By Lori Atherton October 20, 2017
Michigan Law students Hira Baig and Andrew Bulovsky recently had the opportunity to discuss world issues with Kateryna Yushchenko, the former first lady of Ukraine, and it was made possible through their participation in the Global Young Leaders Forum (GYLF).
Baig, a 2L, and Bulovsky, a 1L, along with dual-degree student Omar El-Halwagi, were among 50 young leaders from around the world who were selected to attend the inaugural GYLF. Held in Baku, Azerbaijan, in August, the four-day conference connected the students with 20 current and former heads of state to explore global and cross-border issues, such as free trade, legal and regulatory frameworks for technological advancement, and climate change.
“The forum offered unparalleled access to world leaders, including presidents and prime ministers,” El-Halwagi said. “It was an incredible experience, and it was a huge honor to be a part of it.”
To be an invited participant at GYLF, individuals needed to represent a major national or international scholarship, such as a Marshall, Rhodes, Truman, Fulbright, or Schwarzman scholarship, or they had to be a young entrepreneur already making their mark on the world. Baig and El-Halwagi both were Truman Scholars, while Bulovsky was a Marshall Scholar.
The forum consisted of panel discussions led by world leaders on “salient political issues of the day,” Baig said. Attendees then broke into small groups, which allowed the students “to engage directly with heads of state,” Bulovsky noted. The groups then came together to present the highlights from their discussions.
What stands out for Bulovsky—aside from his conversation with Yushchenko about authoritarian regimes and their ability to co-opt information—was the passion and intellectual diversity of his fellow participants. “While all attendees had ideas for how to address global issues, each possessed different perspectives and ideas about how to achieve the group’s goals,” he said. “I distinctly recall a heated discussion between a Greek participant and a Macedonian participant over the controversy surrounding the latter country’s name—perhaps a seemingly silly disagreement to an outside observer, but an obstacle to international cooperation and trade nonetheless. Having a platform to discuss these issues is the first step toward identifying and creating common ground on which to move forward.”
What was particularly rewarding for El-Halwagi were the conversations that took place outside of the forum. El-Halwagi came away with new ideas on how to effect change, and he made new connections. “I now have access to a network that spans the globe,” he said.
El-Halwagi noted that Michigan Law had the most participants from any law school at the forum—a significance that wasn’t lost on him. “It says something that Michigan was the most represented law school there.”
In addition to meeting scholars and world leaders, Baig, El-Halwagi, and Bulovsky said they enjoyed the chance to explore a new city. “I met amazing people from around the world, and I got to see a country I never thought I’d get to visit,” Baig said.
“Baku is a fascinating city—a mix of Russian, Turkish and Middle Eastern influences,” Bulovsky added. “Opportunities like the Global Young Leaders Forum are rare, and it was a privilege to learn from the attendees and represent Michigan Law.”
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