Changing Lives and Changing the World

Citizen Diplomacy in Action

At colleges and universities across the United States, citizen diplomacy programs offer students a remarkable opportunity to make a difference and build ties of friendship around the world while developing crucial global skills for the careers of the future. Connecting Our World and NAFSA: Association of International Educators salute these programs, selected by the US Center for Citizen Diplomacy Higher Education Task Force for showcasing at the Summit on Global Citizen Diplomacy taking place in Washington, DC, in November.

Be inspired, add your story, and join the conversation.

Zainularab Miri

Thunderbird School of Global Management

For the first time in my life, I left Afghanistan and joined other women from my homeland in a global business setting…As Project Artemis demonstrates, the way to change any society is to empower its women. When we are freed from our cages, peace swells inside us and spreads to our families, our workplaces and all of society. Continue reading…

Afghan women lived in the shadows during the Taliban era. We covered our faces, guarded our movements and kept our voices low.

We were like birds in a cage, but many of us still found ways to open our wings. My opportunity came in 1995 when I left Kabul and returned to my native Ghazni, away from the Taliban strongholds. My family protected me in this province, and I had greater freedom to participate in society.

As a former schoolteacher, I helped educate more than 400 girls and women in their houses. And as an aspiring entrepreneur, I started a beekeeping and honey making business with two hives.

But even in Ghazni, the women were trapped in a cage.

When I taught classes, we kept the curtains closed to hide our activities. And I kept the beekeeping business secret. We knew the punishment for our defiance could include death if we were discovered.

Finally the dark period lifted in 2001, when international forces arrived to push away the Taliban. Schools reopened for girls, and I brought my business out of hiding.

The enterprise had grown during the Taliban years, but I needed more business education to sustain the success. When the Afghan Women’s Business Federation opened in 2002, I was the first person to sign up.

Another opportunity came in 2006. That is when Thunderbird School of Global Management accepted me to participate in Project Artemis, a women’s empowerment program that brings Afghan women entrepreneurs to the United States for two weeks of business education.

Since its inception in 2005, more than 60 Afghan women in four groups have participated.

For the first time in my life, I left Afghanistan and joined other women from my homeland in a global business setting. My ability as an entrepreneur grew from earth to sky, and I brought a world of experience back to Afghanistan.

I also gained the support of a Project Artemis mentor, who helped me win a United Nations grant to train 40 Afghan women in beekeeping. Through this grant, I have been able to spread my Project Artemis knowledge to others in my community.

As Project Artemis demonstrates, the way to change any society is to empower its women. When we are freed from our cages, peace swells inside us and spreads to our families, our workplaces and all of society.

Tomasz Kolodziejak

San José State University

One’s place of birth and culture play a big role on one’s perception of the world. However, our duty is to step outside our comfort zones and challenge ourselves with a different outlook on important issues. The Salzburg Global Seminar was a place where we exchanged ideas and shared different perspectives, for being able (or at least trying) to embrace and understand the global world. Continue reading…

My journey began with the first sip of Austrian espresso. Our first sight after arriving in Salzburg brought us to Café Tomaselli, founded in 1705 and the oldest Viennese coffee house in Austria. This is probably where the first cross-cultural exchanges took place over 300 years ago, I wondered. It’s been years since Tomaselli was established; today we live and work in a different global world. The interconnectedness of today’s environment is much different and we should learn how to embrace it.

I was in Austria as part of the SJSU Salzburg Program, which San José State University established in 2006 to help globalize our campus. Each year the Program selects 15-17 students to attend an intensive week-long session on global citizenship at the Salzburg Global Seminar, following which we spend a year working with faculty and administrators on projects to prepare people for living and working in an interconnected world. Our session took place in Schloss Leopoldskron – a rococo palace surrounded by a spectacular lake. Here at this dreamy place where the movie Sound of Music was filmed, I was one of the students that came to discuss and examine critical global issues. The amalgamation of people that gathered in Salzburg, as well as the place itself, had a thrilling impact on me.

The topic of our session was Global Citizenship: America and the World. Every day we had valuable discussions on assigned topics ranging from the dilemmas of diversity, the change from ethnocentrism to global citizenship, creating inclusive societies, environmental problems, and building sustainable enterprises. Coming from a university based in the heart of Silicon Valley, many times we are willing to think that we have experienced it all. The handy access to people around the globe through today’s tech inventions makes it easy to forget the value of real exchanges. Gathering in the Marble Hall of Schloss Leopoldskron with scholars and fellows from around the world was a practical education, one that we absorb with all our five senses.

