Reflections from TNLC14

Last month I represented LUMS, at the Talloires Network Leaders Conference, interacting with 40 student leaders from 23 countries as well as University Vice Chancellors, professors and network partners. I feel blessed to have met and interacted with such inspirational people, committed to making community engagement happen within our university structures. For me this experience has opened my eyes to the huge potential we have as student leaders to make a change within our institutions.

We need to change the top-down approach to how we do ‘development’ in our communities — Critically questioning the way universities are dealing with poverty and inequality. There are so many innovative and exciting initiatives out there, and this is what we need to be celebrating, empowering individuals to come up with their own solutions to problems that only they fully understand.

Another key learning for me was about social inclusion — I struggled with the question of how universities address entrenched stigmas and stereotypes relating to race, gender or class, acknowledging that awareness is only the first step of breaking down these barriers. Within our various countries we are working with different historical and social narratives, and we need to be constantly reflecting on how our institutions are perpetuating a certain narrative of privileged/unprivileged or successful/unsuccessful or any other kind of single sided story. Social inclusion needs to be at the heart of our learning experience.

In this way, I feel there is a strong push to make social responsiveness a core element of our curriculums on campus — we need to take what we have learned and make it relevant to our societies around us. As Reeta Roy, CEO of the MasterCard Foundation said we need to make it an expectation of what higher education is all about.

This story was written by Komail Naqvi on 13th January, 2015

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