Global Leadership Initiative Kicks off Second Year

The old cliché tells you to think globally and act locally. But for last year's inaugural class of Global Leadership Fellows, that's been revised to: think globally and act globally.

Last year, the UM Global Leadership Initiative challenged 160 students to think about the major issues we face in today's society. The Global Leadership Fellows did this by participating in seminar-style classes, attending the Presidential Lecture series and having structured discussions with faculty and international experts. This helped the Fellows start framing their studies with a global perspective.

This fall, the program will help the second-year GLI Fellows, now sophomores, begin to put their ideas into action. And, a new class of freshmen Fellows will begin the program with seminars that stimulate their thinking with a global perspective.

Current Fellow Becky Short (pictured below) says the Global Leadership Initiative has already altered her course of study. "A lot of students go to school, get their general education requirements and major, then ask, 'I have this knowledge, so what do I do with it now?' Initially, I was a psychology major. I took a human genetics course, and became part of GLI. It changed my entire perspective, so now I'm also majoring in human genetics and health. Attending the lectures opened my eyes to different experiences and different things going on around the world—taking the basics of genetics and inheritance, and applying them to the outside world in issues such as HIV, and its global prominence."

BeckyA week-long kickoff event of the program's second year began in March, bringing together high-profile experts on antiterrorism policy, international human rights, foreign language education, international business and more.

Deborah McWhinney, chief operating officer of Citi Global Enterprise Payments and former chair of the University of Montana Foundation Board of Trustees, presented Having It All: Success in a Global Economy, during the kickoff week. A financial executive with extensive experience in international markets, McWhinney says learning about other cultures should be a priority. "If students don't understand how other cultures think about money, how they think about family and society, they're not getting a true liberal arts education. They're simply getting a local education, and that won't do in today's world," McWhinney said.

In her presentation, McWhinney addressed the importance of cultural norms in business. India, for instance, is a cash society, with limited credit card usage; people don't think of credit or money the same way. In Africa and Hong Kong, mobile phones are key tools for payments.

Throughout their second year, students also will receive extensive interaction with other role models. They will participate in leadership training and practice what they learn in their interaction with their peers. The Fellows will have the opportunity to define individual paths for their junior year, which may include studying abroad, international and regional/local internships, service learning coursework, research and creative scholarship. Alumni and friends are providing the funding for much of the Global Leadership Initiative, including assistance for students to study abroad and conduct research. The program is one of President Royce Engstrom's initiatives to build a university for the Global Century.

For Becky Short, these opportunities are key elements of her university experience. "Of course I want to do as many things as I can to help my resume and have overall experience and well-roundedness. But it goes deeper than that. If you expose yourself to the problems in the world, rather than just what's going on with your life, it inspires you to do something."

For mentors such as McWhinney, the Global Leadership Initiative represents not just a challenge, but an opportunity."I told students, if there's one mistake I made, it was underestimating what I could achieve in my life. For these students, this is a first step toward not underachieving.I want them to say, 'I'm going to take the languages and the cultural classes. I'm going to travel overseas. To compete, this is what I need in my toolbox.'"

Short agrees, bringing it down to a personal level. "Think about it: do you want to be a superficial person and only worry about what's going on in your life, or do you want to expand and think about bigger issues?

Thanks to the Global Leadership Initiative, our students are tackling those bigger issues.