During the seminar we all participated in a trip to Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. It was a truly moving part of our session, based on examining the dramatic consequences of global leadership taking a wrong direction. My week at the Salzburg Global Seminar contributed to my education in an invaluable way. It gave me a global perspective on cross cultural interactions, which directly relates to my major of International Business. I also intend to pursue a Masters Degree in International Relations and these exchanges were invaluable for me as a person as well as in my academic career.

Those extensive day (and often night) discussions taught me the need for citizen diplomacy. The priceless interactions with people from different parts of the globe opened our eyes to different problems, which otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see. One’s place of birth and culture play a big role on one’s perception of the world. However, our duty is to step outside our comfort zones and challenge ourselves with a different outlook on important issues. The Salzburg Global Seminar was a place where we exchanged ideas and shared different perspectives, for being able (or at least trying) to embrace and understand the global world.

But it all started for me in that 300-year-old coffee shop on the way to Schloss Leopoldskron…

Cara Smith, R.N.

Johnson County Community College

In Las Pintas [Mexico] I discovered the art of nursing and my desire to serve those who are in need. We visited homes, schools, and churches with community health promoters…Gandhi wrote that ‘the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’ In Las Pintas, I found myself, a career, and a commitment to service that will be with me throughout my life. Continue reading…

In 1998, faculty and students from Johnson County Community College (JCCC) traveled to Las Pintas, Mexico, to help build a clinic in this impoverished community. This work was the beginning of JCCC’s partnership with the Centro Integral Comunitario (CIC), the clinic and community development organization begun by Mexican professionals in the area. This year (2010) marks the 12th year of the partnership which provides needed service to the Las Pintas community and opportunities to JCCC students to use their classroom knowledge and to immerse themselves in the culture and challenges of this part of the developing world. It has been a live changing project for me.

Upon graduating from high school I was uncertain what career I wanted to pursue. I began my education at Johnson County Community College and enrolled in general education classes. In my second semester, I was privileged to be a member of the JCCC International Service-Learning team that traveled to Las Pintas to deliver health care. My job was to assist with interpreting.

In Las Pintas I discovered the art of nursing and my desire to serve those who are in need. We visited homes, schools, and churches with community health promoters. We educated the Health Promoters on common health problems and social issues that many of their neighbors were experiencing. In return, we were privileged to learn about their Hispanic culture and their daily life. This model of service between JCCC and Las Pintas is a rich cross-cultural experience that provides empowerment.

I continue to use my experiences in Las Pintas in my daily life. I now work as a Registered Nurse at a hospital with a large Hispanic population. I truly enjoy caring for Hispanic patients as they remind me of my time in Las Pintas. As a result of my work with the JCCC service learning program over the past 5 years I am able to connect with clients from different cultures with compassion and sensitivity. I have a commitment to service in my own community and have continued my involvement with the JCCC program where I am now an alumni team co-leader. Gandhi wrote that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

In Las Pintas, I found myself, a career, and a commitment to service that will be with me throughout my life.

U.S. Army Private Richard Hackett

University of San Francisco

“This program opened my eyes to a whole lot of things and taught me to think more critically about relationships between nations and short- and long-term effects of charity measures,” says U.S. Army Private Richard Hackett, who aspires to be a nurse practitioner and hopes his skills ultimately allow him to expand his efforts for improve health and community, and have a “positive impact on people’s lives.”
Continue reading…

When a roadside bomb exploded a Humvee in his convoy in Iraq, U.S. Army Private Richard Hackett was quick to apply the basic first-aid he’d been taught.

“Inside, I felt complete panic,” said Hackett, now a junior in USF’s bachelor of science nursing program, recalling the 2003 attack.

The memory of that assault was one of many that the two-tour veteran brought with him when he enrolled in USF’s School of Nursing. And, truth be told, it was the pain and suffering he saw so regularly while serving abroad that made him want to study nursing.

“It gave me the feeling that there was so much more that I could do in situations like that,” Hackett said.

Hackett, who left high school and earned a GED, took war experience, plus two years of training at the School of Nursing, to Nicaragua. There, he spent 10 weeks working in a public hospital alongside doctors in the emergency and labor and delivery departments.

“The hardest thing was seeing wound infection complications that needed more advanced care than we had the materials to provide,” said Hackett. Such infections, caught early, are easily treated in the West thereby avoiding an operation, or, worse, an amputation.

