As reported earlier on this blog, part of the participation of Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations in the 65th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference was to present a midday workshop with Felician College and Caritas Internationalis and co-sponsored by St. Peter’s University. This workshop, “Fostering Global Citizenship Through Collaboration: Higher Education, NGOs, and the UN,” demonstrated how institutions of higher education and other NGOs can synthesize in-class learning and internships to help form students to think of themselves as true global citizens. Indeed, such outcomes fulfill Seton Hall’s mission statement that students be “prepared to be leaders in their professional and community lives in a global society.”
One aspect I stressed in my part of the presentation was that the Diplomacy School anticipated and addressed many 21st-century issues from its founding onward. I did so by addressing aspects of the UN Secretary General’s position on the subject of global citizenship.
In September 2012 the Secretary General launched the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) which seeks to see that every child is put in school, improve the quality of learning, and foster global citizenship. Along with outlining a worldview and a set of values toward which global education could be oriented, the Secretary General noted that global citizenship could be hindered by the legacy of the current education system, by outmoded curricula and learning materials, by lack of teacher capacity, by inadequate focus on values, and by lack of leadership on Global Citizenship.
Since the Diplomacy School’s founding almost a decade and a half prior to GEFI, Seton Hall has anticipated and addressed each of the barriers identified by the Secretary General. As the first professional school of diplomacy and international relations founded after the conclusion of the Cold War and founded in collaboration with the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA), the school set out to be a path-breaking rather than a legacy institution. Moreover, the curricula and learning opportunities afforded our students are unique: Diplomacy School students may serve as student youth representatives to UN DPI, the School is able to host high-profile UN visitors for special events, students can obtain free UNA-USA membership, the campus serves as an official UN depository library as well as the home of the UNA-USA archives, and the School runs a UN Intensive Summer Study Program. We believe our faculty members are first-rate, of course, but I would like to offer a few thoughts concerning the Secretary General’s final two points, values and leadership.
Recent undergraduate alumnus Gabriel Torres and current senior Brianna Fitzpatrick spoke about their involvement at the Diplomacy School and their internships with Caritas Internationalis. They related their stories to Seton Hall’s mission statement, they talked about what they learned from Caritas internships that they could not learn in the classroom, and they talked about how what they learned affected their lives.
The students presented a rich tapestry of experiences. I was particularly impressed by how Gabriel and Brianna learned not only about professionalism and collaboration but also how they began to observe disconnects – even in subtle things like how UN security guards treat NGOs differently as well as in more apparent things like attending a conference on poverty followed by a lavish dinner.
One unexpectedly striking point was that Gabriel and Brianna talked about how studying at a faith-based institution provided them with a framework from which to engage responsibly and ethically in international behavior even across cultures and traditions that were not those of their home institution; they spontaneously addressed aspects of the Catholic identity and mission of Seton Hall University thereby.
Significantly, almost all of the discussion period questions were directed toward the students. The only question not for Gabriel and Brianna asked how people could participate in our programs and those of Felician College.
In my view, the workshop was an outstanding success. The room was packed to standing-room-only. The positive feedback included the following: the fact that the Seton Hall, Felician, and Caritas representatives handed over the entire second half of the presentation to the students who ran everything themselves; the fact that our workshop did not merely share ideas but rather presented programs which were underway and which had observable outcomes; and the fact that other organizations represented in the audience expressed interest in collaborating with us.
Let me say a few words about observable outcomes and collaboration.
During the question and answer period, a gentleman standing with the overflow crowd in the back of the room identified himself as an alumnus of the Diplomacy School and spoke about how his experience in the master’s degree program was crucial to his professional endeavors and success. The alumnus was Emil Chireno, Executive Director United Nations Association of the Dominican Republic (UNA-DR). Also in attendance was Gabriela Taveras, current sophomore and Diplomacy major who happens to be a member of UNA-DR.
My paths crossed with Emil and Gabriela sooner and more saliently than I expected.
On Friday, September 26, 2014, the School of Diplomacy hosted a dinner for Leonel Fernández (former two-term President of the Dominican Republic), a small delegation from his foundation (FUNGLODE), and members of UNA-DR. The purpose of the visit was to discuss opportunities for collaboration between the School and FUNGLODE/UNA-DR in the context of finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding. In attendance were Emil and Gabriela. President Fernández spoke glowingly of both. Although the president used different words, he essentially praised them for their abilities to question, analyze, communicate, collaborate, and engage responsibly and ethically in international behavior. In other words, probably without knowing it, the president said that Emil and Gabriela embodied the professional, communal, and global goals of the Seton Hall University mission statement. Indeed, I was most struck when he called them “true world citizens.” Such words are high praise, indeed – and well-deserved for both of them.
Of course, more news will be forthcoming. The mission continues.