Drexel University Office of International Programs hosted their ninth Annual Student Conference on Global Challenges Feb. 25. The conference serves as a unique chance for undergraduate students, graduate students and professors to collaborate and discuss international issues. Each year, the OIP chooses to spotlight a different subject that relates to a current-day global concern. This interdisciplinary event draws students from every area of study and allows them to present their thoughts and research and propose ways in which they can make a difference in the world. For 2016, the chosen topic was sustainability. Students and professionals gathered in Behrakis Grand Hall to discuss the causes of sustainability, its implications and the impact people have on it.
The day began with a welcome from Provost M. Brian Blake, who thanked all participants and wished everyone a fulfilling and impactful day. Three separate panel sessions focused on different areas within the context of sustainability: global health, human rights and global business. The panel discussions included Olivia Guerrasio’s presentation on the impact of privatization of water in Latin America and Nabil Shadman’s discussion of natural disasters in Bangladesh being related to climate change caused by unsustainable environmental practices.
During lunch, a student exhibition featured posters that displayed research and innovation within sustainability. Especially fascinating was the proposal of professor Diana Nicholas, an interior architecture and design professor, and her students who had designed a building to help people who have experienced conflict to collaborate and heal together.
The day ended with the keynote speaker, professor Paul T. Anastas from Yale University. Anastas’s pioneering research focuses on the area of green chemistry and has earned him the title “Father of Green Chemistry.” He discussed the difference between normality and innovation. He reminded the audience that technological modernism only occurs when we are willing to change our perspectives. Anastas left a lasting impression when he urged the audience not to accept trade-offs, but rather, to analyze goals and create products that ‘do it all.’
This year’s conference could not have been possible without Adam Zahn, the Academic Programs Manager for the Office of International Programs, and Julie Mostov, the Vice Provost for Global Initiatives. “I think the biggest misconception is that we don’t have a role or that we can’t have a role as college students,” Zahn said. Mostov, who hopes participants to have something to take away from the conference, added, “Our greatest challenges today are global in nature, and that together, [students] can be innovative and entrepreneurial to find both academic and practical solutions.” The day provoked conversation and critical thinking about how we, as students, can promote sustainable practices and show respect for generations to come.