Higher Education in Emergencies – Universities as Humanitarians?

Globally, over 65 million people have been forcibly displaced, 21.3 million are refugees, and less than 1% of eligible refugee youth are accessing higher education. On May 9, we invite you to join us for a keynote with Barbara Moser-Mercer, Director of InZone at the University of Geneva, followed by a panel discussion.

Event Details


Cambridge Public Library
449 Broadway, Cambridge, 02138 United States


May 09, 2017 from 6:00 pm to 9:30 pm America/New York (UTC-05:00)



Globally, over 65 million people have been forcibly displaced, 21.3 million are refugees, and less than 1% of eligible refugee youth are accessing higher education. And yet, education is repeatedly mentioned by refugees as a top protection priority, particularly by refugee youth who request higher education opportunities that can lead to livelihoods.

On May 9, we invite you to join us for a keynote with Barbara Moser-Mercer, Director of InZone at the University of Geneva, followed by a panel discussion featuring J. Phiillip Schmidt, Director of Learning Innovation at the MIT Media Lab, Craig Zelizer, Founder and CEO of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network (PCDN), Adrienne Fricke, Senior Fellow, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), and Jeffrey Schantz, Senior Advisor at EYP. The panel will be moderated by Raina Fox from the Millennium Campus Network (MCN).

A networking reception at swissnex Boston (space limited) will conclude the evening.


6:00 PM Doors open

6:30 PM Opening remarks

6:40 PM Keynote presentation by Barbara Moser-Mercer

7:20 PM Panel discussion, Q&A

8:00 PM: Transfer to swissnex Boston (420 Broadway) for a networking reception (space limited)

9:30 PM: Doors close

About the Topic

Some universities are now joining traditional humanitarian actors, such as NGOs, governments, UN bodies, to address the challenge of providing higher education. How does this shift impact the role of universities and their mission of promoting critical thinking, global citizenship, peace and tolerance? How can universities become humanitarians?

University of Geneva’s InZone, which pioneers innovative approaches to multilingual communication and higher education in communities affected by conflict and crisis. InZone designs, develops and scientifically validates learner-centered and technology-supported pedagogical models. InZone’s projects are located in three different regions, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

About the Speakers

Barbara Moser-Mercer is Professor of conference interpreting and founder and Director of InZone, University of Geneva. Her research focuses on cognitive and cognitive neuro-science aspects of the interpreting process, the human performance dimension of skill development, and on factors that enable digital learning in fragile contexts. Through the development and installation of InZone Higher Education Spaces in refugee camps in the Horn of Africa and in MENA she has expanded InZone’s mission to design and implement innovative digital learning models for Higher Education in Emergencies working in close collaboration with UNHCR, the International Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), ICRC, INGOs and higher education institutions in the Global North and South. She was a member of the High Level Group on Multilingualism of the EU Commission, and coordinated the European Masters in Conference Interpreting. She is also an active conference interpreter, member of AIIC.


Philipp Schmidt is Director of Learning Innovation at the MIT Media Lab, where he leads the ML Learning initiative, teaches courses, and conducts research on learning communities. He is also a cofounder and board member of Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU), a non-profit organization that provides access to online higher education through public libraries. Philipp served on the founding board of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, co-authored the Cape Town Open Education Declaration, and is an advisor to a number of non-profit and for-profit education projects. He has received Shuttleworth and Ashoka fellowships, and came to MIT as a Media Lab Director’s fellow.


Craig Zelizer is the Founder and CEO of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network (PCDN). Craig has dedicated his life to being an entrepreneur and to creating a more peaceful world. Since its founding in 2007, Craig has grown PCDN to over 36,500 members representing more than 180 countries. From 2006 through May 2016, he was a professor in the Georgetown Conflict Resolution MA Program, serving as the program’s second faculty hire. He helped grow the program into one of the world’s leading academic programs, assisted in a 300% growth of students and faculty, developed countless new partnerships and served in the program’s senior leadership, including serving as Associate Director for more than six years (also twice as Interim Director). He made the decision in spring 2016 to leave his position to focus full-time on scaling PCDN. He does continue to serve as an adjunct faculty in the program teaching a class on social entrepreneurship. Before creating PCDN, Craig also helped to found two NG0s – the Alliance for Conflict Transformation and the TEAM foundation in Hungary.


Adrienne Fricke is a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. Adrienne studies policy initiatives to improve access to higher education for refugees and displaced people, and is a consultant specializing in human rights and refugee-related issues in the Middle East and Africa. Since 2007, she has worked with Physicians for Human Rights, serving most recently as Syria Advisor, and from 2006-07 was a Clinical Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program. She is a co-creator of the Article 26 Backpack project, a tool for refugee and vulnerable student educational mobility, and co-author of a series of studies by the Institute of International Education and the UC Davis Human Rights Initiative evaluating the impact of the Syrian conflict on access to higher education in Syria, as well as in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Adrienne holds a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in Near Eastern Studies from New York University, and a B.A. in African Studies from Yale University. She has lived and worked in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon and is fluent in Arabic and French.


Jeffrey Schantz is the Science & Technology Sector Leader at EYP, a global provider of high-performance building design, research, and consulting services. He is a recognized thought leader, with over 25 years’ experience designing landmark facilities for college and universities, research institutions, federal government agencies, biotechnology and pharmaceutical clients all over the world . His expertise includes facilities for convergence science, engineering, applied sciences, high containment biosafety, public health, nanotechnology, academic medical centers, animal facilities, materials sciences, and cleanroom and teaching labs.

About the Moderator

Raina Fox, MA, brings over 10 years of experience working with diverse communities to advance global social justice in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Washington DC, Kutch India, Providence, Chicago, Hong Kong, Boston, the Basque Country and more. She currently serves as Program Partnerships Director at Millennium Campus Network, an international nonprofit supporting college students from Liberia to Pakistan to Philadelphia working to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Her past experiences range from managing college access programming for Somali, Hmong, and other refugee and immigrant youth in the Twin Cities to conducting and sharing oral histories of Haitian and Cuban refugees detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She is on the Board of Advisers for the Boston Network for International Development, a member of the UN Women working group on youth, a dialogue facilitator with Essential Partners (Public Conversations Project), and a member of the Board of Advisers for Asylum Connect, a non-profit and digital platform supporting LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers in the US to connect with life saving resources.

She completed her Bachelors in Art History and Cultural Studies from Macalester College and her Masters in Public Humanities from Brown University. Her studies focused on ways that reflection, dialogue, and humanities tools can support human rights, social justice, and civic engagement.

Event Photos