The Saint Gallen Symposium this year centered around the theme #TrustMatters. It was held mostly virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although I was a little disappointed initially to miss out on the opportunity to attend it in person in Switzerland, the organizers did an exceptional job in making it as immersive experience as it can be. I would do it all over again if I could!

The virtual platform for the 50th Saint Gallen Symposium featured the campus of University of Saint Gallen in Switzerland, where the actual in-person event usually takes place

I was selected as a “leader of tomorrow” through the annual essay competition. All graduate students are eligible to participate in the Symposium by writing an essay in the field of their interest that relates to the theme of the year. The only criterion for selection is the essay’s content and quality, and many IPED students have been selected (and even won) in the past. The essay I submitted and was selected for is entitled “Rebuilding Trust in a World of Nuclear Weapons.”

Each year a team of young students from the University of Saint Gallen works tirelessly to bring together a cohort of “leaders of today” and “leaders of tomorrow” to foster intergenerational dialogue in pressing issues concerning everyone. Given the rising mistrust against media, governments, corporates, etc., globally, the topic of discussion this year was “how to rebuild trust when it’s broken.”

Jean Goodall, one of the speakers, shares her experience studying nature and how we can rebuild trust with younger generation humans to  conserve our environment.

Prominent speakers included Jean Goodall, the world’s foremost expert in Chimpanzees; Sebastian Krus, the Chancellor of Austria; Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft; Vas Narasimhan, the CEO of Novartis; Michael Sandel, professor of Government Theory at Harvard University, etc. The list goes on and includes prominent figures from the UN and international organizations, governments, corporations, NGOs, among others. You could ask questions directly to the speakers and often get the chance to interact face-to-face virtually with most of the speakers in the social sessions afterward.

I was in a virtual room with Mamphela Ramphele, a South African activist and co-president of the Club of Rome, where she talked about her life and work and answered our questions.

My favorite part was the connections made with fellow graduate students and young professionals passionate about the issues of sustainability and climate change. I encourage all IPED students to apply. More information can be found on www.symposium.org.

The official program ended with a spectacular performance by Top Secret at the Closing Ceremony of the 50th St. Gallen Symposium.