Going global

UND develops more opportunities to give homegrown students international experiences

Tami Carmichael and Rebecca Weaver-Hightower

Professor of English & Interdisciplinary Health Studies Tami Carmichael (standing left) joins English Professor Rebecca Weaver-Hightower (standing right) in leading a Go Global Academy composition class discussion on the role of globalization in pop culture. The academy is a first-year learning community for students who are interested in global issues, but haven’t already had international experiences. Photo by Tyler Ingham.

At 10:30 on a Wednesday morning, 21 UND freshmen are gathered in Merrifield Room 10, lost in a discussion of the globalization of everything from Mickey Mouse to Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The students in this Composition 110 class seem to share a certain essence – small town, Midwest-raised, boys and girls next door.

That’s because most of them are.

“I’ve never really left North Dakota. I mean, Minnesota and South Dakota, but…” UND freshman Sam Schlecht said with a laugh. She’s from Alice, N.D., a town of only about a dozen people. “I want to get out and see other things.”

Melissa Gjellstad, associate professor of Norwegian

Melissa Gjellstad, associate professor of Norwegian

Schlecht is part of the inaugural class of the Go Global Academy, a first-year experience that offers up internationally-focused opportunities and development on the UND campus.

“It’s targeted at students who are interested in global issues, but haven’t already had that experience,” explained UND English Professor Rebecca Weaver-Hightower, who helped design the program with three other faculty members – Director of International Studies Thyra Knapp, Professor of English & Interdisciplinary Health Studies Tami Carmichael, and Associate Professor of Norwegian Melissa Gjellstad.

“We’re thinking of it as the College of Arts & Sciences’ (A&S) signature program for underserved students. We have a target audience that we’re trying to get into the world,” Weaver-Hightower said.

Academy recruit Ally Schultz is a native of Sauk City, Wis. – a community of 3,400.

“I love travel. I’ve never had the chance to do it in my life because we grew up with not that much money,” the freshman said. “Now I get a chance to do it, and learn about the places I want to go.”

UND President Mark Kennedy uses his own rural Minnesota upbringing as an example of not letting a humble background damper intercontinental curiosity.

“Even though she had not been out of the country nor gone to college, my mother couldn’t understand how you could have a liberal arts education without studying abroad,” he recalled. “A global awareness is essential for success in nearly all of the careers for which a UND education prepares students.”

Small town, big experience

Academy enrollees are part of a learning community that attends two globally-leaning composition and humanities courses together each semester for two years. Participants are also required to dive into cultural activities, including UND International Center Culture Nights, meetings with UND’s English Language Learners (ELL), collaborations with Grand Forks’ Global Friends Coalition and a trip to Winnipeg.

Thyra Knapp

Thyra Knapp, director of International Studies

At the end of sophomore year, the students are awarded a Go Global Academy certificate and will walk away with a professional portfolio showcasing their writings, international experiences, research projects, and, ultimately, their personal growth.

Knapp said the portfolio gives them something concrete to present to an employer.

“We want them to be able to show that they have a sense of that global community and what role they want to play in it,” Knapp said. “They’ll be working on projects and will choose Essential Studies courses that align with those projects so that they come out already with a focus – perhaps women’s rights worldwide, or other global problems like famine, water shortage or healthcare.”

Go Global is open to any major, allowing the program to add an international layer to anything from aviation to engineering, and for students to begin building interdisciplinary connections.

“Regardless of their major, they’re a part of a learning cohort asking certain questions and being exposed to certain ideas and opportunities,” A&S Dean Debbie Storrs said. “This will augment the kind of learning they’re experiencing in their major and really broaden their skillset.”

All in the plan

Storrs said one of the things she loves about Go Global is that the idea was generated by faculty.

“I put out a call for proposals. Faculty could apply for summer development money to generate new ways to engage, recruit and retain students,” she said, continuing with a smile, “These faculty came together with a pretty big idea.”

“We were working on this as the Strategic Plan was rolling out – they align beautifully,” Knapp said. “This is the way many universities are thinking these days – with high-impact practices and internationalizing – so we’re not the only one doing this.”

As Go Global grows, Storrs wants to take the idea further. She’s working with A&S faculty to examine ways to bring together the College’s global/cultural units into a single school with its own integrated curriculum.

“There’s potential for this to really make UND become the international school in the state, and could be one of the ways we can set ourselves apart,” Weaver-Hightower said.

Ally Schultz

Go Global Academy enrollee Ally Schultz (middle) laughs with classmates as they complete an impromptu writing assignment. Schultz is a freshman from Sauk City, Wis., a town of only 3,400 people. Photo by Tyler Ingham.

International opportunities

The Go Global Academy works in partnership with the UND International Center. Director Katie Davidson said her team provides the logistical support to the Academy’s curricular goals, including helping students apply for passports and organizing a group day-trip to Winnipeg – both new opportunities offered campus-wide this semester.

“We want to help students take that initial step and be curious about another place,” Davidson said. “Winnipeg is only two hours away, but you do still need a passport, you’ll see things in Celsius and kilometers, and you’ll have to change money.”

On top of becoming a passport application acceptance stop, the International Center is helping students bust even more barriers to a global experience by finding financially-suitable ways to study abroad, whether it’s a nine-day, faculty-led journey or a semester-long exchange program under UND tuition.

“We’re really just hoping that students start thinking about it, and thinking about it earlier,” Davidson said.

Schultz has been thinking about it for a while, before she even sat in her first Go Global composition session.

“I’ve already made friends from this class,” she said. “For the people who choose to stay with the program, we’re going to grow together and thrive together.”

Passport Applications – UND International Center

Where: Memorial Union Room 261

When: By appointment (701.777.4231) Monday-Thursday, 3:00-4:00 p.m.

For more information on the passport application process, visit www.travel.state.gov.