News Research Scholar Voices Symposium

Humanity, accountability, and teamwork

October 5, 2023 | Loreina Hsien, McDonnell Scholar

McDonnell Academy Director Laura Benoist opens the 2023 Global Research Symposium: Forces Reshaping the World, held Oct. 5-7, 2023 at Washington University in St. Louis.

My biggest takeaway from the opening and keynote session is – humanity, accountability, and teamwork. 

Laura Benoist, director of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, empowered us by sharing that it takes “people” to collaborate to reshape the world. As an educator and social worker, I have been trained to connect with diverse populations as a human being, beyond my professional role and social position, to learn from the contexts of other human beings. Laura inspired us to reflect deeper on the power of connecting as people and to work beyond our cultural and professional differences. 

Loriena Hsien
McDonnell Scholar
Master of Social Work student at Brown School

The interactions between environmental justice, environmental solutions, biodiversity, and planetary health were illuminated by Daniel Giammar, the Walter E. Browne Professor of Environmental Engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering and the director of the Center for the Environment at Washington University of St. Louis. This resonates with my work to revitalize cultural-sustaining ecology and physical and spiritual health in Indigenous communities around the world. I am thankful to connect with the Center for the Environment in bringing Indigenous wisdom to help us be better relatives to Mother Earth.

Philip Payne, Janet and Bernard Becker Professor and director of the Institute for Informatics, Data Science and Biostatistics (I2DB) at Washington University in St. Louis, motivated us to visualize the incorporation of digital competence into education at all levels. This complements my goal to facilitate a digital forum for refugee and migrant communities to share their stories of resilience, from which the public learns to transform an inclusive society. 

Vice Admiral Frank Whitworth, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, compelled us to recognize the importance of humans in the development of artificial intelligence (AI). We were encouraged to learn that AI will never replace human intelligence. It is humans that train the ethical and responsible AI, and it is humans that recognize data change and make sense of data into contexts. 

“Every modern challenge has geography at its core. Every person with a cellphone has a sense of geospatial location.”

Vice Admiral Frank Whitworth

The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency amazed me as a powerful role model for global partnerships for humanitarian relief, food security, community building, and international peace. These efforts are simply data-driven but followed with core values to respect human life and human dignity. I was also surprised to learn that a new intelligence facility will be started in St. Louis soon! I am truly fortunate to be immersed in stimulating opportunities based in St. Louis, connecting with the world.

Vice Admiral Whitworth reminded us to stay grounded with reality and tell the truth, driven by the mission for a safe and peaceful world. As I continue to work with historically underrepresented communities, I will always keep this in mind to recognize and understand people through their true selves, their genuine emotions, their distinctive contexts, and their strengths from within. 

I am grateful to be part of the Forces Reshaping the World, brought together by the McDonnell Academy, for us to unite, support one another, and pursue the excellence of humanity, accountability, and teamwork, surpassing geographic boundaries.