Northwestern’s Global Engagement Summit teaches social change strategies

Stephanie Haines

The seventh-annual Northwestern Global Engagement Summit, a conference for college students to discuss strategies to implement social change, began Wednesday with an opening banquet and keynote speaker.

This year, GES accepted applications from about 60 “delegates,” or university students from the United States and around the world who have started a social justice project, GES co-director Mavara Agha said. The delegates and 80 NU GES staff members will participate in a series of lectures, workshops and small group discussions centering on creating social change in different parts of the world from Wednesday to Saturday.

“This year everything’s been taken to the next level,” the Weinberg senior said. “The delegates come from all over the world. The facilitators are high-caliber individuals. The staff here is so, so passionate, so I’m excited for them to celebrate their hard work.”

Agha said the summit gives students a chance to learn the necessary skills to either put their projects into action or develop them even further. Throughout the year, the GES Content Committee plans a curriculum for the series of lectures and workshops and invites “facilitators” or experts on various social change topics to come talk during the summit, said SESP sophomore and GES staff member Diana Balitaan.

Agha said each delegate will pair up with a “mentor,” a person who has experience working with business, entrepreneurship or organizations that can give personalized attention and advice to each delegate’s project. These experts are often NU graduates.

Meena Sayeed, a GES community development co-chair, said this is her third year working as a GES staff member. She said most of the delegates have social change projects that are in their early stages, so she hopes that they can learn tangible skills to take their projects to the next level.

The SESP junior said the summit benefits both the delegates and staff members.

“We want our staff to engage in dialogue with our peers,” Sayeed said. “Although some people don’t have the money or energy to start a project like the delegates, they still want to do something. GES gives you the feeling that you are empowering other individuals to do so.”

Sizwe Ndlovu, 21, is a delegate from Cape Town, South Africa, and is studying computer science at the University of Cape Town. He applied to GES when he learned about the program through his friend, a student studying abroad in South Africa from Princeton University. Ndlovu said he sells necklaces that a single mother makes from recycled magazine paper. He said he hopes to sell the necklaces through the website he has created and increase the number of workers in his business model.

“We need a catalyst, a success story that will help fight unemployment in South Africa,” Ndlovu said.

He said he hopes to learn more about U.S. business so that he can stimulate the same business culture in South Africa.

“The moment you step off the plane, the people here are so hungry to get money in their pocket,” Ndlovu said. “And that’s what we need in South Africa. I want to bring back these skills I learn for the sake of my country.”

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This article has been updated to correct an editing mistake. Ndlovu sells necklaces made by a single mother, not his mother. The Daily regrets the error.