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Hood College student from Randallstown speaks at United Nations Academic Impact event

A month after speaking at a United Nations Academic Impact event at UN Headquarters in New York, Alyssa Taylor, Randallstown native and Hood College senior, says she is still humbled by the experience.

“I think this really humbled me a lot,” said Taylor. “Even though I’m already really humble, it’s interesting having the spotlight on me. It was pretty fun.”

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The event highlighted “what universities and colleges worldwide are doing concerning global challenges, what multilateralism means for institutions of higher education and what these institutions mean to the United Nations,” according to a United Nations Academic Impact website.

On a visit to Hood College, Omar Hernandez, program manager of the United Nations Academic Impact program, spoke at Taylor’s senior seminar class and later extended an invitation to her to present a three- to four-minute speech at the UNAI event.

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“I live my life on the thought process of, I will just try it and see what happens. What do I have to lose? So, when Mr. Omar came up and offered this opportunity I had the same thought,” said Taylor, a global studies major.

The gathering was held Oct. 24 to mark United Nations Day. The event “served to answer questions about ways to improve the relationship between academia and the United Nations and enhance the role of faculty and student’s role in the organization’s work,” according to the UNAI website.

Taylor had only a week to prepare for her speech. She said she was asked to explain why she decided to study international relations and different ways the UN can get students involved.

“It took me a couple of days to actually think about what I wanted to say,” Taylor said. “I started asking myself the questions of what I want to do and how far I have come. Once I typed that out, the rest was history.”

As the event got closer, Taylor got an outpouring of support from her college, she said. A professor read over her essay while other students rooted her on, which gave her confidence heading into the event, she said.

According to the UNAI website, “The event had an audience of almost 100 people in the conference room where it took place, and hundreds more joined live from around the world via UN Web TV. This was the first event hosted by UNAI at UN Headquarters since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“I think the nerves started to get to me the day of,” Taylor said. “It didn’t really set in until I woke up that morning. That morning I was completely nervous. I couldn’t think. I was like this is serious. Now, it is happening.”

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The first panel at the gathering discussed, “Teaching, Researching and Writing About Multilateralism and the United Nations: Reflections, Lessons Learned and Knowledge-Sharing. The panel included such experts and scholars as Daniel Naujoks from Columbia University; Savita Pawnday from the City University of New York; Peter J. Hoffman from The New School; Ş. İlgü Özler from the State University of New York, New Paltz and Courtney Smith from Seton Hall University.

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The second panel was titled, “Student Activism and Engagement on the United Nations Goals and Principles: Actions and Voices from Campus,” and was made up of female students from institutions of higher education in the United States. Taylor was a member of this group.

Taylor said she could feel the support of friends that accompanied her to the event, and that eased her nerves.

“Everyone was excited, and I think they were more excited,” Taylor said. “Everyone was very supportive while I was at the UN. All of the people I brought with me were very supportive. As soon as I started to give my speech, I could see them in the corner of my eye cheering me on.”

In her speech, Taylor explained what the UN represents to her and what the UN needs to do to adapt to the ever-changing education environment.

“The UN embodies global awareness and cooperation for all and a voice for the minority,” Taylor said. “I suggest to incorporate students voices to just a common platform where we can share our opinions on topics and discussion at UN conferences. Social media is one platform, but the UN can use podcasts, YouTube videos, discussion boards or other means to ensure our positions and beliefs are being seen and heard. Through United Nations Academic Impact, UN representatives can encourage, sponsor and aid student projects as they relate to the UN charter and sustainable development goals.”

Taylor also has served as the “head delegate” at the Model UN Conference in Washington, D.C., representing Iraq. She will graduate in December and has been accepted into Hood’s MBA program. Taylor also plans to attend law school to study international law.


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