VCU Globe: A global education living-learning community
Jill E. Blondin, Ph.D.
VCU Globe: A global education living-learning community combines a global education curriculum with coordinated residential activities, experiential learning and leadership training through structured engagement in global communities on the VCU campus, in Richmond, Virginia, and abroad. Students learn about the challenges and opportunities that come with globalization and the unique potential of education to provide solutions; and they work collaboratively to identify problems and design interventions. Students move through the program in cohorts — sharing common courses, experiential learning activities and cocurricular programming. In the program, students expand their identities as global citizens and develop skills in leadership and teamwork both in global education and in their academic majors.
The curriculum of VCU Globe focuses on seminars and applied experiences in global education, engagement and leadership. Global education has emerged as an important element in higher education with the recognition that students and faculty live and work in increasingly globalized settings. Global educational themes and concepts inform general and disciplinary curricula at institutions across the U.S., and global education is an emerging discipline within its own right. Global engagement is the transformative experience of deeply interacting with people and ideas spanning the contemporary world. The ideas of global education and the experiences of global engagement form the foundation necessary for the development of sound global leadership skills, such as effective cross-cultural communication, multicomponent organization and program evaluation.
Orientation to VCU Globe occurs in the spring of freshman year when new students enroll in GLED 101. In the sophomore year, students are introduced to core concepts, including global education as a learning paradigm, the role of the “culture broker” in professional fields and the emerging idea of world citizenship. Students go on to explore definitions of culture and community in the contemporary world, global communication styles and skills, and sustainable asset-based development. In advanced courses in the junior year, students study emerging ideas of citizen-leadership, trans-community communication and organization, and the global commons. In all courses, students take ideas learned in the classroom and put them to use teaching English as a second language in local global communities, mentoring international and English language-learning peers on campus, working in a wide array of global community organizations in Richmond and abroad, and developing and leading independent community-service projects.
In all elements of the program, students are encouraged to identify ideas, themes and skills of particular relevance to their academic major and professional plans. VCU Globe faculty and advisers facilitate students’ integration of global education content and experience with their majors.
VCU Globe collaborates with faculty and staff in the university’s living-learning programs to hold joint events, offer reciprocal courses and share facilities to make the Grace Street Village a vibrant and engaged intellectual center of campus activity.
Applying to VCU Globe
Students apply to VCU Globe in the fall of their freshman year. Students in any undergraduate major may apply, and applicants are expected to demonstrate interest in learning to effectively navigate within and between global communities at home and abroad, in professional and personal contexts. Accepted applicants participate in a credit-bearing orientation course (GLED 101) in the spring of freshman year and enter the program and the residence hall in fall of sophomore year. They continue in the program and live in the residence hall through their junior year. Participation continues in the senior year with GLED 401, with some residential slots being available to seniors.
Students other than rising sophomores may petition to apply to the VCU Globe, provided they have at least six academic semesters (including fall, spring and summer) remaining at VCU before graduation. Such students should request a meeting with the director of the VCU Globe prior to submitting an application.
Certificate of completion
In order to graduate with a Certificate of Completion in Global Education, a student must:
- Complete GLED 101, GLED 201, GLED 202, GLED 301, GLED 302 and GLED 401, for a total of six credits
- Complete a GLED-only section of UNIV 200
- Complete at least three additional credits in GLED 391 or in a course approved by the VCU Globe Director
- Complete at least 40 hours of service work
- Demonstrate experience in cultural immersion
- Have a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA at graduation
- Have a minimum 2.0 GPA in GLED courses at graduation
- Attend at least five VCU Globe cocurricular events each academic year
- Submit a curricular and cocurricular portfolio
- Students who wish to undertake further course work can enroll in GLED 493 following the completion of GLED 401; this course does not count toward the certification of completion in global education. Seniors selected for participation in GLED 493 exhibit a high level of professionalism, interpersonal sensitivity and strong communication skills, as well as demonstrated abilities in leadership and teamwork.
Students who present exceptional service or leadership, as demonstrated by the portfolios, the completion of at least 18 credits in the program, a minimum GPA of 3.5 in the program, and are members of the Honors College, may be awarded honors in global education at graduation.
Peace Corps Prep program
VCU Globe is a Peace Corps Prep program. Upon successful completion of all VCU Globe requirements and two years of a foreign language (eight-14 credits, four semesters or equivalent placement) students can also receive a certificate of completion from the Peace Corps.
