MCLA Students Heading to Middle East for International Women's Conference


NORTH ADAMS, MA - Each March, MCLA students travel around the world during spring break. This year, nine students in a women's studies class will travel to United Arab Emirates (UAE) to attend an international conference on women.

They will accompany their professor, Petra Hejnova, to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for the "Women as Global Leaders" conference, organized by Zayed University. The conference will focus on women's emergent and current leadership roles across the globe as it educates students about and prepares them for leadership.

Hejnova designed the class around the conference, which was last held in 2008.

Primarily a student leadership conference, "Women as Global Leaders" draws participants from more than 85 countries and from across all sectors, including education and government. Speakers at past conferences have included prominent world leaders and personalities, such as Jane Fonda and Helen Thomas.

In preparation for the trip, Hejnova's class is examining theory of women in leadership, as well as the culture in the UAE.

In addition to attending the four-day conference in Abu Dhabi, the students will spend several days in Dubai, where they will experience some of the cultural and religious aspects of that part of the world through visits to a mosque, historical museums, and even the spice and textile markets.

"They will get to know a country in the Middle East and meet women not only from the Middle East, but other parts of the world, as well," Hejnova said.

With increasing globalization, "Our students will compete for jobs with people from other parts of the world. It's important that they meet people and they understand where they are coming from, how other cultures throughout the world operate and how they see things. I'm hoping they will network and make connections with people from other parts of the world."

Hejnova expects her students will gain an expanded perspective from being exposed to the people and ideas of other cultures. "That always teaches you more about your own culture and about yourself. Unless you have something to compare it to, how do you understand who you are and what your country is like?"

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