A welcome reception was held to welcome guests to the 100th year anniversary of the International Labor Organization conference on Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Zoellner Arts Center. The conference will take place on Thursday, April 11, 2019, on Mountaintop campus with a closing reception held at the National Museum of Industrial History. (Musa Jamshed/B&W Staff)

ILO conference to take place on campus Thursday


A welcome reception for the International Labor Organization 100th year anniversary conference on Wednesday night in Zoellner Arts Center encompassed decades worth of international experience as the air buzzed with talk of the future of work.

Global conversations included educational divides and reskilling labor between top officials from the United Nations, the ILO and leaders of Lehigh.

The reception officially kicked off the conference, “An Equitable and Sustainable Future of Work,” to be held all day Thursday on Mountaintop Campus.

The reception evoked anticipation for the main event, which will include two major keynote speakers who bring high-level experience from the U.N.: Elliott Harris, assistant secretary-general for economic development and chief economist, as well as Bertrand Ramcharan, former acting high commissioner for human rights.

The conference will also include three moderated panels entitled, “Effective Lifelong Learning Systems at Work,” “Transformative Agenda for Equality at Work” and “Improving Global Value Chains for Decent Work.”

Each panel brings together a new array of experts, including corporate directors, nonprofit leaders, deans of colleges and government representatives.

But as is the mission of the ILO, it’s not just about the most powerful people in the room. It will also feature participation from a vast array of students.

Bill Hunter, the director of fellowship advising and U.N. Programs, said his office is expecting that over 100 of the approximately 280 conference-goers who registered will be students.

“The topic of the conference is the future of work, and that’s a topic that’s going to influence all of us as students as our time at Lehigh comes to an end,” said Gabriela Hrubcova, ’19G, who has had experience interning for the ILO.

Besides Lehigh, Hunter has been contacted by Ithaca College, NYU, Drexel, Temple and other Northeastern universities who will be sending members.

Representatives from the local Parkland high school will also be there, which won the Model United Nations competition in March in the Eastern Pennsylvania region. 

As students occupy the same seats as doctors, lawyers and NGO-members in the Wood Dining Room in Iacocca Hall, they will find themselves an active part of the historical day for the ILO.

“I hope the speakers challenge the audience as much as the audience challenges the speakers,” Hunter said. “Nobody gets off easier here.”

At the Wednesday night reception, Cheryl Matherly, vice president and vice provost for International Affairs, gave remarks on just how remarkable of a case study Bethlehem has been with the rise and fall of Bethlehem Steel and the way it affected the local economy and workers.

That’s why the day will finish off with a closing reception at the National Museum of Industrial History for its finale.

This event has been a long time coming since starting from the formation of the relationship between Lehigh and the ILO. Kevin Cassidy, the director of the ILO Office for the United States, has been helping to prepare, speaking to students, and cementing his relationship with Lehigh.

After approximately a year of planning, according to Hunter, everything will culminate on Thursday beginning at 9 a.m.

“We’re going to show the world what we’ve done here,” Cassidy said.

For those unable to attend the event, the conference will be broadcasted live on YouTube.

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