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The Case for Global Economic Development at Emory

Emory University students are known for being extremely bright and passionate about many social causes. On National AIDs day, we see a phenomenal show of support with the Quilt on the Quad. When it comes to raising funds for breast cancer, Susan Komen Race For the Cure is always grateful for Emory students’ financial contributions. However, there is a lack of awareness when it comes to championing larger international issues, such as economic development, and its connection to poverty, global health, women’s rights, and education. To some degree, it is fair to say that majority of Emory University students are indifferent to global development because they are unaware of the impact it has on their own lives. And those who usually care check their interest at the classroom door as they exit. Nonetheless, I can confidently say that at the end of this semester this apathetic sentiment is changing, and more students are now interested in engaging global development.

The fall of 2009 marked the inaugural semester for the Emory Economic Development Initiative (EEDI). EEDI’s mission is to take an interdisciplinary approach to raising awareness on the need of economic development globally by educating the Emory University community as well as other academic communities on the means to be proactive in promoting development around the world. Though the bar is set high, EEDI remains true to its mission throughout the semester and hopefully on to the next as well.

Our “interdisciplinary approach to raising awareness” can be seen with our most recent event titled “Dialogue on Development – Focus: South Asia”.  EEDI invited two distinguished visiting Emory professors, Dr. Marion Creekmore (from Political Science Department) and Dr. Gordon Streeb (from Economics Department), as well as a handful of exceptionally brilliant student leaders to host a panel on development pathways for South Asia and especially India. Both Dr. Creekmore and Dr. Streeb have impeccable reputations in the State Department. Dr. Creekmore served in the US Foreign Service and then as the US Ambassador to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Republic of Maldives. He was also the Deputy Chief of Mission in India, 1981 – 1984. Similarly, Dr. Streeb recently retired as the Carter Center’s associate executive director for peace programs. Ambassador Streeb came to The Carter Center in 1994 as diplomat-in-residence near the end of a 30-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, a professional path that included assignments in West Berlin, Mexico, Geneva, and New Delhi. His Washington assignments included several policy positions in international economic development. The student panel included undergraduates visiting from South Asia, and students working on projects including a microfinance program for IBM, agricultural development in Indonesia, and social enterprises in India. The format of the evening was a catered dinner for attendees, presentations by both professors, and a student panel discussion conducted and led by the students. The audience was given the opportunity to share their opinions along side with the panel and professors. EEDI brought together exceptional professors whom most students do not have the opportunity to interact with due their short visit at Emory, and we also connected the professors with student leaders in development and a genuinely interested audience. The turnout exceeded our expectations; there were more students than chairs in the hall. Not only does this confirm that with awareness comes initiative to act, but the show of students also depicts that forums like these are the means through which we can build constructive dialogue in a nurturing environment.

So far, EEDI is successful in providing a platform and structuring a centralized advocacy for economic development in the Emory Community. Other events this semester included African Trivia Night, The Fight Against Malaria (with Susan Johnson of Malaria Foundation International), and fundraisers for micro-loaning. The spring 2010 semester will include events such as Human Right in Economic Aid, Arab-Israeli Economic Development, and many other exciting events. Our effort to work with other likeminded student groups in the community indicates our willingness to centralize student development endeavors; therefore, we can increase our effectiveness on campus. We aim at accomplishing this through our EEDI-Report, a weekly student written newsletter on a variety of development topics. Additionally, we hope to start working with larger institutions to help bring tangible projects that engage our discourse on economic development to Emory.

Spreading knowledge about economic development is critical at Emory University. With this knowledge, we can go on as future leaders with a better understanding of the conditions around the world, and really make effective change. 

Zeshan Muhammedi ’11- President, Emory Economic Development Initiative

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