Over 60 students attend Nobel Peace summit

Tara O'Neill

[media-credit name=”Withney Belanger ” align=”alignnone” width=”500″]IMG_4878[/media-credit]

Over 60 Quinnipiac students, faculty and alumni flew to Barcelona for the Nov. 13 to Nov. 15  weekend to attend the 15th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates – the most that have ever attended from Quinnipiac.

Each year a variety of Nobel Peace Prize winners – or laureates – gather together to discuss issues happening the world. Executive Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute David Ives selected the Quinnipiac students who attended this summit.

“I wanted to get as many Quinnipiac students there as possible because it will get Quinnipiac to be perceived as a leader in the international education world,” Ives said. “And I want as many students as we can get to be people who have done good deeds to make this world a better place.”

Ives said this year’s attendance was based heavily on word of mouth.

Some students who attended the summit in Barcelona did it as a part of PO299, a one-credit course offered by the university, according to Ives. The course is an independent study where students focus on peace and justice challenges.

“Everybody who signs up for the course gets in,” Ives said. “Then we did the same thing for anybody else even though they weren’t signed up for the one-credit course because they had to do some of the same things that people who were taking the course had to do.”

The Albert Schweitzer Institute is meant to link education, ethics and voluntarism with U.S. and international programs, according to the MyQ page. The programs through the institute, including the summits, focus on humanitarian and peace efforts.

“Because I represent Albert Schweitzer, who was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, I have been able to get in with the summits and have these guys meet some people who have been movers and shakers in the world,” Ives said. “[The students] get exposed to some people who have done some good deeds in their lives. A number of them are inspired…by these kinds of events.”

This year’s summit focused on the worldwide humanitarian crises, according to the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates’ website. Civil wars, drug-driven corruption, poverty, hyper-exploitation and environmental degradation were merely a few of the topics discussed in sessions and workshops at the summit.

The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates’ website said the Nobel Peace laureates addressed the causes of these crises with a focus on human rights, environmental responsibility, gender equality, peace and security, disarmament, and conflict prevention and resolution at the Barcelona summit.

“[The laureates] serve as examples of how solutions can be obtained and resources redirected by ending war, diminishing the reliance on weapons and violence, particularly threats of nuclear annihilation, and promoting sustainable development and peace,” the website said.

Senior health science major Elaine Martinez was the chosen student leader for the Barcelona summit. Ives said after seeing how she worked in two previous summits, he saw her leadership potential.

Martinez said taking on the role of student leader for the summit was difficult, but worth it.

“This year it was obviously different because I was one of the students that was in charge of everyone else because obviously David [Ives] had other things to do with the summit,” Martinez said. “Being a student leader…you really learn so much more about the details of the summit.”

There are three days of the summit, according to Martinez. She said there were two sessions in the mornings from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. After a lunch break, there were workshops hosted by the laureates.

“Getting to meet the laureates and speak to them…that’s not something you think you’ll do on a daily basis,” Martinez said. “You meet so many people at the summits who have the same ideas you do and you can make something pretty big out of them so I think that’s pretty rewarding.”

Withney Belanger, a senior management major, also attended the summit in Barcelona. She said attending the summit was a privilege.

“It was great,” Belanger said. “I learned a lot about the world I didn’t know before… [I met] a lot of people from all over the world and everyone was really friendly. If you don’t say hi, they’ll come over to you and say hi.”

Belanger said one of the workshops at the summit that really stood out to her was one where they were shown a map of refugee movement.

Students from Quinnipiac began attending the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates five years ago, Ives said. Over the years students have been to Hiroshima, Warsaw, Chicago, Paris, Berlin, South Africa, Rome and now Barcelona.

Attendance at the summits is free, according to Ives. But students have to pay for their own plane tickets, meals and hotel rooms. Ives said there are some scholarship opportunities for those who wish to attend but cannot afford it.

“We try to make it something that everyone – or at least most – students could pay for,” Martinez said. “And we usually do offer scholarships for a lot of students so we try to get as many students to come. Paying for the trip shouldn’t always be the problem.”

And it’s not just current Quinnipiac students who attend these summits. Ives said there is a significant amount of alumni interest who also attend the summits alongside Ives, faculty and the students.

Martinez said she will likely do the same after graduation.

“Whether he likes it or not, I’m going to come back,” Martinez said.

And despite her focus of study at Quinnipiac being health sciences, Martinez said attending the summits in Cape Town, South Africa; Rome, Italy; and Barcelona, Spain, have completely changed the way she thinks about her future.

Martinez used to have dreams of finishing her four years at Quinnipiac and then attending medical school. But after attending the summits, medical school is no longer a part of her plan.

[media-credit name=”Withney Belanger ” align=”alignnone” width=”375″]IMG_5578[/media-credit]

“I came into college determined to finish four years of health science and then going into med school and now I’m just like, ‘David, I think I want to apply for the Peace Corps and have more to do with the Summits and things that the summits focus on,’” Martinez said. “I’m not saying it changes everyone’s perspectives on what they want to do with their lives, but it definitely had an effect on me.”

And Belanger said the summit has helped her better understand where she sees herself in the future, as well.

“I still don’t really know what I want to do [in the future],” Belanger said. “But I do want to someday have my own organization – but I don’t know exactly what I want to do with it yet. I want to do something but I just don’t know where.”

Belanger, whose family immigrated to the United States from the Caribbean, said that coming from outside the United States, her parents had the expectation that she would be a doctor, lawyer or a nurse.

“They have it set up for you,” Belanger said. “That’s another obstacle you have to try to deal with. You have to show that that these aren’t the only options for you.”

Martinez said that next year they are aiming to get about 50 students to attend the summit.

“We don’t want to take too little but we don’t exactly know the spaces yet or anything,” she said. “Fifty’s a good, round number.”

In the future, Ives hopes to send more Quinnipiac students to summits, but he said the locations of the summits will determine whether or not that is possible.

“It depends on the size of the venues,” Ives said. “There may be a scenario where we’re in a smaller room so we may not be able to take everyone we would like.”