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Northwestern recognized for campus internationalization

Northwestern University is among three institutions this year receiving the 2022 Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award for Campus Internationalization in recognition of a global learning program which helped undergraduate students take part in global virtual internships amid pandemic-induced limits on international mobility.

During the 2020-21 academic year, the Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI), a program within the Northwestern Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs’ Global Learning Office, helped over 100 students participate in remote internships with 30 organizations spanning nine countries through its virtual Global Development in Action Program 

The award is given by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Named after the late Senator Paul Simon of Illinois, the awards recognize outstanding innovation and accomplishment in campus internationalization, defined by NAFSA as a conscious effort to integrate and infuse international, intercultural and global dimensions into the ethos and outcomes of their students’ education.

“Since the pandemic began, we’ve made every effort to make sure our students don’t miss out on life-changing opportunities due to global disruptions in travel,” said Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro. “We’re all proud of the work that Northwestern Buffett teams have done through the Global Engagement Studies Institute, and we look forward to supporting more teams in the years ahead.”

Patrick Eccles, who oversees the GESI program, said the aim was to provide students with a meaningful global learning experience that would replace lost opportunities during the pandemic.

“Moving forward, we see the value of virtual opportunities as a part of our ongoing programming,” Eccles said. “This program has been a catalyst for redefining global engagement at Northwestern — aligned with strategic priorities for improving access to global learning and preparing students with the knowledge, skills and experiences to collaborate for social change.”

“The virtual Global Development in Action program broadens opportunities for participation in global learning — especially for students who haven’t seen study abroad as a viable option,” said Annelise Riles, executive director of Northwestern Buffett. “Pivoting to all remote programming with partners worldwide was not an easy task and I commend the creativity and collaborative work of all who contributed to this.”

Learning to ‘step into the shoes of others’

Rawan Mohamed, a third-year student at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, got to remotely intern through the GESI program with GreenHub, a nonprofit working on waste management and sustainability in Vietnam.

“Throughout the 74 days of GESI, I had a taste of what it is like to work in a truly diverse professional context, overcoming language, time zone and communication barriers,” said Mohamed. “I had the chance to step out of my comfort zone and constantly step into the shoes of others while learning about the beautiful culture of Vietnam beyond the references in pop culture.”

Mohamed said that while her exact career direction is still being defined, she said it was critical for her to develop soft skills during the program such as learning how to work in a group setting virtually and developing a deeper sense of empathy.

The Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI) is a study abroad program housed within Northwestern Buffett’s Global Learning Office that provides undergraduates with the knowledge, tools and experiences to partner with communities to confront shared global challenges. GESI provides opportunities in collaborative experiential learning — opportunities that develop global leaders while contributing to the sustainable development of communities in which our students work and learn. Through service-learning in Argentina, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, Uganda or Vietnam, teams of students join the efforts of local organizations to advance community-driven change.

 The Global Learning Office (GLO) serves as a comprehensive resource for international academic experiences for students at Northwestern. GLO offers a diverse range of programs abroad that challenge students to engage with difference, develop intellectually and emotionally, broaden their global perspectives, and expand their intercultural skills and understanding.