Given the varied academic and professional interests of students in VCU Globe, the global education curriculum includes sections of GLED 391. These courses are taught by VCU Globe Faculty Fellows and include special global education sections of existing courses and specialized full-semester courses. These courses are intended to develop students’ abilities crossing cultural and personal borders and to acquire such skills with reference to professional goals and plans. Courses focus on exposing students to a global range of individuals and groups of people, and students have direct and substantive contact with worldviews and experiences different from their own. Courses also seek to develop students’ awareness of the skills required of a global citizen/culture broker within relevant professional fields. Classes may be designed for particular majors, but generally do not have advanced prerequisites, so that interested global education students from a variety of majors may enroll.
Students must complete at least 40 hours of service work. The hours to be completed are part of core GLED course requirements. Service may be completed in a variety of campus and community, or even global, settings. On-campus opportunities include mentoring of international students and participating in the orientation of new international and English Language Program students. Service opportunities in the community include working with nonnative English-speaking children in local schools and ESL adults in community clinics. Cooperative agreements with organizations also serve to place students in community settings. Opportunities for students to participate in international community service projects are available with VCU’s partnership universities and in conjunction with VCU faculty members.
Students beginning in the program engage in service activities on campus (with a high level of supervision) including helping with orientation programming for international students and English Language Program testing, as well as mentoring their peers on campus.
Included in both curricular and cocurricular programming are intensive and extensive training of all students to prepare them for their community service activities. This training includes explicit instruction on professional behavior and conduct, appropriate communication formats and styles, awareness of and sensitivity to the individuals and communities with whom they work, and the consequences of not behaving professionally and appropriately at all times when working in a service capacity. These themes are revisited often throughout VCU Globe’s curriculum and cocurriculum.
Because of the nature of the service required of VCU Globe’s students, all applicants must be able to pass a background check, which is necessary to work with students in local schools and in many other settings.
Cultural immersion refers to sustained, significant interaction with a new cultural group, during which a student exercises his/her abilities to empathetically observe and evaluate situations from the point of view of that cultural group’s members. It requires developing a sense of cultural differences and similarities and a critical reflection of one’s own cultural system. It may be demonstrated by one or more of the following:
- Proficiency in a foreign language equivalent to the intermediate level (through completion of a foreign language through the 202 level or equivalent through credit, placement testing or other demonstrated proficiency)
- Proficiency in English as a second language (through TOEFL score of at least 79, IELTS score of at least 6.0, VCU’s English Language Program placement testing or completion of VCU’s English Language Program)
- Completion of an approved study abroad program (with prior approval)
- Completion of an approved homestay program (with prior approval)
- Sustained substantive involvement in a global community organization at VCU or in the Richmond community (with prior approval)
- Completion of an international service project (with prior approval)
- Other experience with prior approval
A student’s plan for fulfilling this requirement should be discussed at initial advising meetings, and progress toward completion should be reviewed at subsequent meetings.
The content, training and service required in global education courses is cumulative, so that a student who fails a course prerequisite to another course will be unable to continue in the program’s curricular sequence. A student who fails a required GLED course may appeal according to the guidelines established in the university’s grade review procedure and may register for and attend the next required course in the sequence pending the outcome of that review. The student should first discuss the grade in question with the faculty member who assigned the grade, that faculty member explaining how the grade was determined. If the student continues to feel that the grade was incorrectly assigned, a written appeal may be submitted to the director of VCU Globe. Students appealing grades assume the burden of proof. The appeal shall state and support with all available evidence the reasons why the student believes the grade should be changed. For grades awarded for the fall semester, the written intent to appeal must be submitted no later than 14 calendar days after the beginning of the spring semester. For grades awarded for the spring semester, the written intent to appeal must be submitted no later than 14 calendar days after the first day of the summer semester. For grades awarded for the summer semester, the written intent to appeal must be submitted no later than 14 calendar days after the first day of the fall semester. If the appeal is not granted, the student must drop or withdraw from the course. Students must pass all required GLED courses and must be making satisfactory progress in the service aspect of the curriculum (as determined by VCU Globe staff) in order to continue in the program from sophomore to junior year and junior to senior year. Residency contracts are subject to annual reviews of satisfactory progress.
The integration of the global education curriculum into the academic programs of students majoring in a wide variety of disciplines and engaging in significant community service requires significant advising resources. The director of VCU Globe works with global education faculty and VCU Globe staff to provide academic advising and community service placement and supervision, to supervise seniors engaged in practicum work and to liaise between VCU Globe and community organizations and service supervisors.