Levine Scholar Austin Halbert’s long standing dream to visit Dubai became a reality last month when he was selected as a finalist to present at the Education without Borders Conference, sponsored by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Higher Colleges of Technology. The conference brought together students from more than 100 countries for a series of events in collaboration with Nobel Prize winners and global leaders.
The main event was a sequence of presentations delivered by 32 student researchers. As one of the 32 participants, Halbert's presentation centered on an assessment of online education and its potential to advance systems in the developing world. In preparation, he spent several months researching and developing ideas to make technology and education more accessible in remote regions. Following his presentation, he was selected as one of six grand prize winners among others from Egypt, Africa, UAE, and India.
— Austin Halbert
Halbert’s submission, "The Business of Open Education," asserted that online education is further expanding digital and educational divides between developing and advanced countries, as those in developing countries have severely limited access to technology. Halbert mapped out a solution to change educational formats by rapidly expediting the supply of technology to the developing world, hinging on a network of partnerships among the United Nations, governmental entities, nonprofits, and education providers. "I was both humbled and inspired to be part of such an international effort to change the world in which we currently live. The energy throughout the event was undeniable as bright minds from every corner of the globe shared their ideas on how to turn current problems into future successes," Halbert said.
Halbert said one of his favorite experiences was watching a breathtaking fountain show at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. He also went on a desert safari that consisted of speeding on sand dunes, watching whirling dervishes, and eating a traditional Middle Eastern meal. He also visited the world’s largest mall.
"Though Education without Borders was short-lived, it was a testament to how it only takes a few people with great ideas to make a dramatic impact on the world," Halbert said. "I saw students and leaders come together to embrace ideas and acknowledge the importance of critically thinking our way through problems. It is times like these that I am grateful to the Levine Scholars Program for placing such an emphasis on leadership, action, and problem solving. Being prepared to make a difference makes our potential as limitless as our imaginations.”