International Relations major Jordan Davis, ’20, stood in front of a podium, her name displayed for a crowd of over 300 people from around the world to see.
She had been in their seats before, having attended countless conferences at the United Nations. Now, they were listening to her.
Davis moderated a panel of students presenting research and ideas on how to solve the clean water crisis.
The conference, which was fueled by months of planning during 8 a.m. meetings between Davis and three other Lehigh students, was the world’s first U.N.-based Student Seeking Solutions conference on Sustainable Development Goal 6 — Clean Water and Sanitation.
“It’s a pinch-me moment,” Davis said. “It’s like, I’m 20 years old and I just spoke at the U.N.”
Davis’s passion for helping the world achieve equality is exercised through her steadfast involvement with Lehigh’s U.N. youth representative program, which has provided her with various leadership opportunities.
Although she grew up outside of Atlanta in a “sheltered place,” Davis said she always had a broader perspective.
“I recognized the world’s a much bigger place than the bubble I was living in for the first 18 years of my life,” Davis said.
Learning about human rights in high school, Davis began developing a passion for equality and was drawn to Lehigh because of its partnership with the U.N.
The experiential partnership provides students access to conferences, high-level briefings and meetings, and in Davis’s case, the opportunity to voice personal opinions.
“She came to Lehigh as a woman on a mission,” said Bill Hunter, director of the Office of Fellowship Advising and U.N. programs at Lehigh.
Soon after arriving on campus as a first-year student, Davis met with Hunter to find out how she could get involved.
Impressed with her initiative, Hunter said he quickly became aware of her deep interest in the U.N. and her global approach to her career aspirations.
Davis said she worked hard for her spot in the competitive U.N. program, showing up to every event, refusing to stop until she was in. She said the U.N. made her feel inspired and motivated.
Davis applied to be Hunter’s semester intern and he said she “clearly rose to the top,” so she was hired.
After witnessing her enthusiasm and knowledge grow in this position, Hunter asked her to join a small group that would help plan the student-led conference. He said she was a natural choice.
Veronica McKinny, ’18, who spearheaded the conference, said Davis is everything you would want from a colleague — intelligent, energetic, passionate and incredibly motivated.
McKinny said Davis brought inventive ideas that added to and increased the quality of the conference, and remained flexible during high-pressure times.
Hunter said they knew this was a test by the U.N. to see if Lehigh could pull off something like this.
The resounding response from their U.N. partners was praise. Hunter said their partners confirmed the conference would be replicated in coming years.
“The exciting piece of my job is to build a student’s foundation and knowledge base, empower them and then get out of the way,” Hunter said. “In (Davis’) case, I feel very confident doing that.”
Davis continues to excel in the program. She has been published twice by the U.N., which Hunter said is very rare.
Knowing she cannot solve all of the issues the world faces, Davis focuses her efforts on the topic of utmost importance to her — gender equality.
Lehigh’s youth representative program connects students with different NGOs that represent issues that students are passionate about. Davis applied and was accepted to be a youth representative for the American Association of University Women, an NGO consisting of university chapters nationwide that work to improve equality for women, empowering them to advocate for themselves in the workplace.
Davis wants others to understand that the discouragement to speak up that women face is not always explicit, yet it is ingrained in our society.
She believes a main issue we face today is a lack of understanding and empathy, which she said is crucial for productivity and growth in our society.
“Everything does not have to be he said/ she said, right and wrong or black and white,” Davis said. “We can compromise.”
Raina McKoen, ’21, also an American Association of University Women representative, described Davis as fearless and not complacent.
“I’m really thankful to have her with me in this experience,” McKoen said. “I lucked out getting someone that I not only get along with, but that is (as) excited about it as I am.”
McKoen said was she is inspired by Davis’s dedication to the U.N. and how she challenges herself.
Davis is thankful for the opportunities Lehigh has provided for her because it has helped her discover her passion. She said the experiences she’s had here have been surreal.
“I’m lucky that I got to know her as a wide-eyed, enthusiastic first-year student who is now well on her way to earning an internship at the U.N.,” Hunter said.