At IE University, we recently held the second edition of United Nations Week for our Bachelor in International Relations students. UN Week is part of the partnership between IE School of Politics, Economics and Global Affairs and the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC), and is a valuable opportunity for students to expand their minds and network with UN practitioners.
During the week, students had the chance to learn more about the UN system and earn UNSSC certificates via an online platform. Students from both our Madrid and Segovia sites were also able to attend in-person masterclasses led by esteemed UN practitioners.
Working toward a sustainable tomorrow
One of these expert masterclasses was SDG Primer, directed by Itziar Arispe, an evaluation learning specialist at the UNSSC. Sharing her knowledge at both IE University locations, students learned about the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as how they differ from the previous Millennium Development Goals. Students also worked as a group to discuss the SDGs’ progress so far and the extent to which the goals are achievable. The masterclass culminated in the students working in groups to find innovative solutions to effectively create a Voluntary National Review (VNR) and the policy measures they would use to meet the goals.
Iker Graña, a first-year Dual Degree in Business Administration and International Relations student described how “the progress thus far on the SDGs is lacking, and more needs to be done to fulfill them,” meaning it is more important than ever for IE University students to have a firm grasp of the SDGs and how to work toward them. With this in mind, Itziar helped students learn how to use data and other existing mechanisms to understand and measure progress toward the SDGs.
Learning to tackle change in an unpredictable landscape
Another masterclass that both Madrid and Segovia-based students benefited from was the Introduction to Change Management masterclass. Emma Ines Nielle Cuvillier, a second-year student of the Bachelor in International Relations, explained that the masterclass taught her how to be a good leader amidst change, through different activities.
Specifically, during the masterclass, Sabine Bhanot guided students through a self-assessment of change management called ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement). This industry knowledge helped students to understand what helps and what prevents change.
Carla Jill Strubel, who is also a second-year Bachelor in International Relations student, shared that the most useful part of the masterclass was when Sabine talked about her UN experiences to explain change management. “It was so insightful to listen to Sabine and I think I can speak for everyone in the masterclass when I say it was exciting to meet someone with such expertise in change management,” she adds.
Gerardo Rojo also learned a lot from the experience and although the masterclass was focused on the UN, he’ll be able to bring these insights on change management into both sides of his dual degree—the Dual Degree in Business Administration and International Relations. “We often find resistance to change because we are scared of the unknown and it is difficult for us to step outside of our comfort zone,” he explains. Thanks to Sabine’s insights, he and his peers will be equipped to effectively guide individuals in embracing change for organizational success.
Informed by today’s biggest challenges
What’s more, these masterclasses were also informed by our current political and technological landscape. For example, one masterclass, “Managing AI Ethics: A Conversation with IE Alumni Experts,” delved into the UN’s role in AI ethics. Tomás Lucero, a fourth-year Dual Degree in Business Administration and International Relations student highlighted that “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.”
Tomás also valued how the masterclass discussed the humanities, not only the technological side of AI. The humanities are an essential pillar in the development of IE University programs, so it was only natural that this extended to our UN Week masterclasses. “The humanities make you think and help you learn how you relate with yourself,” he explains.
Insights for the future
Toward the end of the week, students had the opportunity to attend career fairs organized by IE Talent & Careers that were focused on intergovernmental institutions. The fairs were a great opportunity for students to network further and exchange insights with their peers.
Moreover, students who had previously participated in the UNSSC Summer Research Program presented the report “Lessons Learned and Good Practices: Stakeholders’ Role and Engagement in Achieving SDGs” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was an excellent opportunity for IE University students to further immerse themselves in the world of international relations.
In addition to the UN practitioners who shared their insights with students, former president of Colombia, Iván Duque led his own masterclasses, Leadership in Times of Crisis for master’s students, and The Strategy and Reality of Achieving the SDGs: The Case of Colombia for bachelor’s students. He brought his experience and knowledge to IE University, inspiring students to pursue meaningful and impactful careers.
These masterclasses, fairs and talks were an unforgettable opportunity for curious IE University students. They had the chance to learn directly from leading UN professionals to truly transform their understanding of the world of international relations, and the role they can play in it.