Nurul Alia’a Harun ’14C just got one step closer to making an impact in the world. Harun was recently selected by NAFSA: Association of International Educators to serve as a youth representative to the United Nations.
Her new role allows her to work on a pressing issue she is passionate about—climate change. NAFSA is the world's largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange. NAFSA's 10,000 members are located at more than 3,500 institutions worldwide, in over 150 countries.
A native of Malaysia, Harun became interested in climate change when she saw its effects firsthand. “My dad used to take me to school on a motorcycle through hills by the coast, and slowly those hills were eroded by landslides,” said Harun. “They ultimately disappeared.” She says that as a child, she had a very romantic idea of saving the environment, which, as she’s gotten older, has evolved into a more practical interest in environmental policy.
“Climate change and sustainability have been popular topics of global environmental politics for more than a decade, and these issues have shaped my interest in the field of ecology,” said Harun, who is majoring in environmental studies. “This opportunity is my golden ticket to contribute to discussions outside of academia and to directly participate with the UN’s climate change agenda.”
Harun arrived in the United States at the age of 19 to attend St. John’s, where she was offered tuition assistance. What she loves most about the University is its diversity, especially that of the faculty. “Students can access a lot of different things from the faculty members, who have such a wide scope of backgrounds,” Harun said. “For example, I have a professor of aquatic ecology who is also a representative at the UN and the Pope’s advisor on environmental issues.”
Harun attends conferences each Thursday that focus on the UN’s post-2015 global sustainable development agenda. With access to these meetings, she is able to engage directly in the discussions about the UN's global mission as it relates to climate change policy.
“Alia'a is such a highly motivated and competent student,” said Paula Lazrus, Ph.D., assistant professor, Institute for Core Studies. “She was an ideal candidate to benefit from the exposure that the NAFSA program offers.”
Harun explained that the only way to tackle the most intractable climate change issues is to gain critical insight through experience, education, and an open mind. “I am a global citizen,” said Harun. “I try not to simply see things the way I want to, but rather, I step back and understand the root cause of issues that affect us globally so I can extract meaningful reality that might bring about progress.”