Education Without Borders: United Arab Emirates Classroom

Published: May 09, 2011 | Category: Academics

Students at Southern Utah University might, for a time, live in a small town in rural southern Utah, but they understand their place in life extends far beyond Cedar City’s borders.

To help prepare them for the globalized world, The University’s Provost, Brad Cook, recently took a group of 19 students from SUU to the Education without Borders Conference in the United Arab Emirates.

The conference spanned four days with events in Dubai and the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, and featured a cavalcade of Nobel Laureates and world leaders offering their advice and insights to students from around the globe.

Speakers included Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Albert Fert, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Michael Stevenson, a Vice President at CISCO and Austin Quigley, a former dean at Columbia University.

With so many speakers from so many backgrounds, the conference truly provided something for everyone and truly spoke, in one way or another, for everyone – worldwide. And SUU’s students came ready to listen and to learn.

“Dr. Bruce Stillman (one of the world’s leading geneticists) was easily my favorite talk,” said Brandon Wiggins, a 2011 mathematical science SUU graduate from New Harmony, UT. “His council to us aspiring scientists will define the standard for my academic and professional pursuits.”

Kelsey Chandler, a senior political science major from Cedar City, recalls the words of polar explorer Robert Swan. “He said the worst thing for our world is for us to think that others will save it.”

Chandler said this simple thought has forever shifted the way she views her impact on – and responsibility to – the earth.

The Thunderbird students who traveled with the Provost to the UAE come from a variety of backgrounds, with majors ranging from math, political science and Spanish to acting and construction management.

Fully taking advantage of the conference’s diversity, students mingled with peers from places like Australia, Brazil, India and a host of other countries, in addition to getting to know the local people and customs.

“We talked with every different kind of person,” says Chandler, “everyone from an activist for the protection of the Amazon, to a woman who has spent her whole life fighting human trafficking in India.”

In addition to learning from the diversity of the world’s people, students found it particularly poignant to be reminded just how similar college students are, regardless of their cultural origins.

“The world really is small,” said Jon Mitchell, a senior management major from Hyde Park, UT. “We think people on the other side of the world are totally different, but really they’re a lot like us.”

And for Provost Cook, that is exactly why opportunities such as this are so critical to today’s students.

“The world is getting more engaged,” said Cook, “and the purpose of this trip was to show that a lot of times our prejudices and fears are wrong.”

Of the potential impact of the EWB conference, SUU President Michael Benson said, “I hope these students see that Cedar City is just one very small cog in a very big and complex global machine.”

The President and Provost both hold the EWB conference up as just one example of the increasing opportunities SUU’s students can expect to broaden their perspectives and apply their studies in meaningful real-world experiences through the University’s Academic Roadmap, a comprehensive strategic plan to enhance academics – including experiential education – at Southern Utah University.

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