The ASU and UMN fellows together at the conclusion of the event on March 2, 2023. (Photo by Renée Rippberger)

Mesa Community College hosts international speakers from Hubert H. Humphrey fellowship program

Mesa Community College welcomed members of the Hubert H. Humphrey fellowship program from Arizona State University and the University of Minnesota Thursday morning to speak to students about issues such as human rights, public policy, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability and how they impact other countries around the world. 

Speakers at the event included MCC President Tammy Robinson, Director of International Education at MCC Aziz Alhadi, and Director of Cronkite Global Juan Mundel.

The first two topics of discussion were moderated by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez, director of the journalism department at MCC. 

UMN fellow Jean-Philippe Ouédraogo from Burkina Faso was joined by ASU fellow Zahidun Nisa from Pakistan as they spoke about the effects which climate change has had on their homelands.

Jean-Philippe Ouédraogo (left) and Zahidun Nisa (right) leading the discussion on climate change and how it affects each of their countries, respectively on March 2, 2023. (Photo by Adam Terro)

In Burkina Faso, efforts are being made to end the deforestation occurring within the country. Sustainable forest management is a focal point of activists’ plans, with the hope of eliminating the harvesting of wood while also planting new trees throughout the country.

However, these efforts are not without their unintended consequences.

“80 percent of the population is living in rural areas, so they depend on agriculture, putting a lot of pressure on the forests,” said Ouédraogo.

These areas depend on firewood as their main energy source, so reducing the use of wood in an effort to prevent deforestation has a direct impact on these peoples’ ability to go about their everyday lives.

Burkina Faso has turned to alternative sources of renewable energy, specifically solar, in an effort to remedy these issues, according to Ouédraogo.

Pakistan saw a series of floods overtake the southern portion of the country. According to Nisa, this has had not only a physical impact by making families relocate to more northern areas, but also uprooted the societal structure of Pakistan as well 

“There has been internal migration and in the next upcoming decades, more people will have to leave their hometowns. This is also affecting the set up of communities, because these people who are migrating from rural areas to the city centers are leaving their communities,” said Nisa.

These floods, believed to be worsening due to climate change, have put pressure on the infrastructure of the country, both physically and socially, according to Nisa. 

As other fellows in attendance also explained how their own countries were reacting to climate change, Meer Habib from Bangladesh emphasized the importance of understanding how climate change and natural disaster both play a role in the effects felt throughout a country.

The topic of misinformation and disinformation was led by UNM fellow Leticia Risco from Argentina and ASU fellow Emmanuella Dago-Akribi from Côte d’Ivoire.

Leticia Rusco (left) and Emmanuella Drago-Akribi (right) offering their perspective on the topic of misinformation and disinformation on March 3, 2023. (Photo by Adam Terro)

Risco serves as the coordinator of the Federal Missing Persons System in Argentina’s Ministry of Security, and explained how misinformation and disinformation plays a role in her department’s ability to filter through information.

Risco told a story of how the media was ineffective in helping her team during a missing persons investigation due to their inability to communicate the necessary information to help locate a young girl.

The country was still recovering from the fall of a dictatorship from 1976-1983, and citizens were not able to discern whether information being spread by the media was trustworthy or not, according to Risco.

Dago-Akribi works for the government of the Côte d’Ivoire as the head of Development Projects Communication, Research and Strategy division of the Center for Information and Communication, and she explained how misinformation and disinformation was an issue during their COVID-19 response. 

“We had a lot of information coming from everywhere, and it was difficult to get people to follow the recommendations of authorities. The disease started to spread because some were proposing that Africans were not sensitive to COVID-19,” said Dago-Akribi.

The role of social media was a factor which both Risco and Dago-Akribi said have made it even harder to communicate with people about what information can be trusted.

How to regulate social media brought about much debate amongst the fellows, as combating the spread of misinformation and disinformation can very easily encroach on the rights of those who wish to utilize social media platforms.

Ultimately, the tenor of the conversations around the topic were summarized by ASU fellow Blessing Jona from Zimbabwe.

“At a public policy level, policies should nurture media information literacy. I think people should be trained on media information literacy even in the education curriculum. How do you comprehend information from various sources? How do you bring critical thinking to it? How do you collaborate with others to try and make sense of it?” said Jona.

After a short break, the event moved to the next two topics which were moderated by MCC professor Nicole Collins.

The discussion on diversity and inclusion were led by UMN fellow Aubrey Bahala from the Philippines and ASU fellow Joonggun Lee from South Korea.

