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GEMS Takes on Climate Action and Gender Equality at the UN

November 9, 2020

Sarah Beazley

This year’s Parsons Global Executive Master of Science (GEMS) cohort took on a unique project: designing and promoting the United Nations’ Decade of Action. The competitive GEMS program, known for its international travel and intimate student group, also faced the added challenge of COVID-19.

“It actually made our client, the UN, more accessible to us,” said GEMS student Emily Arlington, adding that busy speakers and executives were more available to speak via video conferencing.

Arlington said working on the project brought out her knowledge in fashion, design, and leadership. The GEMS history of fusing diverse industries and skillsets was what initially drew her to the program.

“I wanted to move away from things I was just superficially interested in. As I witnessed so many things about the workplace, I’ve been more interested in how to use design in advocacy and using visuals to make a bridge.”

Arlington completed her bachelor’s at the Fashion Institute of Technology and a fashion certificate at Parsons.  She used her design and illustration skills to create a “Climate Superhero” campaign for the UN. The worksheet inspired children to create their own superheroes to protect the climate.

Parsons faculty member Rinat Sherzer was impressed at how students used their expertise from their previous industries, including marketing, military, and hospitality.

“A major element that worked in our favor was the diversity of the group; having talents from the corporate, art, design, and nonprofit worlds allowed the students to bring in new perspectives backed up by unique skills,” Sherzer said.

Arlington said that besides honing her creative skills, she also gained confidence in her leadership abilities through the UN project.

“It was unclear what the end result would be, but I knew that whatever they needed, we would hear them out,” she said.

The focus of the project shifted when the team working on gender equality and the team working on climate action were combined. Arlington said it was “everchanging” project with no defined edges, adding that it was an exercise in “wearing a lot of different hats, being able to listen really well to the different needs of a client.”

The GEMS program usually takes a year and a half to complete and is geared toward working professionals, kicking off with an intensive, internationally focused project.

Arlington said it’s important to keep your authenticity and creativity when pursuing the GEMS program.

“Knowing what my values are made people connect with me,” she said. “You really have to be in a place that you’re open to learning, but you have some things under your belt that make you question the orthodoxy around you. Someone who isn’t afraid to go against the grain.”

GEMS applications are now open for 2021. Find out more and apply.

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