Aspen Ideas Festival 2016: Building global bridges through education and economic development

Jude Chisom Erondu asking a question during the Aspen Ideas Festival

When the call to apply to be a Pearson Student Scholar at the 2016 Aspen Ideas Festival came up, I grabbed the chance because I saw the festival as a unique opportunity to strengthen my leadership skills by learning from those steering and revolutionizing our global community through innovative ideas.

I attended both parts of the Aspen Ideas Festival, which brings together leading and emerging leaders from different disciplines around the world. These leaders shared their ideas with more than 3,000 attendees through meaningful conversations on the thought-provoking  issues of our time. The Festival showed me how education acts as a bridge that connects the broken dots.

Jude speaking with the IMF director

Jude speaking with former CIA Director General David Petraeus.

During a session on the UK’s vote to leave the European Union (aka Brexit), I learned from Christine Lagarde, chair of the International Monetary Fund, that stability and a well-integrated European Union is key to building a prosperous EU. As Lagarde said, for the IMF, “Stability is the main focus of the IMF and one of the basic principles upon which societies can actually prosper and be developed.” I asked Lagarde what she saw as the impact of Brexit on emerging economies, using Nigeria as a case study. In her response, Lagarde praised the new economic and monetary reform undertaken by the Nigerian Government and suggested that the Government of Nigeria should intensify its effort to diversify its economy in order to “act with resolve, build resilience and exercise restraint.”

In another session, my hope and aspiration for education for young girls grew after hearing Former First Lady of the United States Laura Bush echo the need for both public and private partnership towards investing in education for young girls, which in the long run have the potential to encourage a healthy economy. The need for education for girls is simple, everyone benefits when women are educated all over the world.

I also had the opportunity to attend a panel titled Homeland Insecurity: How Much Danger Do We Really Face In The World?, featuring General David Petraeus, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. At the end of the panel, I approached Petraeus to ask him his thoughts on  the state of global insecurity. Petraeus responded saying,“the global community needs a more comprehensive approach that is cost effective and inclusive with allies regardless of political or religious affiliation.”

Petraeus’ words resonated with me as the world struggles to find common ground while tackling global insecurity. The former CIA Director also believes that investing in education is essential to helping young people around the world develop skills, soft and hard, that would help bridge the unemployment gap, and reduce homegrown terrorism due to idleness.

In addition to  attending sessions, I met leaders from different sectors and fellow scholars. I spoke with John Hickenlooper, the Governor of Colorado, after he spoke on the need for youth entrepreneurship education, which he considers the tool needed to bridge the unemployment gap in the U.S. I was humbled during a  conversation with Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine, who both shared their idea on why the United States needs an urgent gun reform.

Apart from networking, I also attended an exclusive breakfast, sponsored by Pearson, titled Millennials, Multiculturalism, and Money, where I conversed with Pearson Executives John Fallon, Chief Executive of Pearson worldwide, and Kate James, ‎Chief Corporate Affairs and Global Marketing Officer. As one of the millennials in attendance, it was a privilege to share my story of how I was able to overcome my struggles to become the first person in my family to attend a four-year university. My conversation with John Fallon inspired me  as he advised me to be resilient in my pursuit for knowledge as I transition into graduate school this fall.

I have taken out the time to reflect on my general experience, and came to a conclusion that If not for education I would not have had this opportunity. And that is why it has been my dream and desire to be an advocate for quality education that can open up unlimited opportunities for students everywhere.


About the Author

Jude Chisom Erondu

Jude Chisom Erondu

Jude Chisom Erondu is a senior-year undergraduate honors student at Green Mountain College, in Vermont, studying Sustainable Business with a minor in Environmental Policy. Being the first from his family and community to study in the United States through a scholarship, Nigerian-born Erondu has continued to stand out among his peers on campus by initiating proactive solutions to problems affecting students’ academic and personal success. During his time at Green Mountain College (GMC), he held several leadership positions. These positions were as a member of the college judicial review board between 2013 and 2014, director of civic engagement on the college student senate, and student body president for the 2014/2015 academic year.

Erondu also served as a member of the Pearson Student Advisory Board for the 2015/2016 academic year. He is also a member of the Green Mountain College Model United Nations, in which he represented China and Togo in the Security Council at the National Model United Nations Conference in New York in 2013 and 2014. Erondu, a current Newman Civic Fellow, and Campus Ambassador for the Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth (SDSN-Youth). As a PSAB member, Erondu plans to bring his enthusiasm and sustainable strategic management skills to the entire Pearson family.