Written by Father Brian Muzas
Photo Credit William Proby
The Center for United Nations and Global Governance Studies at Seton Hall University is pleased to inaugurate a multi-part series on the refugee crisis. This series of posts will present research conducted by Seton Hall students and presented at United Nations Headquarters. The policy recommendations blend classroom knowledge and lived experience, for the students’ work treats how the refugee crisis affects their home countries. New posts will appear on Mondays.
The roots of this series began last spring semester when the School of Diplomacy and International Relations offered a UN Field Seminar course to undergraduate and graduate students. I served as the course instructor. When I met the students for the first time on the Seton Hall University campus, I told them to be flexible for a number of reasons. In particular, I stressed the importance of being open and available to serendipitous encounters at the UN because it is impossible to predict when we might cross paths with those who shared common interests and who might invite us to work with them on joint projects. We hoped to connect to member states as well as to NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that enjoyed the recognition of the UN’s Department of Public Information (DPI).
The class soon led to new connections. On the class’s first day at UN Headquarters, our students were invited by a colleague who works for the Royal Academy of Science and International Trust (RASIT) to become involved in an event marking the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This event, “Gender, Science and Sustainable Development: The Impact of Media from Vision to Action,” was held on 10 February 2017 at UN Headquarters and was sponsored by RASIT and the Republic of Malta. Thus, our class presence at the UN led to a partnership with an organization with which hitherto Seton Hall University had not collaborated, and our students were able to broaden their experience and their networks.
The UN Field Seminar also reinforced ongoing academic, NGO, and DPI collaboration. Felician University – The Franciscan University of New Jersey was offering an undergraduate UN course, run by Dr. Mary Norton, which was also conducted at UN Headquarters. Since our students and their students were at the UN at the same time, both groups of students would meet frequently to discuss the briefings and meetings they attended.
Ultimately, the students undertook an integrated research project on the worldwide refugee crisis. Under the co-sponsorship of the Seton Hall’s Center for United Nations and Global Governance Studies, Felician University’s Center for Global Academic Initiatives, and the UN Department of Public Information, the Seton Hall and Felician students presented the results of their research at “The Refugee Crisis: Exploring Solutions” on 27 April 2017.
This event was the first time that Seton Hall students had the opportunity to present their research at UN Headquarters at an event both officially designated by UN DPI as a “youth-led event” and officially cosponsored by UN DPI.
Moreover, the student presentations were critiqued by two external evaluators, Joseph Cornelius Donnelly of Caritas Internationalis and Bruce Knotts of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Mr. Donnelly is the Head of the International Delegation to the UN of Caritas while Mr. Knotts is the Director of the UU United Nations Office; both Caritas and UUA are DPI NGOs.
The external evaluators were uniform in their praise for the students’ presentations, so the Seton Hall students prepared blog posts summarizing their work and policy recommendations. We will share them on this blog in the coming weeks. I hope you find them as engaging and insightful now as I did when they were presented at UN Headquarters for the first time.
Father Brian Muzás, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Center for United Nations and Global Governance Studies.