Report from Thy Truong
Education Without Borders 2011 was a spectacular success. The conference created an indelible impression on every participant because of its insightful thoughts into innovative solutions to global challenges. EWB 2011 opens up opportunities for students to discuss with speakers who have relevant knowledge and involvement in providing innovative solutions for global challenges. I would like to thank the Global Scholars Program of Fairleigh Dickinson University for giving me this opportunity. I have involved myself in a variety of discussions and expanded my understanding in different fields relating to education. EWB 2011 is an unforgettable experience and I am glad I was there.
EWB 2011 is successful because of the meticulous preparation of the organisers. The coordinators, Higher College of Technology, provide us with the best facility and living conditions, but the hospitality of Emirati students and people make us feel like we are at home. UAE is an amazing country with all the astonishing buildings and man-made structures, such as Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world, or Palm Island – the man-made island that was constructed like a palm tree. The city is an exquisite piece of art, blended between the Middle East traditional magnificence and the contemporary beauty of the West. As a traveller, I think UAE is a beautiful country that creates a sense of belonging for people from the East and the West; as a delegate, I was impressed by the professionalism of the international event and by the quality of the mentors. I learned a lot from their speeches, their talks, their behaviours, and their modesty.
Many mentors are normal people who have extraordinary willpower and bravery to take initial steps to change the world they are living in. Mr. Anand Kumar, the founder of Super 30 program in India, is an emblematic example of an ordinary person who can do a marvellous thing in a storm. A small figure, in his simple shirt, came to the podium and started speaking in a strong Indian accent, but his story is so real and touching that it makes the whole room quiet and admire. Anand was granted to go to England, Cambridge University. However, because his family was not able to support him and after he had been seeking sponsor for two years, he would not go to fulfill his dream of knowledge. But Mr. Anand was not submissive to destiny, and he was determined to help, not only himself, but other poor students who have calibers and abilities, to succeed. He found Super 30 when he chose 30 excellent students who are talented but so poor that they cannot even afford the nominal fee at his Ramanujam School of Mathematics (RSM). Anand tutors them and prepares them for the Joint Entrance Examination for the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). His mother cooks for the students, and his brother manages the institution. Anand Kumar does not receive any financial support from any government as well as private agencies. He determines to sustain Super 30 on his own efforts.
Super 30 Founder, Anand Kumar
While the mentors bring to the conference their own successful stories, the presenters impress us with their brilliant ideas and well-prepared presentations. Presenters from different continents chose a variety of topics relating to five sub-themes:
- Education: Enhancing Access; Ensuring Student Success;
- Economics: Harnessing Entrepreneurship for Positive Impact;
- Science, Engineering & Technology: Solutions for a Better Future;
- New media: Enabling and Educating Learners;
- Policy: Innovating New Frameworks for Sustainable Development.
EWB 2011 Winning Student Papers
The diversity of topics proves that these issues are relevant to every country, every continent. The winning student papers are multi-national and multi-ethnic, and they bring to the conference high-quality papers which consist of their innovative ideas to solve problems in their own community. It is a great experience for every student at EWB 2011 as we have an opportunity to communicate and share our stories with each other. Together, there is a synthesis of ideas as we all contribute to find solutions for our own community.
Interview with John T. Preston – Workshop
I get the distinct impression that John T. Preston is a professor the moment I met him. He was quiet, caring, and listening attentively to every question I have. I did not have a lot of knowledge about renewable energy, its application, and its recent inventions. As a founder of C Change Investments as well as CEO of Continuum Energy Technologies LLC (CET) and a Senior Lecturer at M.I.T., John provides me a lot of information about this field as he answers my questions passionately. It is the first time I talked to an insider in the renewable energy, and the knowledge I gained from him is considerable.
When being asked “Is renewable energy just a new trend in business? Is it just a concept, a theory or the business world has started paying attention to it?”, John informed me that renewable energy is very potential as it is profitable, environmental friendly, and relevant to the business world. Why increases our carbon footprints while we can decrease them. He told me about some inventions that are being developed and going to be available in the market in very near future. An example is the smart house where all the electronic devices in the house are connected to a smart grid. The smart grid delivers the electricity from suppliers to consumers and lets consumer control their own devices at home. Whenever the device starts using too much energy, the smart grid can reduce its electricity consumption. Consumers also have the option to turn the device off by using their hand-held devices. This smart house is not a completely new invention, but it gives me an idea of how far renewable technology has gone.
