Beginning this fall, Brookdale students have a new opportunity to broaden their horizons and strengthen their college transcript by earning a Global Citizenship Distinction upon graduation.
The initiative, sponsored by professor Terry Konn, the International Education Center and members of Brookdale’s Global Citizenship Project (GCP), allows students to accrue “points” throughout the school year by engaging in a variety of globally themed courses, lectures, clubs and activities. Students who earn enough points by graduation will receive special recognition, a ceremonial sash and the official title of Global Citizen at commencement.
The true impact of the initiative, however, lies in encouraging students to think outside their country, and to begin to see themselves as powerful forces for change in the world, Konn said.
“We have many students on campus who have been very active and very passionate about global issues and who have taken action to address them,” Konn said. “We wanted to provide a framework for future students to do the same, to become more informed and engaged in issues outside of the United States.”
The program, which began accepting students during a public information session in Lincroft on Sept. 13, is designed to promote three overarching ideals: global awareness, global perspective and global engagement.
Awareness, Konn said, centers on understanding one’s own culture – the beliefs, opinions, political structures and other social norms that cause an individual to see the world in a distinct way. Perspective come from applying that awareness to other cultures, understanding and learning from people who come from different backgrounds, believe different things, and see the world in an entirely different way.
“We have experiences everyday, but we don’t think about them. Things just happen and we move on,” Konn said. “Whether we are in the classroom, in our community or traveling abroad, I think it’s important to reflect, learn and grow from those experiences.”
But the most important aspect of the initiative is engagement. After working to acquire a more global perspective, students are encouraged to seek out and respond to global problems, health risks, human rights violations, societal barriers and other issues.
While it may seem impossible to effect meaningful change among a small group of students in New Jersey, Konn said college students are often capable of more than they realize.
In the last two years alone, members of the GCP, the Students for Global Citizenship Club, Alpha Pi Theta honor society and other Brookdale student groups have raised money to build water wells in Africa, hosted international forums and awareness campaigns for international human rights efforts and hosted a year-long “Break the Bias” campaign to curb racism, sexism and other prejudices at the college.
That work will hopefully continue – and expand – under the Global Citizenship Distinction program, Konn said.
“This isn’t about just doing another research paper,” said Konn, who has received two Fulbright Scholarships and spent years working as a teacher, community volunteer, and health care education advocate in Rwanda and Ghana. “It’s about interaction, and then turning that interaction into action.”
To earn a Global Citizenship Distinction, students must enroll in the program and earn 50 international education “points” by the time they graduate. Students can earn points by completing specific classes – by taking World History instead of American History, for example – completing a study abroad program, becoming an active member of Students for Global Citizenship, attending qualifying campus lectures and community events, sponsoring a college fundraising drive, and participating in other global projects.
Global Citizenship Distinction candidates will also meet with fellow students and faculty advisors throughout the year and build an e-portfolio detailing their accomplishments in class, on campus and in the community. The e-portfolio, like the Global Citizenship Distinction itself, can be attached to each student’s resume and included in their transfer applications for four-year schools.
Many of the nearly one dozen students gathered at the information session on Sept. 13 said they were excited to be the first cohort to enroll in the program and help tread a new path for globally minded Brookdale students.
“I want to expand my horizons and learn more about myself through the world, and I thought this would be an awesome way to do that,” said computer science major Corey Davis, who will spend the fall semester studying abroad in Spain. “I recently went to Israel for 10 days and that was actually my first experience really traveling internationally. I learned so much in those 10 days; I can’t imagine what I will learn in 90.
“The less I know about the world, the less I know about where I want to go and what I want to do,” Davis added. “Right now, for example, I want to be a programmer. But, for all I know, by going to Spain and traveling and seeing the world maybe I’ll discover I shouldn’t be programming. Maybe I should be traveling to Rwanda and doing something completely different. I think this trip and this program will give me a much clearer direction as to what’s actually important.”
To learn more about Global Citizenship Distinction or inquire about membership, email Dr. Terry Konn at firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the Global Distinction Registration Form.
Learn more about Brookdale’s Global Citizenship Project and the Students for Global Citizenship Club here.