Addressing the UN Assembly in Arabic, student talks about climate change
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Speaking to the World

President Kevin J Worthen announced a new “Inspiring Learning” priority at BYU—an emphasis on experiential learning. We searched high and low for examples of this kind of learning taking place already at BYU. The following is one of eight. Find the full feature here.

Jamie D. Clegg standing behind podium in the United Nations assembly room.
Jamie D. Clegg speaks on climate change in front of the United Nations.

Crossing the stage to the green-marble-tiled podium, with its globe-and-olive-leaf emblem, recent BYU graduate Jamie D. Clegg (BA ’16) whispered to herself, “It will all be over in two minutes.” Not an expert on the environment, Clegg took a deep breath as she prepared to address diplomats in the United Nations General Assembly on the topic of climate change—in Arabic.

After submitting essays on the topic of multilingualism and global citizenship, BYU Arabic language majors Clegg and Rachel A. Lott (’17) were invited to attend the Many Languages, One World Global Youth Forum at Hofstra University in July. They joined other essay-contest winners from 36 countries, with 10 speakers for each language represented in the United Nations (Arabic, English, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish). The Arabic language group was randomly selected to study and prepare speeches on climate change.

Despite her jitters, Clegg found that five classes from Asian and Near Eastern languages professor Spencer D. Scoville (BA ’02) had prepared her for this moment. “[He] really focuses on speaking and connecting with people in a way that’s meaningful to them, and that has served me really well.”

Though speaking at the UN was a highlight, Clegg says she learned the most from her interactions with her fellow participants as they worked together to prepare their speeches. Most of her peers already had impressive résumés and many languages under their belts. Some were finishing medical residencies or had started their own NGOs.

As Clegg begins to apply to graduate schools in comparative literature in Arabic, she remembers the lessons these friends taught her. While many had lacked access to money or good education, Clegg says they didn’t let circumstances hold them back. “[They] showed me that there is nothing stopping me from making a difference but me.”

Find the full story on President Worthen’s “Inspiring Learning” priority here.