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Charlotte students learn to become ‘global citizens’

By Marty Minchin
Correspondent

Loren Fauchier tells a story of traveling to Peru with students from Providence Day School.

What stands out in his memory about their day hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is not the anticipation of seeing the world-famous Mayan ruins. He remembers that two of his students asked their Peruvian guide to slow down because two others were lagging.

“It wasn’t a big deal, but they were thinking about the group,” said Fauchier, director of the Global Studies program at Providence Day. “I was pretty touched by that.”

Learning to be part of a group is a primary component of Providence Day’s Global Studies curriculum, a cutting-edge program that has become a model for schools across the United States.

The program aims to produce “global citizens” who value differences among people and develop skills, knowledge and character to operate in an increasingly international world.

“This is a nationwide phenomenon,” Fauchier said. “All across the United States, colleges and universities are saying, ‘We need to have globally minded students.’ ”

This month, 14 seniors will graduate from Providence Day with a Global Studies Diploma. Since the school was founded the program in 2007, 95 students have received the diploma.

School faculty from across the United States regularly visit PDS to learn more about the Global Studies program.

The interest in global studies was sparked by 9/11, when the idea began emerging that to prevent terrorism, Americans needed to know more about people who were different. At the same time, businesses were becoming more international, and succeeding in a global market required a different set of skills.

“Kids were coming out of college without the skills to work with people in other countries,” said Katy Field, who teaches the Global Studies leadership course at Providence Day. “They (needed to be) internationally competent.”

One of the leading voices in the movement was Tony Wagner, author of “The Global Achievement Gap,” who noted that high school students needed skills in critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, adaptability and effective communication to succeed in college and in the world.

Field, who did her master’s thesis research on global studies programs, was hired at Providence Day School in the mid-2000s.

A small group of faculty members were discussing how to respond to 9/11 in the curriculum and were considering requirements of foreign language, history and travel for students.

Field developed the “skeleton program” into the full-fledged Global Studies Diploma, an academically rigorous program that students take in addition to their required studies.

In addition to classes on everything from world politics to art history, students must keep a blog, attend numerous world issues speakers and events and have a cross-cultural experience.

The school regularly takes GSD students to South Africa, where students help with a preschool, and other foreign countries. A group of PDS students made the news earlier this year when they helped rescue workers try to save 19 pilot whales that washed up on a South African beach.

During their senior year, GSD students are required to write a research paper that examines a global issue and offers a practical solution.

But students in the program don’t define it by its difficulty.

“It’s rigorous,” said senior Roxy Quinn, 18, “but I can say this program brings me joy.”

Students from all backgrounds have enrolled in the Providence Day Global Studies program. Some have vacationed abroad with their families. Some have rarely traveled out of North Carolina.

All of them leave with a new vision of the world and their place in it.

Some alumni have continued to travel overseas and look for jobs in international relations. Field said when she recently emailed alumni asking them if they could visit the campus this spring, some could not because they were abroad.

Others, like alumna Jessica Smith, apply their global studies skills to their chosen profession.

Smith is a rising senior at UNC Chapel Hill studying environmental science. When given the opportunity to conduct a research project in Cambridge, Mass., or Thailand, the choice was easy.

“Just the idea of studying abroad in Southeast Asia is something I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t taken (the global studies curriculum),” she said.

The skills she learned at Providence Day helped her understand and befriend Thai people, she said. When she mistakenly purchased her plane ticket a month before the program in Thailand began, she decided to go there early.

Other alumni have pursued action on issues they learned about in the program. One alumna plans to volunteer with an NGO in India to prevent the trafficking of girls; another is working with a Spanish tutoring program.

Some become leaders in their school communities. “They are willing to get out front and help organize,” Fauchier said.

Senior Wyatt Packer, 18, plans to continue studying Chinese and said his post-college job must be with a global company.

He said the GSD program has taught him that traveling is about experiencing different things and learned to accept the differences between people.

“We are shifting our students’ paradigms to see themselves as active agents in the world,” Field said. “(We want them to think) ‘I can do something, even if it’s something small.’ ”

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at martymetzl@gmail.com.
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