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Ready to make a real difference in the world

Meredith Aach, a member of the inaugural Global Citizenship class, stands with her senior capstone project on microfinance at the program’s graduation.

Scott Rovinsky had never been outside the U.S. before arriving at Lehigh University as an undergraduate student. But by the time Rovinsky received his diploma on May 19, he developed an affinity for overseas travel, stamping his passport in Chile, Ireland, the United Kingdom, France and Belgium.
Rovinsky’s extensive travels came after a decision to apply to Lehigh’s Global Citizenship (GC) program in his freshman year. In May, Rovinsky was one of 19 students who comprised the program’s first graduating class. Created in fall 2004 as a “backpack program,” GC structures educational experiences through which students learn to negotiate international boundaries and develop their own sense of personal and corporate responsibility to the global community.

“Within the last four years, we have learned that global citizenship is about building capacities for students to work on local, national, and transnational levels and focus on how they live their lives and how they identify themselves,” said director Magdalena Grudzinski-Hall. “The students in this program believe that global citizenship requires that they begin to look for solutions to global problems and see how different disciplines, as well as their own, can contribute to building those solutions.”

As an accounting major, Rovinsky recognized the premium that many employers put on international experience. “I thought Global Citizenship would help me differentiate myself from other students,” he said on his decision to apply.

Designed for students in all three of Lehigh’s undergraduate colleges, the program allows students the flexibility to pick and choose classes and experiences that specifically suit students’ interests and complements their major and minor studies. Faculty from across the university provides guidance for the program—lending expertise to develop the curriculum, advising students and even leading intersession trips abroad.

“The Global Citizenship program provides students unique opportunities to engage in the world of which they are members,” said Daphne Hobson, of the College of Education, who served as a student advisor for the capstone project. “International experiences—learning a foreign language, attending international lecture series and courses infused with global issues—creates a unique learning environment and a transforming experience. All of the students in my group are moving on to work and/or teach in international corporations and international schools.”

The program’s travel component has afforded many students the opportunity to immerse themselves in destinations they had once only seen on a map. The annual intersession trip is required for all first-year GC students, and provides a distinct experience early in their college careers.

The 2007-08 trip, led by professor of mechanical engineering Sudhakar Neti, took students to India, where they visited Delhi and Hyderabad. Previous intercession trips included Chile, China, the Czech Republic and South Africa. Next year’s incoming class will visit Ghana. Participating students must also enroll in a fall semester trip preparation course, where they are exposed to the language, food, culture and geography of their intended destination.

“Global citizenship has become a lens for how these students look at life and how they look at how the world around them—close and afar, is a world waiting for contribution,” said Grudzinski-Hall. “These students have become wired to contribute, and have learned how to go about doing so in a very respectful and educated way.”

Students from this initial cohort, like Meredith Aach, were inspired by lofty goals to “make the world a better place.” Aach completed a senior thesis and GC capstone project on microfinance. Her work was greatly supported by study abroad travels to Ecuador, Honduras and Costa Rica, where she collected firsthand interviews with women impacted by microfinance. Aach, a 2008 Lehigh graduate, will teach special education in Washington, D.C. through Teach for America.

For Rovinsky, an internship generated a full-time job offer from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, where he will begin work in the London office this fall. “The Global Citizenship program has given me the confidence to move overseas and I'm sure will help move my career even further into the international arena,” said Rovinsky.

--Tricia Long

Posted on Monday, June 16, 2008

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