On February 23, 2008 the UTS Ocean Conference “The Cutting Edge of Ocean Challenge” was held at UTS’ Barrytown Campus.
Thirty participants including twelve leaders of Ocean Challenge — a program aiming to develop the social, natural, and cultural possibilities which the ocean has to offer — who had been working on their own programs and projects gathered on this occasion.
UTS president, Dr. Hendricks began by offering welcoming remarks, followed by Mr. Mike Dover’s presentation on his Los Angeles Ocean Challenge Program.
Mr. Dover expounded on the 24-year history of the program, which involved collaboration with gang prevention organizations, schools, the Board of Education, Police Department, Coast Guard, and various youth organizations. His presentation included heartfelt testimonies by those young individuals who found life again through his program and now volunteer as staff for the program.
Ms. Karen Smith presented a new perspective on the Ocean Challenge program. She explained how boat technologies and skills can fulfill the needs of small islands nations based on her experiences with UN related organizations. Ms. Margaret Sisserson, a UTS student from Palau, added insightful testimonies from an islander’s perspective.
Rev. Gregory Odlin, a UTS alumnus, presented his Ocean Challenge programs in Maine and Florida. He explained his financially self-supporting model, where participating students raise the funds for the program costs. He pointed out the increasing demands for his program, which he could not accommodate.
Rev. Terry McMahon, a pastor and youth minister in the New Jersey Family Church, presented his Ocean Challenge program, which works by collaborating with local communities. He pointed out that radical urbanization has had negative effects on human life, and emphasized the value of a nature based experiential education program.
In addition to attending formal presentations, all participants briefly introduced themselves and their respective projects. Mr. Frank Zochol explained his plan for a Fish Farm Program at UTS, which includes technical training in aqua culture for students from developing countries.
Rev. Tim Henning, director of the Pacific Southwest District of FFWPU (Family Federation for World Peace and Unification), shared about his UTS Doctor of Ministry dissertation which may serve as religious education material for Ocean Challenge programs. Rev. Henning explained that his thesis will focus on how religiosity and spirituality can be cultivated by such programs as Ocean Challenge.
UTS Professor of Philosophy, Dr. Keisuke Noda, who developed an Ocean Ministry course at UTS, explained about his research project which focuses on conceptualizing ideas of the Ocean Challenge program and contextualizing them into interdisciplinary frameworks which include environmental theories, critique of modernity, psychology of Flow, and religious education.
Other participants included Boat Captain Kensaku Takahashi, director of Ocean Church and Ocean Education International, Captain Mitsuru Nakatsuji, Mr. Steve Kearney, president of the West Rock fishing club and Rev. Dong Woo Kim, vice-president of FFWPU USA.
Participants were pleased with the synergy generated during the event and agreed to continue meeting regularly while communicating beyond the confines of the Ocean conference one through a website created by Ms. Karen Smith.