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Engagement Can Be Anywhere

“Engagement” can be a confusing term, as it means different things to different people.  To me, it implies a commitment to do whatever you can to support a cause, a program, a community – even a country other than your own. 

In my work, I have been fortunate to help further the international education agenda at my university and also to work to improve awareness of peacebuilding and conflict resolution strategies in the war-torn areas of the southern Philippines. 

I think the concept of engagement implies a continual striving to do what you can to empower and also bring together different sectors of your university, region and the world towards a desired end result. 

I have been able to work for thirteen years with the U.S. State Department to bring Muslim, Christian and indigenous youth from the southern Philippines together with American youth and NGO leaders of diverse background here in the Chicago region. The Philippine Youth Leadership Program is a very rewarding public diplomacy project, as you can visibly see the transformation in young people struggling to build a more inclusive society. 

More recently, with a grant from the Fulbright-Hays Foundation, I have been able to take American high school and community college instructors to the Philippines to learn about human rights issues in a very different cultural, economic, political and historic setting. 

In that way, I am happy to know I have contributed to improving the international understanding of young people in my own country and in my other country of specialization.

I’m Susan Russell, and that’s my perspective.