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School of Diplomacy and International Relations

World Leaders Forum: Fostering Connections Among Students and Global Influencers

His Excellency, Ambassador Dennis FrancisEach semester, the School of Diplomacy and International Relations hosts high profile guests as part of the World Leaders Forum (WLF), a signature program designed to create opportunities for distinguished visitors to discuss critical global issues and connect with students, faculty, alumni and other members of the Seton Hall community.

Over the years, the School has welcomed influential speakers, such as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Tony Blair. The WLF’s most recent guest was His Excellency Ambassador Dennis Francis, 78th President of the United Nations General Assembly.

While these programs are well attended by people in different stages of their careers, they are especially geared toward graduate and undergraduate students who are pursuing a degree in international affairs.

The World Leaders Forum provides students with the chance to hear from and engage with international leaders as they share experiences and insights related to their work on complex issues such as climate change, global inequity, gender parity and conflicts happening around the world.

Hamzah Khan, a senior majoring in international relations, said: "I really appreciated the School of Diplomacy giving us the chance to speak directly to the President of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly and raise concerns about the international system, to (reach) someone in a position to actually effect change."

Student asking a questionStudents were given the opportunity to engage with the guest speaker during the Q&A portion of the address, and participate in an off-the-record conversation prior to the main event. Both segments allowed students to ask questions about issues that matter to them personally and voice their opinions about ongoing events across the world.

Hamzah Khan came to the World Leaders Forum with questions about the UN and their actions regarding the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. He found Ambassador Francis to be receptive to the topic and appreciated that he spoke about the dire need for a long-term ceasefire and immediate access to humanitarian aid. About the event overall, Khan said, "It was overall an excellent opportunity, and I was honored to participate."

Students gather to hear Ambassador Dennis Francis.Other participants spoke about concerns that personally interested them. Graduate student Etta Moen had the opportunity to ask the President of the General Assembly about gender parity and what the UN is doing to achieve that within the organizations. Moen said, "I asked this question because I have been conducting my own independent research about women and gender in international politics." She thought that Ambassador Francis gave a thoughtful, well-rounded answer. Although her question was on gender equality within the UN, Moen said the speaker offered a comprehensive response, that "widened the scope of the question and expanded it to member states as well and gave a call to action."

The World Leaders Forum is an opportunity that enriches the Seton Hall community and also offers alumni an occasion to visit campus. For alumna Priscilla Garces, the World Leaders Forum serves as a platform to foster communication, inclusivity and inspiration.

Garces asked the President of the General Assembly about actions taken at the UN to advocate for the disabled and engage with them within the organization. Garces explained: "As a totally blind woman, I have experienced discouragement from those who have influence in directing our youth towards a brighter path of professional achievement in the career fields they choose."

Motivated by these experiences, Garces has embarked on a journey of advocacy for the disabled, leading her to prompt discussion at high-levels on what is being done to support at-risk groups. She said she found the President of the General Assembly's response respectful and thoughtful. "In his statement, Ambassador Dennis Francis notably highlighted that anyone can become disabled in life as a consequence of disease, age-related conditions, accidents, medical conditions including mental health disorders, or congenital disease and that the attempt to actively and willingly engage in discriminatory behaviors constitutes a violation of human rights standards."

His response, Garces added, reflected the importance of disabled rights as human rights and reaffirmed the UN’s dedication to pursuing them. Overall, she though the event was enlightening and a good opportunity to reflect on both the successes and challenges of pursuing equality and championing human rights around the world.

Student shakes hands with Ambassador Dennis Francis.By bringing prestigious speakers to campus, the World Leaders Forum exposes students and other community members to examples of leadership and provides them with the opportunity to voice their opinions, concerns, and frustrations in an environment designed to support their educational and professional development. These events are critical in fostering the future leaders of tomorrow.

For more information on the World Leaders Forum and to see a recording or the most recent event, visit our website.

Categories: Education, Nation and World