Aubrey Bahala (left) and Joonggun Lee (right) during their panel on diversity and inclusion on March 2, 2023. (Photo by Adam Terro)

Lee has over 15 years of experience as a broadcast reporter for the Korean Broadcast System and has studied how a lack of diversity and tolerance can create conflict.

According to Lee, South Korea has been experiencing a steady decline in population size, leading to economic impacts that are needing to be addressed with new policies.

“The Korean population is decreasing almost in half with each generation. As you know, population decline has a very bad impact on the economy and society,” said Lee.

According to Lee, the government in South Korea has begun implementing incentives that include tax breaks, housing payment assistance, and supplemental income for foreigners  that relocate to the country.

The influx of new immigrants will help alleviate the economic impact of the decline in population size, however it also presents a new societal component. 

The country has a long history of lacking diversity, and the concept of inclusion is something the citizens are having to understand how to incorporate into everyday life, according to Lee.

Lee identified the aspect of community as a pivotal aspect of integrating immigrants into society. The example he gave was the lack of multilingual options for local news. 

When someone is in a country where they are not fluent in the most dominant language, it is difficult to stay informed with what is going on in their community. This leads to a lack of involvement and lack of inclusion being felt by these minority groups, according to Lee.

Bahala is a member of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance in the Philippines. The institute is a policy, research, and training and works as the intermediary arbiter between the native peoples and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. 

Bahala explained the importance of understanding native peoples and their ways of life when other countries attempt to bring aid in times of need.

“When you are shipping relief goods to a predominantly muslim region, you have to make sure that the relief goods are halal. One way of making sure is that you consult the communities about the things that they desire,” said Bahala.

Bahala and the institute she works for also work to help those who are not already in positions of political power be able to understand the steps necessary to set themselves up for success.

According to Bahala, many families in the Philippines are born into power, and dynasties form which allow families to sustain political power and control the policies that affect everyone.

Both Bahala and Lee emphasized the cultural awareness which inclusion and diversity bring, and how understanding other cultures can lead to the adaptation of new ideas.

UMN fellow Ioana Morar from Romania and ASU fellow Doreen Ampofo from Ghana lead the discussion about human rights, and how the progression of human rights within a society or culture can affect a number of other variables which affect the development of a nation.

Ioana Morar (left) and Doreen Ampofo (right) detailing how the issues of human rights have been handled in their respective countries on March 2, 2023. (Photo by Adam Terro).

Ampofo works for the Ghana Broadcasting Company and told stories of how citizens in Ghana are in danger of being in harm’s way, specifically if their actions go against or speak ill of the government.

“There have been isolated cases of attacks on media people. There have been cases where people who are protesting peacefully have been attacked. There was a case where an individual in the community who was part of a group who protested for the government to fix the country because the economy wasn’t doing well, and a few days after the protest he was killed,” said Ampofo.

Ampofo also detailed other human rights issues such as arranged marriages for women under the age of 18, as well as witch hunts taking place against those accused of using witchcraft.

When accused, these individuals are not given an opportunity to defend themselves, but are rather sent to camps where a witch doctor determines whether the accusations are true or false. To be found guilty leads to death as well, and also leaves women and children left to survive on their own, according to Ampofo.

Morar acts as the deputy general director of Romania’s National Administration of Penitentiaries.

During her time speaking, she explained how much can be learned from how a country treats its prisoners and those who are incarcerated.

“This is a process that started with recognizing that an important part of ensuring and protecting human rights is also ensuring the adequate policies of incarcerated persons and persons in conflict with the law,” said Morar.

Morar explained that placing priority on rehabilitating those who are having trouble with the law allows them to reintegrate into society, as opposed to falling victim to a cycle of behavior dangerous to not only themselves, but the community as well. 

Parts of the effort to rehabilitate those incarcerated include schools within prison, help with finding jobs once released, allowing a wide range of religious activities, cooperating with nonprofit to aid in their work, and a collaborative work with the Romanian national theater.

 When comparing the Romanian prison system and the U.S. prison system, Morar identified two major differences. 

The U.S. lacks a central institution in charge of all prisons or jails, which allows for inconsistencies between federal and state regulations on the treatment of inmates.

The other stark difference between the two countries is their view on the death penalty.

Multiple U.S. states, including Arizona, practice the death penalty, whereas it is not used in any capacity in Romania.

For Morar, increasing the baseline level of human rights afforded to all people allows for the growth and development of and understanding society.


  • Adam Terro

    Adam Terro is the Managing Editor for the Mesa Legend. He joined the staff in January 2021 and first published with the Legend in fall 2020. His passion is for sports, specifically football and basketball.

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