Friday, November 22, 2013

100k Strong Foundation Inaugural Conference

The 100,000 Strong Foundation Inaugural Conference was held on Thursday, November 21st in honor of the US-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange and in celebration of the fourth Anniversary of the Launch of 100,000 Strong.  Unfortunately, Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to be at the conference to commemorate the launch as well, but was not able to come because he was in situation room with President Obama.At 9:30, President of American University Neil Kerwin and President of the the 100,000 Strong Foundation launched the conference with their welcome speeches.  

 The first conference had a theme of “Building a Globally-Fluent Workforce.” James Goldgeier, the Dean of SIS at AU, was the chair. Dean Goldgeier along with the Principal of Dewey Square Group Maria Cardona, President of Xavier University of Louisiana Norman Francis, and President of Wanxiang North American Pin Ni discussed the importance of educational exchange between the United States and China. Drawn from their past experiences, they all emphasized that educational exchange was crucial for enhancement of language ability and culture awareness. The first conference was followed by performance by students from Yu Ying Chinese Immersion Public Charter School. 

After a welcome message by Jim Hall, the CEO of WorldStrides, guests were having traditional Chinese food as lunch. A group of American students who used to study abroad in China and Chinese students who study in the US now then had a student testimonials session. The president of Ford Foundation Darren Walker was the chair for this conference. Students shared their personal experiences from their educational exchange. Many shared anecdotes they encountered due to misunderstanding of foreign culture, inaccurate usage of language, and being judged by stereotypes. For example, Charles Chen, an undergraduate student from American University said many Americans asked him “Can you hack into our computers?” and “Do you like eating doggies?” when his answers for both questions were always an absolute “No.”  However, both young people from America and China said that they were optimistic about the future of US-China relations. 

After student testimonials, Mona Locke, the interim executive director of Susan G. Komen Puget Sound chaired the US-China Strategic Relations and People-to-People ties conference.  Former Special representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs of State Department Reta Jo Lewis, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, and CEO of Blackstone Group Stephen Schwarzman share their personal understanding about the topic. Daniel Russel highlighted that Americans need to understand how the world works and the US need people who understand Asia in culture, business, politics, and other arenas. He stressed that people-to-people tie is not something “feel good to do,” but is something crucial for US long term national security. When there are ties between Chinese and American people, Americans can  understand China’s political actions and intentions; hence, people-to-people ties with China is strategically important for US.   

Finally, Vice Premier of China Liu Yandong gave her keynote address as the concluding of the conference. In her speech, Vice Premier Liu recalled the story that President Xi’s friendship with his American friends when he visited the US 28 years ago endures when he came back and visit his old friends after he became new President of China.  She said that from President Xi’s story, it is obvious that communication among young people can influence relationships among countries. After China and US changed their leadership last year, her visit this time marks the first round of high level humanity exchange between the US and China. After China’s Reform and Open Policy, there were 3000000 Chinese young people that studied overseas, and 50% of them studied in the US. Vice Premier Liu said that “Investing in US-China relations, One Student at a Time,” which was the theme of today’s conference, speaks to the essence of such educational investment. To invest in youth is to invest in future. Vice Premier Liu concluded that the foundation of US-China relations is people, and the hope for US-China relations is young people from both countries.

Two of our Global Scholars, Yuyang Zhang and Shuyu Shen, were invited to the 100k Strong Foundation Inaugural Conference. Credit for this blogpost and pictures goes to Yuyang Zhang. Thanks Yuyang! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Global Scholars November Community Meeting

Credit for this blog post goes to Class of 2015 Global Scholar Ronah Baha. Thanks Ronah! 

Many Global Scholars are passionate about the field of International Development, but not everyday do they have the opportunity to hear the experiences and insights of development practitioners. During our November Community Meeting, the Global Scholars heard from representatives of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) in a discussion of development aid and education in Africa. Dr. Montague Demment, the Acting Vice President for International Development, and Anne-Claire Hervy, Associate Vice President for International Development and Programs at APLU discussed the vital role of education in furthering African development.
According to Demment, the World Bank has funded many development projects under the premise that primary education is a better investment with better – or at least, more immediate – economic returns than higher education. Many development agencies operate this way, focusing on short term, measurable goals that enable evidence-based decision making. But, as Hervy pointed out, increasing the aggregate knowledge in a society by emphasizing higher education has actually proven to bring much greater returns. Demment and Hervy explained that  these returns are not sheerly economic – rather, higher education equips people with the information and skills necessary to help advance and rebuild their countries.

Indeed, when Global Scholars co-director Professor Simon Nicholson asked Demment and Hervy what development issues are most pervasive and important today, neither indicated that education is the end goal of development. Instead, it is an important tool that will be crucial in addressing the climate change and food supply issues that Demment stated will bear a tremendous impact on the entire world, and especially the world’s poor.
Demment and Hervy emphasized the importance of the higher education we are receiving as students at American University – it is an opportunity that must be afforded to people around the world if there is to be real development. For those of us seeking careers in the field of development, they concluded with words of advice: first, to have an area of expertise, and second, to spend time overseas. Finally, they reminded us of something practitioners often forget when working toward the development of other societies – we cannot be the heroes of the stories of others; we can only help.
Demment left us with this: “It’s an Ethiopian who’s smart who’s going to change Ethiopia – it’s not an American. That’s why higher education is so important. That’s why it’s so important to invest in people.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Study Abroad Experiences: Glace Flaherty

 Class of 2014 Global Scholar Grace Flaherty is spending her Fall 2013 semester in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In this video, she recounts her experiences studying abroad and how her time in Tajikistan has been so far. She also gives some advice to the new 2016 class of Global Scholars about studying abroad.

Credit for this video goes to Grace Flaherty, who volunteered her time in Dushanbe to make this video. Thanks Grace!