Hannah Emerson left St. Louis for Webster Thailand last winter as a double major in Global Journalism and International Relations. She came back this year and will now graduate with both her bachelor’s and master’s degree in International Relations.
“When I went to Thailand that was the first time I was actually exposed to international relations courses because I have taken all journalism courses my first semester,” Emerson said. “Once I was there, I was like, ‘This is what I was meant to do.’ Then it just felt right in every single way.”
This path in International Relations led her to enter in and win a contest held by the Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS), an organization that encourages citizens to consider and take on global problems as well as solve them. To win the contest, the person must submit an essay that proposes a global problem and an effective solution. As the winner, Emerson was invited to Washington, D.C. to attend an annual conference and board meeting held by the CGS.
The essay she submitted tackled the global issue of Urbanization, the idea that the more urban the world gets, the less resources like food, water and energy are available to the people who live there. She interned for the Kansas City mayor’s office her senior year of high school working on ideas such as smart city policies, which she said can help solve urbanization.
“It’s basically kind of being smart and being proactive in your planning rather than reactive,” Emerson said. “It’s using technology and data analytics and all the new things in our world today that we did not have in the past to make cities better.”
Ronald Glossop is the president of the St. Louis chapter of CGS that hosted the contest, and also the man who chose Emerson as the winner. He said the urbanization issue she chose to address is something that is often overlooked in global solutions.
“The essay presented a problem, a global problem that really does need attention that is not getting much attention even from our group of citizens concerned about global issues,” Glossop said. “I was really attracted by the fact that she pointed out an important problem that’s not getting much attention, but also indicated that she has worked on how to deal with it and then could see how that could be helpful for people in other parts of the world.“
Emerson attended the CGS conference in D.C. from Nov. 9-12. There, she said, she was able to meet people from all over the globe that have a mission to change the world. She said a lot of the conference consisted of was planning for the next years event and researching how to promote more international cooperation towards global solutions.
After the meeting in D.C., she is now hoping to run for the national board of CGS. She volunteered to be a candidate for the board election coming up in the spring in 2019.
“I myself and expecting great things from Hannah,” Glossop said. “I think she will be doing a lot of wonderful things in her life and we’re so happy to have been part of it.”
Emily Perez has been Emerson’s best friend since the grade 7. Perez says being a go-getter has always ran through Emerson’s veins. She said when Emerson decided she wanted to study abroad in Germany her Junior year of high school, she made a jewelry business with her mom to help raise money – and they raised enough for her to be able to do it.
“When she really wants something, she gets it,” Perez said. “I see her using her resources to network and accomplish what she wants.”
Since studying abroad in Germany when she was 16, Emerson has always had a travel itch and has wanted to incorporate her future in International Relations abroad somewhere.
A future in making a better future
Emerson has several long term goals in this industry. She has wanted to work in a diplomatic role since she was a young teen, and she said the opportunity to go to the conference allowed her to zero in on her end goal of working diplomatically until she can raise enough funding to start her own non-governmental organization (NGO), a nonprofit which consists of voluntary citizens on a local, national or international level.
The NGO she wants to create would focus on immigration and refugees and that would establish smarter ways to deal with refugee resettlement in countries all over the world. The thesis for her winning essay tied in the idea of using smart city policies to help solve the refugee resettlement issue by finding better ways to integrate them into the community.
As a young 20-year-old with a hefty amount of global problem-solving experience under her belt, Emerson said she has never been able to follow the path that everyone else her age does. But she said that’s the reason why she is where she is now.
“Don’t be afraid to think of out-of-the-box solutions,” Emerson said. “If somebody says no, that’s just now in the current way that things are standing. You just have to be smart and creative and also determined because you can’t just stop once somebody says no.”