European Alumnae Symposium

2017 European Alumnae Symposium in Riga, Latvia, welcomed more than 130 participants

A weekend of distinguished speakers, networking, music, and food.

Mount Holyoke College’s fourteenth European Alumnae Symposium drew more than 130 guests, including alumnae from all over the world and two students, to Riga, Latvia, during the weekend of October 6–8, to explore the topic The Story of Latvia’s Strength: How a Culture Saved a Nation.

The symposium included presentations by prominent speakers, an active panel discussion on the future of Latvian culture, walking tours of Riga, and several musical performances.

Guests were immersed in a weekend of Latvian food, film, and music, including Latvian champagne and fashion, a showing of the award-winning Latvian documentary film “Ruch and Norie,” and a special folklore concert by the Trio Šmite Rancāne Cinkuss.

The most notable presentation was from keynote speaker, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, former two-term President of Latvia and one of the country’s most influential public figures, who stressed: “language, literature, and culture each play key roles in creating our national consciousness, bringing the essence of being Latvian into the wider European and global human contexts.”

Symposium participants had opportunities to reconnect with fellow alumnae and engage in discussions with Acting President Sonya Stephens about the College’s Strategic Plan for 2021.

What an extraordinary time you prepared for us in Riga; it was magic! The word that comes to mind is ‘nourished’—I was nourished intellectually (such magnificent presentations!), socially, and also cuisine-ly! There was joy in every moment from beginning to end.Louise Thunin, ’66, France

During the gala dinner on Saturday evening, Marcia Brumit Kropf ’67, president of the Alumane Association, elaborated on the current activities and strategic plan of the Association. In celebration of the European Council’s thirtieth anniversary, chair of the European Council, Silvia Maulini ’80, presented awards to a Junior Year Abroad and a Senior Year Abroad student, a recent graduate, and a European alumna.

The event, which is planned every two years in a different European city by the Mount Holyoke European Alumnae Council and supported by the Alumnae Association and the College, was organized by European alumnae, Indra Priede ’92Aniela White Staszewska ’05, and Ilze Ziņģe Krēsliņa CG’89.

The organizing committee members are extremely pleased with the success of the Riga symposium: “We accomplished what we set out to do—ensure that symposium participants reconnect with each other, feel intellectually stimulated like they used to at Mount Holyoke, and experience Riga in such a way as to want to return to Latvia in the future,” said Indra Priede ’92.

—Photos by Sarmīte Vaļka

View more photos here

Recording of Vaira Vīķe-Freibergas talk.

Reading Suggestions:

Five Fingers by Māra Zālīte

Baltic Facades by Aldis Purs

Walking Since Daybreak by Modris Eksteins

The Power of Song by Guntis Smidchens

Life in Post-Communist Eastern Europe after EU Membership by Žaneta Ozoliņa

Maizes zupa — Latvian Bread Soup recipe