The Center of Global Engagement (CGE) is an organization at St. Michael’s College that promotes global learning and coordinates a variety of international related activities and opportunities at the college. The purpose is to reach out to the world and engage in educational and cultural exchange with the global community. The CGE and the college offer several methods and programs to achieve this goal.
The CGE has four main components, the Office of Study Abroad, the International Internship Program, the Peace Corps preparation, and the Office for International Students and Scholars Services. St. Michael’s just hired a new director for the Office of International Students and Scholars Services who has yet to be announced. They will be coming in the beginning of next semester. The CGE is a hub for these separate offices to work more directly with study abroad and exchange. For example, the CGE provides funds to subsidize international travel. St. Michael’s is one of only 29 colleges and universities in the country that receives an annual grant from the Freeman Foundation to help CGE provide these international internship opportunities.
One of the four main components from CGE, the Peace Corps preparation is a program that helps to prepare students who want to work within a community overseas. The program emphasizes coursework and experiences within one of six sectors–agriculture, environment, education, health, youth in development, and community economic development. “The Center for Global Engagement supports scholarship and inter-cultural experiences that promote global understanding and engagement. The Peace Corps Prep program is a perfect fit,” said Allison Cleary, the coordinator of the Peace Corps prep program.
“What we’re trying to do is better coordinate, better communicate other different programs and opportunities, but also create more cooperation and awareness across campus of the importance of internationalization and global awareness for our students and for the whole community,” said Jeffrey Ayres, the director of CGE.
The CGE sponsored a series of talks Nov. 14-18 as part of International EducationalWeek (IEW). IEW is usually the second week of November, which is officially designated by the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Education. The focus of the IEW is to celebrate the value of international exchange.
On Monday, Nov. 14, Sonali Samarasinghe, the interpreter and translation coordinator for the local American Refugee and Immigration Council, presented a talk titled “The Role of the Global Compact on Migration in a World of Dislocation.” Samarasinghe, originally from Sri Lanka, is a human rights activist, journalist and lawyer. She has worked for many years as a diplomat for the United Nations, representing the Sri Lankan state. In her presentation, she mentioned that non-state actors have been trying to respond to the growing global problem of internally displaced persons and refugees, such as the millions of people displaced and, on the move, due to climate change and war. “I thought it was an amazing opportunity to have her come to campus and speak,” Ayres said.
Tuesday, Nov. 15, featured Cynthia Strand, an adjunct professor in the department of Media Studies, Journalism and Digital Arts and a veteran journalist who worked in various roles at CNN for over 40 years. In her presentation, “I Rode a Rickshaw to the Revolution: What I Have learned From a Life on the Road,” Strand spoke about the importance of being a global citizen, getting out there, engaging globally, having compassion for others, trying hard to stay curious and trying to understand different peoples and their challenges around the world. Strand’s presentation highlighted the importance of international exchange, to always be curious about global cultures.
On Wednesday, Nov. 16, alumna Michelle Kayser, ’08, was invited to speak at Saint Michael’s. She is a Foreign Service Officer and has been working for the U.S. Department of State. Kayser has worked in the Central African Republic, Argentina and Switzerland. In her presentation, Kayser talked about fellowships, internships, and job opportunities in the Department of State and what it would be like to be a foreign service officer working abroad. The purpose of the presentation was to make students aware of the importance of international exchange. Ayres believes that being an intellectual, curious, and compassionate citizen of the world is like a 21st century liberal arts learning outcome in terms of your cultural competency skills, and global citizenship skills. Ayres said these skills are just as important as being able to read, write and communicate, learn about the world, and understand others. International communication makes students aware of the world and what is happening in it and the different peoples of the world.
Nanami Mitsuda ’23, is an exchange student from Kansai Gaidai University in Japan. This university has a partnership with St. Michael’s, and is one of the few schools in Japan that still has a partnership with the college. She chose the United States for her exchange because she wanted to make friends and felt that St. Michael’s did not offer enough opportunities for international students who are new to the area to interact with local students. Mitsuda hopes the school can offer more programs that can combine international students and local students, and even more make them live with local students when they first arrive. “There are only two exchange students this year, including me and another person, ” Mitsuda said.
St. Michael’s college had a long history of relationships with many schools in different countries, including Japan. A couple years ago, the applied linguistic program was closed, partly because of COVID, according to Ayres. The number of international students at the school is also declining, and CGE is working to recruit more international students through various programs once the outbreak has stabilized. “I think one way to do that is to go back to a number of those institutions that used to send students here for more short term English, short term English language training,” Ayres said. The purpose of the program offered by CGE is to attract more international students, and according to Ayres himself, he hopes he can help the admissions office attract more international students. “I think we’ll be able to do that by demonstrating that we have somebody here who’s dedicated as a director, you know, that we have someone committed on the ground to support international students,” Ayres said.