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UN Class Wins Best Practice Award from UN Education Association

The Committee on Teaching About the United Nations (CTAUN) has awarded Iveta Silova, associate professor of comparative and international education (CIE), and Bill Hunter, Director of International Outreach, with the 2012 Best Practices Award for the CIE class, Experiencing the United Nations.

The award will be presented at the United Nations on Jan. 18, 2013 at the CTAUN annual conference. CTAUN is a non-profit devoted to providing opportunities for educators to learn, understand and appreciate the work of the U.N., and incorporate global awareness into curricula and education activities at all levels. The Best Practice Awards are given to educators who find success in teaching about the UN and inspiring students to act on the issues of global concern.

Experiencing the United Nations: NGOs in Education Policy and Practice is a course that builds on Lehigh University’s existing partnership with the UN.  Fully recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the UN Department of Public Information, Lehigh was the sixth university worldwide to gain such a status in 2004. The partnership opened unique experiential learning opportunities for students, giving them access to UN conferences and private briefings by UN officials and allowing them to serve as interns at various UN agencies and represent international NGOs unable to attend UN events.

The course has taken the Lehigh-UN partnership to a new level by directly connecting UN-led initiatives to the academic curriculum. In the spring of 2012, the course was organized around the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which brings together representatives of Member States and NGOs to the UN Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards, and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide. Students enrolled in the course had the opportunity to attend the official events, as well as participate in the parallel events organized by the NGO section of CSW. Many students served as breakout session facilitators and conference rapporteurs, presenting the various solutions and recommendations to the entire audience of over 800 NGO representatives from around the world. The students also conducted a survey of the participants at the first-ever NGO demonstration organized during the CSW conference.

Students from the colleges of Education and Arts and Sciences  also created a blog, written in eight languages, that is still updated today. The blog, Lehigh at the UN: Perspectives from the Commission on the Status of Women, was the first of its kind published by a university, according to conference officials. Writing in languages as diverse as Korean, Arabic, Russian, French and English, the Lehigh students logged more than 50 posts in two weeks on a range of political, social and, at times, controversial topics.

“For students this is a really transformative experience,” said Silova. “They are right in the middle of the conversation, discussing the changing status of gender equity globally. It is very empowering for them to experience it personally, rather than reading about the struggle for women’s rights in books or hearing about it in a lecture.”

Emily Anderson, a graduate student in Comparative and International Education, said "Attending the CSW NGO Consultation Day and parallel events enabled me to experience civil society in action."

Hayarpi Papikyan, a Muskie Fellow from Armenia and a graduate student in Comparative and International Education, said, “Experiential is the foremost word to describe this class. It goes beyond the traditional format of an academic course and opens a rare opportunity for us to gain first-hand experience to explore the UN.”

Most recently, Lehigh hosted a NGO briefing - becoming the first university to do so - in which NGO delegates, including Lehigh students, discussed engaging young people in sustainable development.

Story by Taara Ness-Cochinwala

Posted on Thursday, November 29, 2012

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