Thursday, April 27, 2023

Over 250 middle school students from Eastern Iowa schools participated in the International Day Human Rights Conference 2023 held on the University of Iowa (UI) campus on April 20. Organized by the University of Iowa Baker Teacher Leader Center and sponsored by International Programs and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security, this year’s conference theme was Education for All.  

main event
Conference participants in the Iowa Memorial Union International Ballroom

“The collaborative spirit of this event highlights the interdisciplinary nature of global education across our campus and in our community,” said Will Coghill-Behrends, director of the Baker Teacher Leader Center. “We hope, through youth-facing events like this, to expand on what students are already learning in schools about our interdependent relationship with nations and peoples around the world, and to give students an opportunity to engage in global perspectives in fun and purposeful ways. We are so grateful to the faculty, staff, and students from our campus who are helping us put on such a wonderful event.” 

The day featured keynote speaker Omar Mohamed, National Book Award Winner, for his co-authored story, “When Stars are Scattered,” a graphic memoir of his experiences as a refugee. During breakout sessions, committee members from the Anne Frank Initiative (AFI), a newly established International Programs affinity group at the UI, educated middle school students on a few unique topics - the power of writing, the Anne Frank tree sapling, and a virtual tour of the secret annex. 

Anne Frank tree sapling
Students surrounding the Anne Frank tree sapling on the University of Iowa Pentacrest

“It was so uplifting to walk with all the middle-schoolers up the hill (Jefferson Street) and show them the Anne Frank sapling,” shared Kirsten E. Kumpf Baele, director of the AFI and a faculty member in the UI Department of German. “I tried to convey how significant nature was to Anne Frank. The children whom the AFI members had the honor of working with will undoubtedly have a summer filled with time at the pool, camping in the woods, and playing games in the grass. I am grateful they have this liberty and in a small way, the Anne Frank sapling represents what all children in the world should have: the right to freedom in nature.” 

International Day concluded with an introspective moment. As part of a larger activity, all guests were invited to reflect on Anne Frank’s story and legacy and compose their thoughts on a leaf, which were collected and displayed on the branches of a large paper tree. 


Learn more about the Anne Frank Initiative


International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.