Sixteen Students Participate in Global Conference in Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (April 3, 2009) -- The problems we face as a global society are numerous, but a common thread of education can be woven through these shared challenges to help identify potential solutions. A significant step toward positive action on a global scale is a gathering of the world’s top college students at Education Without Borders 2009, a biennial international student conference held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.


Sixteen students from the University of South Florida received the honor of participating in the conference. They were part a delegation of 1,000 students representing 120 nations and 300 universities from around the world.


Joined by global leaders in business, technology, education, and humanitarian sectors, the students came together to create networks across cultures in order to understand and generate solutions for some of the world's greatest challenges in a collaborative forum that culminates in a commitment to action. Under the broad theme of Innovative Solutions to Global Challenges, several sub-themes were addressed in student paper presentations and discussions among students and world leaders:


·         Global Solutions for Economic Recovery

·         A Sustainable Future for our Planet

·         The Future of Energy on Earth

·         The Role of Education in Meeting Global Challenges

·         Cultural Exchange for Tolerance, Understanding and peace

·         Harnessing Technology for a Better World


Students underwent a rigorous application process to be selected for the opportunity to attend the conference. More than 3,600 applications were submitted for the 1,000 available slots. As part of the application process, students submitted abstracts or full research papers for consideration for presentation at the conference. Only 36 were selected for presentation, one of which was written by Aki Nakanishi, a USF anthropology master’s student. Nakanishi’s paper, Facilitating Youth Participatory Action Research: Reflections, Strategies and Applications, earned one of eight prizes awarded to student presenters. She received her award from Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister of Higher Education, and Princess Astrid of Belgium.


Also in attendance from USF was Ralph Wilcox, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. Wilcox was selected as one of 100 World Leader Mentors, a group of international leaders in education, business, and social development that included Dr. Abdul Kalam, immediate past president of India; Margaret Spellings, former secretary of education; John Sexton, president of New York University; and Lone Dybkjaer, former first lady and minister of environment of Denmark and current member of parliament.


“This has certainly been a transformative scholarly and cultural experience for our 16 undergraduate and graduate students,” said Wilcox. “We may have the largest student delegation from any one university outside of the UAE, and certainly the largest delegation from the United States. Watching our students interact with students from around the world has been immensely rewarding. They’ve certainly done themselves and USF proud.”


The academic foundation of the students’ experience in the classroom and laboratories at USF coupled with the university’s commitment to global literacy and impact prepared the students to actively engage in a conference on a grand scale as EWB. The students served a critical role both on the world stage while at the conference, but have also brought home lessons that are sure to enrich the USF campus community across the varied disciplines they represent.


The conference location, itself, was a fitting setting for seeking solutions to global challenges. In addition to conference activities, the students visited mosques and local souks (marketplaces); dined on local fare with students from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, from Finland to Pakistan, Brazil to Latvia; and met former presidents, royalty, and the first Muslim woman in space. The students visited the Palm, a series of man-made islands in the Arabian Sea upon which have been built multi-million dollar homes for international business leaders and celebrities. The conference concluded with a gala night at the recently opened Atlantis resort, featuring music from around the world, from Ladysmith Black Mambazo (South Africa), to Riverdance (Ireland), and the State Dance Ensemble of Armenia.


In addition to the honor of being selected as part of the international student delegation, the students’ expenses, including hotel accommodations, ground transportation, meals, and registration, were provided by the Higher Colleges of Technology of the UAE. The students also were awarded USF Passport Scholarships to help defray the cost of travel to Dubai.

The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 46,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.


Story written by Jacqui Cash, Academic Affairs