Today, we are in a world that is unfamiliar and unprecedented in its unanticipated uncertainty. The pandemic has exposed fault lines in modern industrial operations, socio-cultural norms, and educational systems beyond borders. The challenges are multifaceted and widespread, reverting various ‘progressive strides’ by triggering the need for innovation, equity, and collaboration across the board in order to adapt to the change and rise above it. The International Association of University Presidents (IAUP), a global organization of academic leaders, has been working towards deciphering just that. Themed on “Innovation and Inclusion: Key Priorities for Universities in a Complex World”, the XIX IAUP Triennial Virtual Conference, brought together over 100 universities’ representatives from over 20 countries for the 3-days sessions with over 50 experienced speakers from varied fields, across borders. Inaugurated on the 29th of July 2021, Dr. Fernando León García, the President for the Center for Technical and Higher Education (CETYS), Mexico, and the President-Elect of IAUP for 2021-24, provided the Welcome Address for the Opening Ceremony of the conference.
Higher education professionals discussed the challenges and priorities that would be shaping the global education system in the post-pandemic, exchanging ideas, trends, and practices that have made an impact amongst higher education institutions. With 6 enlightening plenaries and 9 constructive sessions, the program focused on identifying what works, determining what needs to be improved, and adopting what must be changed. Dr. Carmen Z. Lamagna, the Vice Chancellor of the American International University – Bangladesh (AIUB), presented in the plenary on “Women’s Leadership: A Priority in the Post Pandemic Era” as one of the esteemed panel members, along with Dr Liu Jinan, the President of the Organizing Committee of the World Women University Presidents Forum, China, Dr. Sara Ladrón de Guevara, the President of the Universidad Veracruzana, Mexico, Dr. Gulsun Saglamer, the President of the European Women Rectors Association, Turkey, and Dr. Heidi M. Anderson, the President of the University of Maryland, USA. The plenary discussion was moderated by Dr. Mariella Remund, the PIMSA Distinguished Chair at the CETYS University, Mexico, and the Professor of Management at the City University of Seattle, China.
Highlighting the ‘shadow pandemic’ that has obscured women around the world, professionally and personally, during these difficult times, Dr. Lamagna showcased the different struggles a woman still must face at home, school, and even work. Discrimination is persistent and prevalent, whether it is the gender wage gap, the broken rung, or the glass ceilings in almost every sector, or financial dependency and domestic abuse in households, or even the inaccessibility and deprivation of basic education. She showcased some of the efforts made at AIUB towards gender equity and women empowerment, entailing the path through diversity, equality, and inclusion, to lead towards bridging the gaps and building a better future.
In a world that is rapidly evolving, integrating technology and adapting to paradigm shifts have become of the essence, critical to the growth and development of higher education. The conference concluded on the note of establishing the significance of transformative recovery in order to restructure higher education into a more holistic system that emphasizes on breaking through the barriers and innovating to embrace disruption in multidisciplinary spectrums that can engage the leaders of tomorrow in the ‘new normal’.