John was also a Director of Technology Development (and Licensing) at M.I.T., where he was responsible for the commercialization of intellectual property developed at M.I.T. As an insider, John revealed some newest technology that is still in the research. One of the new inventions is a new type of corn that is really tall and it has long roots that rise higher than the soil. These roots will collect nitrogen on the air to use as nutrition for the corn trees. This new type of corn will reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that pollutes the soil, and save a lot of money for farmers. It is amazing to see how we can change our world if we are willing to work a bit harder on a very simple matter. I have learned from John that scientific research is the initial step that needs a lot of attention from every corporation and government to actually become a change-the-world tool.
Interview with Laura Stupin – Master Student at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology
I met Laura through a Vietnamese friend during the lunch break between two sessions in the conference. Laura came to UAE on a Master scholarship of Masdar Institute of Science and Technology to do research on renewable energy and sustainability. Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (Masdar Institute) is a graduate level, research-oriented university whose focus is on alternative energy, sustainability, and the environment. The institution is located in Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Masdar City is a special city whose emphasis is placed on flexibility, use of traditional architectural elements and modern materials to provide for an optimized combination of natural lighting and cooling that minimize energy needs both indoors and outdoors.
Laura has left her comfort zone, flying all the way from her hometown in New Mexico to go to UAE in order to complete her master degree. Laura is a bright and humble girl who talks so less about herself but a lot about what she has learned. She explained to me that sustainability is not only a hot topic as clean energy and climate change wakes up the whole world, but it is important as we have changed the world we are living a lot. Laura even changed her diet to start doing something for the planet. She told me about how she reduced eating red meat, then chicken, and finally dairy products to become a vegan. This is the first time I have met a vegan who is not vegan by birth, because I know how hard it is to give up eating meat if not because of religion. I have met so many people who believe that we can change the world by a small action, but most of them only preach. Laura is an example of an individual who starts taking the small steps, who initiates a meaningful act to reduce the CO2 emission. I admire her efforts because it teaches me one thing: never give up your goal.
Interview with Ayesha Haashem – Graduate Student at Zayed University, UAE
Ayesha Haashem is the only Emirati girl I met and made friend at the conference. She is a beautiful girl whose father is an Emirati and her mother is a Malaysian. Ayesha is very friendly and likeable as she reached out to other international students, said hi to us, and greeted us like family members. Before coming to UAE, we were told not to approach UAE students or take pictures with UAE ladies without asking for permission. The shayla and burqa (the outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions to cover their bodies in public places) have truly prevented us from coming too close to Emirati students and start chatting with them, but Ayesha came to me and said Hi so friendly, which amazes me. She is a very liberal and educated girl who makes my journey become so enjoyable. Ayesha told me about her country, her culture, and her people. UAE might be famous for the world sixth largest oil reserves, for the tallest building in the world, or for other amazing successes that such a young country has achieved, but after all, Emiratis must be proud of their leaders who have visions.
The government has invested heavily on education, brought in the best teaching methods, teachers, and institutions to provide the best education for every Emirati student. Through Ayesha, I truly understand the meaning of burqa in Emirati. The burqa serves as a traditional dress, not as a barrier that prevents women from expressing themselves any more. She chose to wear the burqa because she respects the culture, and she feels beautiful wearing her simple burqa.
Ayesha said she felt lucky to have very liberal parents, because they trust in her, and they let her go to different countries and continents to study and improve her studies. She has been to Scotland, New York, and she plans to visit Canada too. Ayesha is a characteristic example that education has no border, and it should not have any, because it gives people, boys as well as girls, opportunities to express themselves and become someone they want to without any limit.
EWB is a biennial international student conference that creates networks across cultures in order to understand, and generate solutions, for some of the world's greatest challenges.
Reports from FDU's delegation to the conference:
Luis Cerón, Sophomore, Majoring in Business Administration, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Devin Seelman, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Thy Truong, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Click here to go to official website of Education without Borders 2011