I woke up this morning to learn Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize. I had just finished Malala’s book when I wrote my last blog post. I was floored by the power, presence and peace by which Malala told her story of passion for education in the face political turmoil and violence in her community, her region, and her country.
Prior to reading, I Am Malala, I knew little about the history of political strife in Pakistan. I knew little about the state of education in Pakistan and the extent to which girls, under the Taliban, were limited from gaining anything but the most basic education. Malala Yousafzai opened my eyes and I hunch, the eyes of many in this world.
Thorbjorn Jagland, the Nobel Peace Prize committee chairperson, recognized that Malala “has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations.” [Visit the New York Times website for more information on this year’s prize and Malala’s story.]
Improving their own situations and those of others.
Yesterday, I learned the University of Toronto would host one of the regional finals for the Hult Prize – a competition in which postsecondary students develop ideas and strategies to solve the world’s seemingly intractable social problems, like non-communicable diseases and famine. The prize comes with a US$1 million award as well as a host of networking and mentorship opportunities.
The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to a 17 year old activist, who has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of girls’ education, surviving a shot to the head by the Taliban in 2012. The Hult Prize entices postsecondary social entrepreneurs to work collaboratively to “tackle grave issues faced by billions of people.” In both cases, young adults are being recognized for their ideas, initiative and innovation.
I’ve been thinking a great deal these past months about the role that students can play in co-creating a college and university environment and experience that supports their peers to achieve their academic and personal goals and climb to new heights in their learning and understanding of complex issues.
I fear that the media stories of negative student actions, detailing very real and serious situations of discrimination, harassment and/or assault, clouds the view of the positive student actions that take place on our college and university campuses every day. While I fully support the need to confront negative student actions, I encourage those in the higher education community to notice and praise the student actions that take courage, require compassion, and are examples of students engaging to improve their own situations and those of others.
In honour of the inspiration that Malala’s story has given me these past weeks, I invite you to share a story of student action that has inspired you. Please leave a comment in the space below. I would love it if we could populate this blog with a multitude of examples trumpeting the great work of our students.
By Tricia Seifert