SU students attend the Education Without Borders conference and explore a modern Middle Eastern city-state
Brooks Olphin ’10, a business administration major from New Freedom, Pa., found everything about the conference welcoming, from the plush suites with their sky-high views of the coast to the gigantic meeting rooms where the hundreds of delegates gathered to hear keynote and plenary speakers such as A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former president of India; Sir John Rose, CEO of Rolls-Royce; Jennifer Azzi, a U.S. Olympic gold medalist in women’s basketball; and Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-American engineer and the first Muslim woman in space.
Brittany Bunting ’09, an education and French major from Northumberland, Pa., was especially inspired by Andrew Muir, executive director of the Wilderness Foundation of South Africa. Muir spoke about his team’s work with African children displaced by long wars and the HIV/AIDS epidemics. Bunting, who sometimes wonders how she’ll connect with students who seem unreachable, says Muir presented her with a straightforward guideline: We must provide opportunities to succeed and time to heal.
“It was clear to me that his intentions were solely for the betterment of the orphans with whom he worked and that he was genuinely and wholeheartedly invested in their development,” Bunting says.
But by far the most inspiring part of the conference for Bunting was seeing what students her age are doing to improve the world around them. In particular, she was intrigued with a presentation by students from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania who founded an online philanthropic community called Givology. “By developing a Web site based on the social networking framework, they’ve created a convenient outlet for people to become involved in microfinance efforts to help students around the world,” Bunting says. She came away from the conference with a simple, powerful truth—great opportunities exist in simple ideas—that she plans to put to work by joining Givology as a volunteer.
In addition to the invited speakers, the participants heard student presentations on sustainability, energy policy and the future of education. Claire Polcrack ’09, a mathematics and secondary education major from Shunk, Pa., was drawn to one student’s discussion of education in Nicaragua, a country where a generation of children has suffered the effects of a long war and the accompanying economic turmoil. Polcrack, who will go from SU to a Teach for America job in Connecticut after graduation, believes she’ll see some of the same effects in the economically challenged school district where she’ll spend the next few years.
The conference’s intellectual engagement didn’t begin and end with student presentations or distinguished speakers. SU students made an evening visit to Dubai’s famous Gold Souk, a traditional open-air market with hundreds of jewelry shops and thousands of European tourists. The nearby Spice Souk was a little more earthy, with open bins of spices and herbs used in local cuisine, stacks of colorful plates, pots and pans, and traditional Arab dress hanging next to T-shirts emblazoned with the logos of Dubai’s luxury hotels.