University Communications

SCSU at Dubai Expo

SCSU supports disability advocacy on world stage at Dubai Expo

President Robbyn Wacker, Vice President of the Center for International Studies Shahzad Ahmad and faculty members Dr. Kathy Johnson and Dr. Amy Knopf, Dr. Li Zhang, Dr. Nicholas Wright, Dr. Jennifer Christensen and Dr. Dan Macari are among the St. Cloud State contingent at the Dubai World Expo to support the Disability Summit celebrating the UN International Day for Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3 at the USA Pavillion.  

St. Cloud State University is participating the Dubai Expo 2020 to connect with innovators around the world and coordinate the Disability Summits and celebrate the launch the Center for International Disability Advocacy and Diplomacy at St. Cloud State University. The trip included a visit to Ajman University and Zayed University and connections with St. Cloud State alumni and prospective students in Dubai. Numerous outreach activities and events were also facilitated with the deaf community in the UAE with discussions on collaborations for promoting equity and access to communication, demonstrating inclusive diplomacy for all.

Wacker addressed the International Summit on Women’s Disabilities on day one of the summit.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to address this important gathering of advocates for empowering women with disabilities,” Wacker said. “The program today illuminates the power of women with disabilities as change agents in the world, being bold, being brave and determined to overcome the challenges and bring motivation to other women and girls in reaching their potential and fulfilling their dreams.”

St. Cloud State Rehabilitation Studies students Nick Larsen, Christina Douglas, Haoming Huang, Makayla Christen and Taylor Mulcahy, and Rehabilitation Studies Grant Director and graduate student supervisor Katie Ramos assisted with coordinating the Dubai Expo 2020 Disability Summits, hosted by St. Cloud State University. Sorenson Communications sponsored the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters in being on site to provide access for participants who were deaf, both in person and virtually. Nic Zapko, ASL interpreter for Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz during COVID-19 briefings, was one member of the team. Zapko, who is deaf, had the honor of reading the opening remarks in ASL by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton via a letter she provided. All of the presentations can be found on the ABILITY Event website

The Disability Summits featured a Women with Disabilities Summit, the UN International Day for Persons with Disabilities Conference and an evening reception with John Register, a U.S. Paralympic athlete and motivational speaker. The line-up of presenters was inclusive of top disability leaders and advocates from around the globe. The Disability Summits concluded Dec. 3 in the U.S. Pavilion with Commissioner Bob Clark giving the closing remarks.

“We live in an incredible time of growing global enlightenment about human rights, social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s hopeful that after thousands of years of ignorance fear bias and discrimination that kept so many segments of our population from participating achieving and contributing, we are having more conversations like todays programs about engaging and harnessing the power of all people working together to face the challenges that face our world,” Wacker said. “But we still have so far to go. We need more activists and, yes agitators, who create opportunities for all people to unleash their potential to succeed and help others succeed.”

Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo ever hosted in the Middle East and features 192 country pavilions. The Expo was originally scheduled for 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. MN is the formal bid for the U.S. to host the Specialty World Expo in 2027. St. Cloud State University Center for International Disability Advocacy and Diplomacy is a leading member of the World Events Disability Coalition that is promoting inclusion and access at Expos and other world events.

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