Hackett took the fully funded trip as one of 10 USF’s Sarlo Scholars – half traveling to Nicaragua, half to Uganda in summer 2009. The Sarlo Foundation program at USF, a Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good initiative, was designed to go beyond the university’s usual immersion trips. Now in its second year, participants are placed “in country” for more than two months, where they learn from living with host families and applying their professional skills working for community organizations through a partnership with the nonprofit Foundation for Sustainable Development.

Hackett, who aspires to be a nurse practitioner, hopes his skills ultimately allow him to expand his efforts for improve health and community and have a “positive impact on people’s lives.”

“This program opened my eyes to a whole lot of things and taught me to think more critically about relationships between nations and short- and long-term effects of charity measures,” Hackett said.

Hackett wasn’t alone in his eye-opening experience abroad. Other USF Sarlo Scholars’ service-learning projects included helping to establish a pig farming business for a women’s group in Uganda, educating entrepreneurs in microfinance and borrowing in Uganda, and providing vocational training for at-risk youth in Nicaragua.

Story written by Edward Carpenter, a USF News Writer/Editor at the University of San Francisco.

Kevin Pham

University of California, Irvine

The Olive Tree Initiative did a lot for my life, everywhere, not just in political science or in Israel/Palestine. It was the cloth that polished my lens of the world. Everything I hear and read is more profound. Human interaction has much more at stake than I had noticed before. Continue reading…

Since its creation in 2007, the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) at the University of California, Irvine responded to tensions on its campus regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by forming a diverse group of students and traveling to Israel/Palestine. The purpose was to gain understanding of the complexities of the conflict, firsthand experience crossing physical and mental borders, engaging with civilians, academics, politicians, religious authorities, and community leaders. This is innovative teaching at its best, providing experiential learning in a university without walls.

Back home, students share their knowledge with peers and community members in forums on and off campus. Published articles, weekly dialogues, campus events and a new academic curriculum focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have raised the level of awareness and understanding of this important issue.

The program is spreading rapidly. Other campuses have created their own OTI programs. The community has embraced the OTI model and organized community trips. Many students have changed their course of study to conflict resolution or Middle East studies, and the first alumni are already working for nongovernmental organizations in the region.

To quote one OTI student, Kevin Pham, who recently received the prestigious Rotary Fellowship to study at the American University in Cairo to further promote understanding in the region:

The Olive Tree Initiative did a lot for my life, everywhere, not just in political science or in Israel/Palestine. It was the cloth that polished my lens of the world. Everything I hear and read is more profound. Human interaction has much more at stake than I had noticed before.

The best way I can describe my post-OTI life is one of ‘growing pains,’ as if my legs were forced to grow too fast and suddenly. Now I stumble over myself, trying to regain footing: that confidence and that hope. Only recently, five months after our return, I have been regaining that confidence and hope. But the lessons learned from OTI remain steadfast, hardened in my subconscious and quietly prompting every action. I used to be black and white but now I am grey, not just pertaining to Israel/Palestine, but to everyday life. And in being grey, I find myself constantly asking, ‘What am I seeing right now and what am I not?’ But this does not trouble or interrupt me; instead, it becomes a driving force, an intense excitement to seek answers.

Pam Inoti

Kennesaw State University

As a Kenyan citizen, I did not ever imagine that I would learn more about Kenya from outside the country than within its borders. But this is exactly what happened during my sophomore year at Kennesaw State University, Georgia in 2006-2007 when the focus was on the ‘Year of Kenya’… While cultural, political and religious beliefs are the three key areas that people tend to disagree on, I was taught to look at these factors, not as defining options of who the people are, but merely as a piece of the puzzle. Continue reading…

It is not every day that a country is celebrated. As a Kenyan citizen, I did not ever imagine that I would learn more about Kenya from outside the country than within its borders. But this is exactly what happened during my sophomore year at Kennesaw State University, Georgia in 2006-2007 when the focus was on the “Year of Kenya”. I was able to better understand and appreciate my country while sharing with others the experiences that have made me who I am and continue to shape my thought process while enhancing cultural tolerance.

Every year for the entire academic year, the Institute of Global Initiatives coordinates a program of study focused on a particular country; the geographical location, people, historical perspective, culture, ethnic composition, political climate and economic perspectives. The program ensures that students, faculty and community participants understand and appreciate different cultures. A deeper understanding of a country and its people helps to breakdown stereotypes and foster intercultural connections. Students take classes on that particular country, there are lecture talks open to the public, and there is also an open festival day set aside to celebrates the food, the language and the art of that particular country.

