8:47 a.m., Aug. 24, 2009----Emily R Helmeid, a 2007 University of Delaware graduate, addressed the 2009 World Conference on Higher Education at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris last month.
Helmeid was one of six students chosen to speak during a portion of the conference closing ceremony entitled Voices of the Future. Each of the six students represented one of the official languages of the United Nations -- Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish, and Russian -- as well as its corresponding region.
Helmeid, who graduated magna cum laude from UD with an honors degree in international relations, Latin American studies and three languages, was awarded a UNESCO Fulbright fellowship to intern at the organization for a period of nine months following her 2007-2008 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She was a part of the World Conference on Higher Education secretariat.
In her speech, Helmeid challenged the audience -- ministers of education, national policy makers, institutional leaders, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations as well as various other experts from nearly 150 nations -- to “realize merit-based access to higher education for all.”
Helmeid reminded the audience that issues of equity, access and quality, discussed at length during the conference, represented urgent and immediate challenges for current students of higher education. She went on to express the need for greater cooperation between all stakeholders, including students. “Education has given us [students] a voice and we mean to use it,” she said. “It has empowered us so that we now have as much responsibility to work towards the common interests and overarching goals of our global community as you do.”
The world conference, which was held July 5-8, included a keynote address in the opening ceremony by another UD graduate, Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., himself an alumnus.
Biden, who teaches at a community college near Washington, D.C., focused her speech on the American community college system and its potential to address issues of sustainable development, enrollment and locally relevant education. Her speech was closely followed by President Barack Obama's promise of $12 billion toward a four-pronged policy initiative designed to strengthen and support these same community colleges.
Higher education is an area in which the U.S. is a recognized world leader. The efforts of the new administration to prioritize education at all levels, especially in light of the current economic crisis, exemplifies UNESCO's emphasis on Education For All.
More information regarding the world conference is available at the official Web site, and it includes a section on Voices of the Future and summaries of the six speeches. A video link should soon be available.