GW students are going places
Before arriving at GW, Florence Boots, CCAS ’19, didn’t consider herself an adventurer. Then she spent the spring of her sophomore year studying in Shanghai, the fall of her junior year at the University of Cape Town, and is currently in the honors liberal arts program at the University of Maastricht.
Boots is one of 25 students in the first cohort of GW’s Global Bachelor’s Program. “The Global Bachelor’s Program enables students to engage much more fully on an international basis than they would in the typical path of one semester of study abroad,” says Steve Suranovic, academic director of the program and associate professor of economics. “The program is designed to put students on the ground in more than one global location so that they will be able to not just see one destination but be able to contrast and compare cultures and broaden their perspective.”
Launched in 2017, the program enables top students in the Columbian College, Elliott School of International Affairs, and the GW School of Business to spend multiple semesters abroad during their college years and develop a framework to guide their studies. The students in each cohort spend spring semester of their sophomore year together at Fudan University in Shanghai, where they learn alongside international and Chinese students.
After Shanghai, each program participant chooses a study abroad location, other than China, to spend a semester. The third global experience is another semester abroad or an eightweek, full-time international summer internship.
With an interest in financial development in post-communist countries, Julia Reinhold, ESIA ‘19, studied in Budapest and conducted summer research in rural China. “I examined the impact of democracy on urban and rural inequalities,” she says. “I wanted to understand how people grow out of poverty and transition into a market economy.”
Reinhold traveled on bullet trains to the rural town of Wuyuan and then hiked seven to eight hours from village to village to compile her research. Funding for her travels and recording equipment was provided by the Starr Foundation.
The Starr Foundation’s generous $1 million gift in 2016 created the Maurice R. Greenberg Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support to students in the Global Bachelor’s Program based on merit and need. The foundation was established in 1955 by Cornelius Vander Starr, an entrepreneur who founded C.V. Starr & Company—which, under his successor, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, became the multinational company American International Group (AIG), Inc. An early “globalist,” Mr. Starr’s first insurance venture was founded in Shanghai in 1919, and the Starr Foundation has long been a philanthropic supporter of programs that encourage both the education of U.S. students abroad and students from foreign countries in the U.S.
Starr Foundation funding also supported Chizuru Uko, GWSB ‘19, during her summer 2017 internship at PwC in Lagos, Nigeria, where she worked in the strategy division and assurance unit. Uko, whose family is from Nigeria, attended high school in that country, but she says her internship experience there was unique.
“Working in Lagos taught me how to tackle problems in Nigerian companies and helped me redefine international business,” she says. “The Global Bachelor’s Program has helped me accomplish one of my biggest dreams, which is being able to travel and see the world. Through these experiences I have been able to build connections around the world and see how similar people are, no matter where they live.” Her next stop is the University of Lisbon where she will spend the fall semester.
An economics major, Ben Yoxall, ESIA ‘19, is fascinated by how the world economy functions with so much debt. “Going to China, which has a massive problem with corporate debt, and then studying in Spain, which is recovering from the economic crisis of 2008, gave me the chance to talk with people who have gone through those experiences so I could understand the real-world impact it had on those countries,” he says. “With the Global Bachelor’s Program, we travel to multiple places and it all culminates in a senior year research project that will reflect what we learned while abroad and how we furthered our GW studies.”
In addition to being enriched academically by their travels, the students say the program helps them build strong relationships and expand their personal horizons. “These experiences helped me learn a lot about myself and grow as a person,” says Reinhold. Boots says she has become more flexible, adaptable, and organized, skills she thinks are essential to develop in college. She adds: “I’ve made friends from around the world.” And Yoxall says the tight-knit group of interdisciplinary students in the cohort has been a support and will be an important part of his future network.
“As an education community, it is important for GW to give our students a broad and global perspective so they can be future leaders who will expand openness and engagement with people around the world,” says Suranovic. “This program is helping to make these students truly global citizens.”