The South Korean Ambassador to the UN provided the Lehigh University community with a first-hand perspective during the recent missile crisis.
United Nations Partnership
The drive from Bethlehem, PA to the UN in Manhattan is around 90 miles, but Lehigh University is working to close that distance with the Lehigh University / United Nations Partnership. When this partnership was launched 15 years ago, Lehigh became just the sixth university in the world to be accredited by the United Nations as a non-governmental organization, which gives the university access to engage with global policymakers and consult on the most pressing issues of the day. Building on this base, Lehigh has used its relationship with the United Nations and affiliated entities to expand its partnerships in new and innovative directions, pushing its students to learn, engage, and advocate, and the UN has become interwoven into the fabric of the university.
Lehigh has built multiple points of entry for its UN Partnership program, beginning with regional high school outreach. They run a Model UN program across 10 school districts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and have recently added a program to engage high schoolers in “Solving the Sustainable Development Goals.” There are many other opportunities for students to attend UN events and conferences, hear from ambassadors and diplomats, and engage with UN programs. More than 20 students a year also become UN Youth Representatives, a program created by Lehigh that gives students the opportunity to speak on behalf of NGOs from around the world, and which has now been replicated by the UN with other partners.
Several Lehigh groups have been selected by the United Nations to take the lead on research programs with global importance. An interdisciplinary group was chosen to develop certification protocols for the “Greening” of the various national Missions to the United Nations and a business school group conducted research into how to “commercialize” the sustainable development goals. UN Ambassadors come to Bethlehem to provide expert perspectives in courses on economics, religion, and sustainability. The university also encourages students to leverage their experiences in the international community to pursue internships with UN bodies after graduation.
“To Lehigh, the UN is more than just a concept—it’s a classroom, a laboratory, an internship location, a research presentation venue, a think tank—a highly valued partner in all facets,” said Dr. Cheryl Matherly, Lehigh’s Vice President and Vice Provost for International Affairs. Maher Nasser, the Director of the Outreach Division in the United Nations Department of Public Information echoed this view, saying, “we value the work, commitment and efforts of Lehigh University to facilitate the empowerment of youth, not just within its student body, but throughout the world through their global programmes, and look forward to continuing our collaboration in future programmes.”
Lehigh University is also working to deepen its institutional relationships across the United Nations’ network of institutions, including with UNICEF, the International Labour Organization, and the World Health Organization. When Lehigh launched a new College of Health, it added a new “pillar” to its engagement strategy with the United Nations and is already looking for new ways to deepen and broaden the partnership program. As Lehigh University President, Dr. John Simon put it, the UN Partnership has become “part of Lehigh’s DNA.”