Lehigh students present TED-style talks at ILO conference


Among the United Nations representatives and visiting scholars who spoke at the International Labor Organization conference (ILO) held at Iacocca Hall on April 11, were a select group of Lehigh students.

Five students across different disciplines gave TED-style talks about what the “Future of Work” means to them.

Maryam Athar Khan, ’19, spoke about the interdisciplinary skills, which she argued will be key in the future of work. As a bioengineering major, she gave the example that an engineer will no longer simply need engineering skills and emphasized the importance of soft skills, such as communicating well and thinking like an entrepreneur.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re working on one project in the lab, but if that product is never going to make it to market, you’re never going to have an impact on the world,” Khan said.

With minors in computer science and economics to compliment her major, Khan embodies the mentality that success in the workplace will stem from having a variety of skills.

As the chair of the planning committee for the conference, Hunter was in charge of choosing the student speakers. He said it was difficult to select the students, but he wanted to ensure that there were students with a diverse mix of backgrounds, who could speak about their perspectives.

Hunter has known Khan since her first week at Lehigh and through her work as a U.N. youth representative. Hunter said one of the reasons Khan was selected was because she thinks of herself as stateless, a mentality which arose from having lived in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and now the United States.

“She’s the true evolving global citizen,” he said. “Someone whose allegiance is to the cause and not necessarily to the company or to the country even.”

Khan had the chance to speak at the U.N. her sophomore year, in celebration of the international day of women and girls in science. In front of the general assembly, she spoke about her personal experience as a woman in STEM. Khan described the event as a “spectacular opportunity” she never thought she would have as a college student.

“It’s so humbling to know these people and to know who they will be in a very short amount of time,” Hunter said. “My job is to open the door for students, empower them and get out of the way. And I mean that, I really do.”

Khan focused on her personal experiences during her speech at the conference.

“I have found the things at Lehigh that have hopefully equipped me enough to handle any challenges that I might face in the future,” she said.


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