Some of the students in the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development have a rare and exciting opportunity this summer to participate in an international, academic-exchange program through the Global Honors College (GHC). The GHC, which originated with Waseda University in Japan, is a six-week seminar that combines academic prowess and human experience. Each summer, the program brings together faculty and students from nine leading universities, including Columbia, Harvard, MIT, Yale, the University of Washington, Korea University, Peking University and the National University of Singapore. Students engage in an interactive, global seminar that facilitates debate and analysis of a salient global issue. This summer, students will travel to Singapore to discuss issues pertaining to global sustainability. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for students to learn about and debate sustainability issues in a new environment. They will hopefully come away with a broadened perspective on how societies approach sustainable development based on their unique cultures, natural resources, and political and social systems,” says Natalie Unwin-Kuruneri, the undergraduate program manager.
The Global Honors College is linked to the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development through student and faculty participation. This summer, Kevin Griffin, co-director of the undergraduate program, will supervise six sustainable development students at the Global Seminar in Singapore. The Columbia students participating in the GHC this year received travel stipends through the Global Fellows in Sustainable Development Program, which funds fieldwork for sustainable development undergraduates. This year, the program includes two students who are majoring in sustainable development and four who are pursuing the special concentration.
Though the Global Honors College will be based in Singapore this summer, the GHC utilizes a virtual classroom platform, creating networks that allow students to interact remotely. The GHC seeks to create an environment that will foster the development of undergraduate students in becoming active citizens through grounded theory and new approaches. Students are acutely aware of the importance of the innovative GHC to their studies at Columbia. According to Olivia Munson, “I love how we use technological tools to communicate with people all over, because that is what is needed to create a united vision for the future. Students and universities can't be isolated from one another.” Tal Lee Anderman says, "Working both online and in person with students from a multitude of cultural and educational backgrounds in one of the world's major travel hubs is an experience like nothing I could have imagined and will undoubtedly challenge and enrich my understanding of sustainable development."
These outstanding students have all demonstrated strong leadership skills in their own way by volunteering with local communities and through collaboration and advocacy:
Tal Lee Anderman is a sustainable development major with a concentration in anthropology. Tal Lee has long been involved in local community and environmental issues through advocacy work in New York City. She will be able to share these experiences and learn from other students in the international forum that is the Global Seminar.
Alexander Lew is an urban history major with a special concentration in sustainable development. Alexander is interested in urbanization and preservation, particularly innovations that maintain green spaces, reduce urban energy consumption and improve urban lifestyles.
Olivia Munson is a mathematics major with a special concentration in sustainable development. Olivia’s background is in environmental activism, and she is excited by the prospect of collaborating with students and leading experts from around the world.
Paul Rabino is a sustainable development major. Paul was inspired to pursue a degree in sustainability after witnessing the environmental degradation in his home country of Israel. He is now interested in conservation through the restoration of inflicted ecosystems.
Rebecca Smith is an environmental biology major with a special concentration in sustainable development. Rebecca is excited by the prospect of discussion with international faculty and students on the challenges of environmental sustainability.
Alice Xu is an economics and political science major with a special concentration in sustainable development. Alice researched the complexities of environmental agreements at the international level and looks forward to working with students and faculty from a range of disciplinary backgrounds.
It is rare that undergraduates are able to apply the knowledge gained in the classroom to a different setting with new and diverse perspectives. According to Alexander Lew, “What makes this seminar particularly different from regular coursework at Columbia is the fact that multiple universities from around the world will come together, broadening the overall discourse of the theme of sustainability. The interpretations of the threats of climate change differ from region to region because of varying education, political climate and local cultures. I look forward to hearing all the different voices from different parts of the world.” His classmates in the Global Honors College undoubtedly share his sentiments.