Tech alum’s higher education reform solutions gain an audience at G7 summit
Tennessee Tech alumnus Shayan Khan.
A Tennessee Tech University alumnus is leading a global network of college students and alumni whose approaches to higher education reform have gained an audience at the annual G7 summit.
Shayan Khan, who graduated with an electrical engineering degree from Tech in 2018 and now resides in Paris, France, is the chairman and co-founder of the U7+ Student & Alumni Network. The group is an extension of the U7+ Alliance of World Universities, which Khan also participated in as a master’s student in France.
Launched in 2019 by French President Emmanuel Macron, the U7+ Alliance is a coalition of university leaders from G7 countries who meet to discuss issues in higher education and advance what the group calls “intergenerational justice” – a goal of building a sustainable future for students and preparing them for the reality of the professional world.
“The idea was to have universities replicate the discussions that occur at the G7 summit but at the collegiate level,” said Khan. “Universities within the G7 member countries find new ways to collaborate, share best practices and advance higher education.”
The G7 summit is a series of meetings featuring heads of state from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The 2023 G7 summit occurred in May and was hosted by Japan.
Khan was selected for the U7+ Alliance’s first-ever Worldwide Student Forum in 2020, where he and an elite group of his peers from around the world developed recommendations which were sent to the presidents of the alliance’s member institutions and ultimately shared with leaders at that year’s G7 summit.
The event was so meaningful to Khan that he and five other students made plans for a sub-organization of the U7+ Alliance that would keep students and alumni connected to the organization’s mission through their college years and even post-graduation. Thus, the U7+ Student & Alumni Network was formed.
As chairman of the U7+ Student & Alumni Network, Khan explains that he is tasked with liaising with U7+ Alliance delegates “to make sure we have close communication so we can voice new ideas and develop initiatives collectively with university leaders.”
“We want to build an open platform so students can speak their mind on different topics – sustainability, peace, security and diversity, to name a few, and ensure that, through the mission of the U7+ Alliance, we are able to secure educational growth for students” Khan added.
The network, which now includes colleges from beyond the G7 nations – including many from Africa and South America – is a passion project for Khan. He volunteers his time while holding down full-time work at a consulting firm in Paris that specializes in digital transformation projects.
One of the U7+ Student & Alumni Network’s events that Khan found most meaningful was an intergenerational roundtable series in which students and professors gathered for discussions on how to bring the student perspective into more decision-making across the higher education landscape.
“I want to see education improve,” said Khan. “So we’re asking, what is education missing today? What are the skills students really need so that, when they jump into the professional world, the shock is minimized?”
Khan, who was born and raised in the United Arab Emirates, admits that his arrival at Tech was something of a shock, too.
“It took a bit of time at the beginning to get adjusted, but through the College of Engineering, I’ve made great, lifelong friends,” said Khan. “I don’t think I would have had the level of success I’ve had today if not for Tech.”
Ultimately, some of Khan’s closest relationships at Tech would come from an unlikely place: Health Services.
“I got very close to the staff there because, when I came to Tech, I was recovering from a major back surgery,” said Khan. “[Health Services Director] Leigh Ann Ray, Kim Williams, and Phyllis Kilgore are all mother figures to me. They always went above and beyond to take care of me, as though I was their own son.”
Left: Shayan Khan with Tech's Health Services Director Leigh Ann Ray.
Right: Shayan Khan with Health Services Assistant Director Kim Williams and nurse Phyllis Kilgore.
Khan says the kindness and devotion of Tech faculty and staff solidified his lifelong bond to the university, even as he now lives on the other side of the world.
“Tech will always be a part of me, no matter where I go,” said Khan.