Chicago Global Family with Dr. Sharon Hahs of Northeastern Illinois University

By: Edirin Davis, Communications Officer at the Niagara Foundation

The Niagara Foundation is pleased to present our new and improved Chicago Global Family events: intimate lunch meetings between prominent Chicagoans, global leaders, Niagara Foundation members, and our staff. These members-only lunch gatherings are productive interactions established through dialogue on topics of political and cultural relevance. Speakers at the Chicago Global Family events analyze and exchange ideas, as well as promote innovative public policy solutions. Attendees and speakers at these series include prominent government, corporate, and media officials, academics, diplomats, and civic leaders who share their viewpoints, perceptions and experiences on timely and important issues facing Chicago and our world.

As a part of the Chicago Global Family series, we invited Northeastern Illinois University President, Dr. Sharon Hahs, to meet with members of the Niagara Foundation, including Ken Hunter, Principal of Prosser Academy, and Julie Ewart from the Department of Education Midwest Regional Office. Dr. Hahs gave an insightful presentation on diversity and the role higher education plays in fostering a global understanding.

I was impressed by the way Dr. Hahs spoke about diversity and global understanding because it is clear that not only was it NEIU’s mission, but it was a personal mission for her as well. Northeastern is recognized as one of the most diverse universities in the United States with 31% Hispanic, 10% African American and 9% Asian students. NEIU is also the first federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution in the Midwest.The diverse student population of NEIU contributes to the goal of global understanding. As an avid world traveler who has been to thirty-six different nations, Dr. Hahs is especially qualified to speak on the role of higher education in a more international perspective.

This phrase “global understanding” is integral to Northeastern’s mission and Dr. Hahs defines it as, “knowledge of complicated state of affairs around the globe and the acceptance of others”. She believes that the higher education setting at Northeastern attests to this definition by having diverse classrooms, which allow students to see life through multiple perspectives. High education can uniquely prepare students for leadership. Dr. Hahs even gave the example of this by using a Calculus class. While one might not immediately see how a calculus class can contribute to global understanding, just being in the classroom surrounded by people with different thought processes and study methods, is an entry point to active cultural awareness.

With 11,000 students and 24 international partners for study abroad, Northeastern Illinois University is a cultural hub. Their goal is an infusion of cultural awareness into everyday life, and Dr. Hahs said she was struck by one minority student saying to her “I don’t feel out of place at NEIU”. From traveling art exhibits from all over the world, to having a peace fire on campus, President Hahs has done a great job of making Northeastern an inclusive university. We were delighted to have Dr. Hahs share her perspective on the power higher education can have in developing global understanding.

The views and opinions expressed on The Falls are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Niagara Foundation, its staff, other authors, members, partners, or sponsors.