For the Suffolk University students and faculty who participated in the Knowledge Globalization Conference at North South University in Dhaka, Bangladesh in May, the experience was so much more than a school trip abroad.
“I think we all went with some assumptions about third world countries,” said sophomore Vanya Rusinova, “but what we found was a country rich in extraordinarily generous and hospitable people.”
Five students – Rusinova, ‘12, Cleon Kanellis, ’10, Jennifer Huynh, ’10, Katie Scharr, ’10, Angelina Barrasso, ’10, and Amari Hemmings ‘13 – spent five days at the conference, which featured Nobel Prize laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, and an ardent proponent of micro-finance, as its keynote speaker. Denise Rollins, mission director of USAID in Dhaka, organized a welcome dinner for the Suffolk students. The trip also included a visit to a village that had received a Grameen Bank loan for a water treatment facility, one of the social business projects Yunus established as a joint venture with Veolia Water North America.
“Getting outside the city gave us additional insight into the everyday lives of the people,” said Huynh. “It was a great balance to the structure of the conference.”
The students are also producing a documentary on the conference, and their experience in Bangladesh, which they will present at the Knowledge Globalization Conference in Boston in November. Professor Mawdudur Rahman, founder of Knowledge Globalization Institute and conference co-chairperson with Professor Gail Sergenian, said the students’ most important job was “playing the role of ambassadors as students of Suffolk and as citizens of the United States.”
Rahman said he is very proud of the students. “They took their role seriously,” he said, “and set a wonderful example. The students visited the Grameen Bank and had a private meeting with Muhmmad Yunus. They left a definite mark of Suffolk quality behind.”
Janice Griffith, vice president of academic affairs, who presented Yunus with a plaque from the university, said Rahman’s organizational efforts were the key to the trip’s success. In his closing speech, US Ambassador James Moriarty emphasized the US role in knowledge sharing for development and US commitment to the developing countries. The conference in Dhaka was the third annual Knowledge Globalization conference, and the first to be held outside the US. But, says Sergenian, several countries have expressed interest in hosting a conference. The conference returns to Boston, and then heads to India and China in 2011.