University | News
“The combination of energy and urgency in the room was palpable.”
New York, United States
3, Oct, 2014

We are delighted to be hearing so many positive reactions to the event that the Asia Society hosted last week, “Teaching Half the Sky: from Policies to Practice in Girls’ Education,” and we are writing to pass on some of the feedback that our speakers and attendees have shared with us. Reflecting on the event, Tom Nagorski, Executive Vice President of the Asia Society, said that “Sheena Iyengar and Mursal Hamraz are living testimony to how a girl and a young woman can rise up in a world where the challenges are huge and opportunities limited.” If you would like to watch a video of the event, please visit

“Teaching Half the Sky: from Policies to Practice in Girls’ education” featured a roundtable discussion on the current situation of girls’ education and the imperative of investing resources, not just awareness, into this global issue. Our panelists included First Lady of Japan Akie Abe, who is a Patron of the Asian University for Women; Terri McCullough, formerly Chief of Staff to U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and now Director of No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project of the Clinton Foundation; Sheena Iyengar, professor at the Columbia Business School and head of the Global Leadership Matrix Institute; and Mursal Hamraz, an Asian University for Women 2014 graduate from Afghanistan who is currently working with the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics in Kabul. The event was moderated by Josette Sheeran, President of the Asia Society, and Young Joon Kim, Chairman of the Asian University for Women Support Foundation.

A Special Thank You

Our AUW supporters know that none of our endeavors are possible without the generosity of our network of individuals, government offices, corporations, and foundations who share our mission of expanding educational access for talented young women in Asia and the Middle East. One of our most dedicated, long-time supporters is Abbott Laboratories. This fall, Abbott showed its generosity once more by sponsoring AUW’s event at the Asia Society, including transportation for Mursal, our AUW alumna who spoke about her experiences working at the Government of Afghanistan.

Abbott’s support reaches far back before our panel discussion on Friday. As a global health technology and research firm, Abbott has played a leading role in strengthening AUW’s science curriculum. One of our most unsparing supporters in this regard has been Katherine Pickus, Vice President of Global Citizenship and Policy at Abbott, to whom we owe special gratitude. Abbott funded the construction of science laboratories on the AUW campus, and also arranges for weekly instructional sessions via video with between Abbott researchers and AUW students. This semester, the Abbott Lecture series focuses on medicine and public health, such as the drug development process. Abbott is also currently sponsoring the complete tuition for 10 AUW students, making the pursuit of science and higher education a possibility for some of our brightest minds. We are enormously grateful for Abbott’s generosity over the years, and would like to take this event as a time to express special thanks. If you would like to learn more about Abbott’s involvement with AUW, please see

What People Are Saying

Our guests at the Asia Society discussion included students, government officials, policy-makers, nonprofit leaders, and representatives from international NGOs. We would like to share some of the comments we have heard from our guests since the successful event on Friday:

“I was deeply moved by the personal stories shared by Mursal Hamraz and Sheena Iyengar about how role models, resources and the right intervention allowed them to achieve education which allowed them to pursue their dreams. Those gathered shared the goal to help women and girls achieve their full potential day by day through education. I am hopeful we will continue the conversation to work collectively toward that goal.” — Terri McCullough, Director of No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project at The Clinton Foundation

Young Joon Kim, Kamal Ahmad, Kathleen Pike, Mursal Hamraz, and Saima Hossain

Young Joon Kim, Kamal Ahmad, Kathleen Pike, Mursal Hamraz, and Saima Hossain

“As the number of girls attending primary and secondary schools increases in Asia, it is imperative that we begin to pay greater attention to making college level education more accessible to young and talented girls. This will not only enable girls to fulfill their socio-cultural roles, but also give talented and ambitious girls the opportunity to succeed in a fast paced global community.” — Saima Wazed Hossain, Chairperson of the Bangladesh National Advisory Committee on Autism and Neuro-developmental Disorders, and Global Autism Public Health Initiative, Bangladesh

“I felt inspired and hopeful observing men and women discuss together about girls’ and women’s education and how this goal can be reached through changes in the policies and a focus on practices to overcome the gender inequality and bring positive change in the societies.” — Mursal Hamraz, AUW Alumnae and panelist

Emily Rafferty comments during the discussion

Emily Rafferty comments during the discussion

“The roundtable and its topical discussion of women’s education and literacy was immensely enlightening and articulate. I was deeply impressed by the breadth of knowledge and experiences shared by so many people in the room, united in their commitment and cumulative thinking on advancing the issue. It is extremely important that we move these initiatives forward and continue engaging one another on this topic in meaningful, proactive, result-oriented dialogues.” — Emily Rafferty, President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

“The nature of the discussion at this event was unmatched. The stories of both the panelists and other attendees encouraged further discussion and were, in themselves, catalysts for change. While each of the panelists had something different to contribute, I found it most valuable that each person in attendance was actively working toward the communal goal of increased access to women’s education in their own way. At few other events is each person able to learn something new from every other person there. The discussion itself was valuable, but the friendships forged and connections made after the talk will surely have the greatest impact as we move forward toward our goal.” — Sarah Fields, Student at Tufts University

Akie Abe, Kamal Ahmad, Mursal Hamraz at Asia Society

Mursal Hamraz, Kamal Ahmad, and First Lady of Japan Akie Abe

“At the Asia Society we always endeavor to bring people together from diverse backgrounds in terms of geography and experience. We absolutely had a huge success in terms of the caliber and variety of speakers at this event — it isn’t often that you have in one room the First Lady of Japan, who is very engaged and involved with the issue of education in her country; two speakers recounting stories from their own impressive lives, Sheena Iyengar and Mursal Hamraz; and two really accomplished women who have worked hard in this space, our President Josette Sheeran and Terri McCullough from the Clinton Foundation.

We’ve done a lot of work at the Asia Society on the issue of girls’ education, women’s education, and the transition to active and productive professional lives in their communities. It was unmistakably clear to me that the roundtable discussion in collaboration with the Asian University for Women was a great success, largely thanks to the participation of so many interesting people who could have been on the panel themselves, and of course, a fantastic set of speakers sharing their professional perspectives as well as highly personal, inspirational stories.” — Tom Nagorski, Executive Vice President of the Asia Society.

“The combination of energy and urgency in the room was palpable. It is always refreshing to bring together such impressive stakeholders towards a common goal. The icing on the cake was getting a glimpse of the polished, passionate, and determined alumnae of the University. It is a reminder that educating women releases tremendous potential into our world.” — Sheena Iyengar, S. T. Lee Professor of Business, Columbia Business School; Director of Global Leadership Matrix Initiative.