 p.m.

Fireside Chat: The Future of Latvian Culture in a Globalized World
Question and answer session from audience members to follow discussion.

Moderator: Jeff Sommers, professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; visiting professor at Stockholm School of Economics in Riga


Daunis Auers, associate professor of comparative politics, University of Latvia

Dirk Hoyer, German-born filmmaker and lecturer, Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School, Tallinn University

Marina Goldena, Art curator, Owner, Positive Concepts Baltics Ltd. since 1997

12:30–2:00 p.m.

Buffet Lunch at the Albert Hotel

2:15–2:45 p.m.

Post-1991 Baltic Films: Traces of the Past on the Present 

Initial impulses in post-1991 films to forget the Soviet past and embrace all things Western are slowly being replaced by a desire to generate a new public dialogue and understanding about the Baltics’ tumultuous past. Examples of how the post-communist situation affected film culture from Baltic films will be explored.

Speaker: Dirk Hoyer, German-born filmmaker and lecturer, Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School, Tallinn University

2:45–3:30 p.m. 

Power of Song, Power of Women

Latvian Minister of Culture Dace Melbārde will talk about the historical role of culture in Latvian society and how it can be used as a “soft power” for integration of Latvia’s present day multi-ethnic society. She will examine manifestations of Latvian culture over the centuries, including its role in helping the nation’s identity survive and how it has transformed. Women’s special role in Latvia’s folklore and song will also be addressed, including a memorable performance from the folk singing group Stiprās Sievas, or “Strong Women.”

3:30–4:15 p.m.

A Symbol of Latvian Identity: Dainas (Latvian Folk Songs)

Live performances by the engaging folklore trio Šmite, Rancāne and Cinkuss, with active audience participation and discussion.
Latvians call themselves a nation of singers, and the folk-song tradition is the main symbol used for their self-identification. Created well over a thousand years ago, Dainas (Latvian folk songs) were part of celebrations, daily work, and reflections on life preserved in oral form. There are more than 1.2 million Dainas, with references to them in all forms and layers of culture, from theatre plays to everyday conversations.



Wrap-up of Saturday Sessions


4:30–5:00 p.m

Opportunity to visit souvenir stands with Latvian ceramics, clothing, eco-friendly foods, sweets, and cosmetics.


Biblioteka No. 1 Restaurant (2 Terbatas St.)

6:30–7:00 p.m.

Greetings with Latvian Champagne and Fashion

Participants will be welcomed with a unique Latvian apple and hops-infused champagne, followed by a short, informal fashion show showcasing Latvian designers, modeled by women of all shapes and sizes.

7:00–11:00 p.m.


Special remarks by Marcia Brumit Kropf ’67, president of the Alumnae Association, award ceremony, and an announcement of the location of the next European Symposium.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Soros Auditorium at the Stockholm School of Economics (4a Strelnieku St.)

Coffee available from 9:00 a.m.–Noon

9:30–10:15 a.m.

Join Acting President Sonya Stephens in conversation about the College’s Strategic Plan for 2021 and how an engaged community helps Mount Holyoke prepare women for leadership in a changing global landscape.

10:15–11:25 a.m.

Option A: Showing of the award winning 2015 Latvian documentary film Ruch and Norie, with introduction by Latvian film director Ināra Kolmane.

Ruch and Norie is a heart-warming story about the phenomenal friendship between a young Japanese girl Norie and 82-year-old woman nicknamed Ruch, living in Courland (Latvia), in the authentic community of Suiti County. Suiti culture is included in UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage. Friendship that once began as a purely academic project transforms into a rare and borderless human bonding. A young girl from the Land of the Rising Sun and an old lady from an almost extinct community shrinking in size every year. Our interest is to explore what it takes to maintain their relationship and what draws Norie back to Ruch? Could it be the one thing that we all long for in our own relationships?

(Free of cost. If interested, please sign up on the registration form).

Option B: Arts and crafts workshop allowing you to discover your creativity in the traditional Latvian way.
(Cost is EUR 10 per person and is non-refundable. If interested, please sign up on the registration form. Space is limited and onsite registration will only be accepted if space is available.)


Discussion and Closing Remarks

Optional Events on Sunday Afternoon

1:00–4:00 p.m.
Tour Riga’s Famous Central Market (Optional)
Discover the flavors of Latvian cuisine on a private, walking tour of Riga Central Market. Comprised of five pavilions of meat, fish, dairy, vegetables, and breads, this bustling temple features stalls, stands, and restaurants full of tantalizing food. With a local guide, explore all the pavilions to discover and learn about Latvians’ favorite staples and enjoy the gourmet tidbits offered by the vendors. The Central Market is a twenty-five-minute walk from the Albert Hotel or a short taxi ride. (Cost is EUR 20; preregistration required.)

1:00–2:00 p.m.
First group tour of Central Market
2:00–3:00 p.m.
Tasting of local Latvian delicacies for all participants
3:00–4:00 p.m.
Second group tour of Central Market

6:00–8:00 p.m.
Optional Dinner at a venue to be determined (each person pays for their own meal).