Op-Ed: Global Village program has potential that is currently being ignored

Tower Hall at Utica College stands apart from other residence halls on campus due to its developed living features such as air-conditioned rooms, kitchens, lounges, clustered living and physical accessibility including elevators and activation switches attached to the main doors.

Another asset that makes Tower unique is the Global Village program. The program, according to the Global Village website, is meant to connect international students with other backgrounds, cultures and viewpoints through events and educational experiences. 

Utica College promotes this space as a “unique living experience.” Most of the international students participating in the program are put on the third floor of the residence hall; a floor that historically has contained a majority of on-campus international students with little-to-no American students on the floor. 

The unique living experience has been lost, however. This program has been ignored, which has only been amplified as a result of the pandemic.

Nothing is happening with this program currently and nothing ever really has happened with it. The four international students participating in this program are currently unaware that such a program exists.

Despite all of this, folks at the Student Living and College Engagement office still believe in the original assumption that the program contains importance and serves its original purpose to the fullest extent.

“We’ve found that it’s beneficial for international students to be placed in a residential hall where other students such as returning international students or American students can act as a liaison to help students get affiliated to campus life,” Interim Director of Student Living Marissa Finch said.

Senior Vice President for Student Life and Enrollment Jeffery Gates also acknowledges the experience and benefits that this program offers, specifically noting the communication that can exist between domestic and international students.

“Over the years we have talked with international students about their preferences and also with domestic students about theirs when it comes to living in the Global Village,” he said “I do believe that the Global Village creates an atmosphere for international students to live with other international students and domestic students who want this experience. As Interim Dean [Scott] Nonemaker said to me, ‘Truth is, our domestic students learn just as much from the international students.’ I couldn’t agree more.” 

SLCE, Finch and Gates recognize the importance of this program, but our international students aren’t feeling the impact of it. It’s one thing to talk about what this program can achieve, but if action isn’t taken, this program will continue to be neglected for years to come.

There are a host of elements that need to be challenged with the Global Village initiative, all of which boil down to being more specific about what the program is set to achieve each semester. SLCE needs to come up with goals for the program that are measurable along with creating a format for the program that ensures regular programming and educational events that will actually happen.

And as a community, we cannot afford the continuity of ignoring this program. The Global Village initiative cannot be bookmarked for a later date.

The intercultural experience in college is beyond valuable. Our worldview and standpoints only get enhanced by taking in more experiences beyond what exists in Utica, Upstate New York and New York City.

International students graduating from respective colleges and universities across the country contribute a wealth of jobs, ideas and economic flow.

These students have contributed $37 billion to the United States economy in 2017, according to Forbes writer Paul Laudicina. Yet, the number of international students deciding to pursue higher education in the U.S. dropped 40% from 2015 until that year, which Laudicina cites as a reason for these students exploring more welcoming areas as Australia and Canada experienced dramatic 13-20 percent increases in international students, respectively.

(Photo: Student)

There’s power with our international population and though the college expresses that they understand this, the policies in place don’t seem to reflect what is being said. It’s another blanket statement from an administration that rarely goes on-ground to see the effects of the policies they put in place.

Instead, they rely on the frontline workers such as the resident assistants and the area coordinators, such as the AC for Tower Hall, Lauren Waszkiewicz, to drive the initiative forward for them. Waszkiewicz is attempting to turn something broad from SLCE and the administration and turn the program into something that’s both measurable and meaningful.

“At other institutions, there is a competitive program for the domestic students to be placed into the housing option,” she said. “It’s seen as a very high honor and students receive some special perks like 1:1 tutoring or credit in their roommate’s first language. There are trips planned for all students in the program across the state and country, community service requirements and mandatory family dinners. We have the framework of a great program here. We need the details and the support to enact them.”

The problems with the program revolve around the unknown. International students are unaware of what the program actually is due to years of inactivity. This, as a result, makes evaluating the program near impossible. We cannot measure experiences, we can only get our students to talk about them, which is something that rarely exists at an intercultural level on campus. Yet, we can’t talk about something we don’t know enough about.

There’s potential with this program and our international students are beyond valuable for this experience to be left behind. Just as American students can serve as the ‘liaison’ for affiliating international students into this culture, international students can also provide an immense deal for expanding individual horizons that Utica College has promised.

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