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Global Education First Conference grows connections, international perspective

(L-R) Prof. Jean-Pierre Ezin, Provost Christine Quinn, Lee Cherry of the African Scientific Institute and Prof. James O'Meara at the GEFC

(L-R) Prof. Jean-Pierre Ezin, Provost Christine Quinn, Lee Cherry of the African Scientific Institute and Prof. James O’Meara at the GEFC

In late September, NLU hosted a unique event aimed at the higher education community in Chicagoland — one that brought new perspectives to the college experience that those working in the U.S. might not always consider.

The Global Education First Conference — inspired by the United Nations Global Education First Initiative — was held at Chicago campus and focused on improving access to quality education and fostering global citizenship in post-secondary learning environments to promote relevant and transformative educational experiences for all students.

The conference, organized by NLU’s Office of Teaching and Learning (OTL), also created a great opportunity for attendees to make connections, bringing key people together around areas important to NLU, said James O’Meara, co-Lead Director of the OTL.

“This one was intentionally intimate to enable connections to occur,” he said. “One of the key takeaways from all people that I’ve heard back from is they actually valued the opportunity to attend a conference of this size where meaningful connections with key people can occur.”

Attendees participated in a wide range of sessions over the course of two days. Highlights included a session from Professor Jean-Pierre Ezin on the new Pan-African University system and how collaborations with institutions like NLU on study-abroad programs, internationalizing curriculum and faculty exchanges can occur. The program also featured speakers from Ferris State Universitydetailing Latino initiatives in Michigan and how they could apply more broadly, and the emerging priority of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for NLU and higher education at large.

Additionally, the conference provided a strong platform to raise awareness of the U.S. Department of Education’s strategic plan for international engagement for success, O’Meara said, enabling attendees to see how they can begin to reach out across borders and succeed globally through international education and engagement.

He added that the innovative use of technology from the Wiley Learning Institute gave participants a first-hand experience of NLU’s approach to inclusive internationalization, with attendees from Beirut, New Zealand, Jordan and other points in the U.S. participating virtually in the conference sessions. The offering of special rates for delegates from least-developed countries created the  opportunities for dialogue between delegates from developed and developing countries, as well.

NLU has already seen some connections of its own moving in new directions, O’Meara said, with talk of two potential grant applications to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). NLU is also looking at how to start collaborating with key conference partners, he added, including Education Futures Collaboration, the African Union and Friends of African Union, the World Literacy Summit, and the IDEA Center.

It’s a strong start for an event NLU hopes to make a yearly flagship for its efforts to internationalize while fostering a culture of research, O’Meara said. The University is already reviewing what worked and what could be done better in 2014.

“I think we’ve created a hub for the Midwest internationalization efforts here at National Louis,” he said, “and the idea that doing something well in a sustainable way is probably a way forward in terms of internationalizing the region in a strategic and purposeful way that aligns with where we hope to be as an institution in the next three to five years.”