As a KSU alumnus, I appreciate the program because it transformed me into a better global citizen. I am open to and appreciate different cultural views while never letting go of my values. As a graduate student in International Relations, I realize how important the global initiative program was. The further away I am from Kennesaw State University, the more I rely on the knowledge that I gained from the program. While cultural, political and religious beliefs are the three key areas that people tend to disagree on, I was taught to look at these factors, not as defining options of who the people are, but merely as a piece of the puzzle.

Just like my experience, I believe this to be the case for thousands of students, faculty, staff and community participants that continue to take part in the program. Barriers are broken and people seek to understand a world beyond their own. The faculty, students and staff engage one another and share experiences that make us all better citizen diplomats. I would urge other colleges and universities to follow suit.


Sandra Bird, PhD.,

Institute of Global Initiatives at Kennesaw State University

I always experience a dramatic learning curve when engaged in the “Year of” programs at Kennesaw State University (KSU). I first became involved during the ’2007-08 Year of the Atlantic World,’ in which I decided to fully engage in these cross-cultural studies by initiating a research agenda involving the contemporary arts of the Yoruba. I had the privilege to visit Osogbo, Nigeria in May 2007 (through a KSU grant) where I came in contact with a community that harbored good relations between Muslims, Christians and those practicing the indigenous religion of the Yoruba. This was a fascinating “slice of life” for me, as I am always looking for evidence of people crafting peaceful and supportive relationships within groups – especially those practicing differing religions and cultures. After reading and discussing articles that coordinated with the weekly “Year of the Atlantic World” presentations and a regional conference, the faculty development group decided to travel in the spring of 2008 to Brazil. The major portion of that visit was spent in Bahia. This provided yet another research plan – one that explored the evolution of Yoruba traditions, as they became part of the American experience. In the fall of 2009, my art education students used part of my 2007research to design and implement an extended interdisciplinary unit on the arts of the Osun River at a local elementary school.

I was also deeply involved in the planning and facilitation of “The Year of Turkey” in 2008-09. One of my major contributions was a “Turkish Prayer Room” installation (with tessellation designs from art students in a “Computer Applications in Art” course). This project set up a functional prayer space for our KSU Muslim community during Ramadan 2008 at the Institute for Global Initiatives Gallery. I have written a chapter featuring the Turkish prayer room installation project, Teaching Islamic Aesthetics, for a book, Incorporating the Middle East into the Classroom (Editor Jason Tatlock, University of Maryland Press, 2010). The faculty development group read additional histories and novels concerning Turkey, and then we were able to take a two-week tour of Turkey in the spring of 2009. During the year of Turkey my art education students designed and taught an extended unit on the traditional arts of Turkey at a local elementary school.

I am now serving on the planning committee for the Year of Peru. It will no doubt have a major influence on the plans for my art education students in the coming year.

Kelly MacIntyre

Bay Path College

To witness children going to school during the day / And working the market in the evening for minimal pay / So they can afford to go back to school the next week / I want the first-world to hear third-world people speak / To see their smiles despite their adversity / I want people to accept our diversity / Not shun it because they don’t understand / Because even if they don’t hold a Gambian child’s hand / I did, and I know now that there is so much more Continue reading…

Kelly MacIntyre was an undergraduate participant in the Bay Path College/Sajuka Primary School Collaborative Project in January of 2010. She spent 15 days in Barra Village, The Gambia, as part of a film crew that shot a 30 minute documentary film on the challenges that 300 children face in a third world village to attend Sajuka School and to gain an education. This poem draws upon her experiences among the children of Gambia to illustrate what she learned from sharing in their lives during her first journey into a third world environment.

Life on the Smiling Coast of Africa

  • Smiles and good will filled the air
  • These people didn’t seem to care
  • That I looked so different; no, they knew
  • That what I came there to do
  • Was help them realize their dreams
  • Not everything is what it seems
  • Beyond the stray animals and littered streets
  • Beyond electricity-free buildings and shoeless feet
  • Lay the kindness and generosity of beautiful human beings
  • And after taking it all in, I knew I was seeing
  • People who were not unlike my self
  • We all place education and respect above all else
  • We know that for our goals to be achieved
  • We have to work together, despite what others may believe
  • So I filmed the children going to the Sajuka School
  • And I hope to use it as a tool
  • To educate those who don’t have the opportunity
  • To see what life’s like in a third-world community
  • I want the first-world to hear third-world people speak
  • To see their smiles despite their adversity
  • I want people to accept our diversity
  • Not shun it because they don’t understand
  • Because even if they don’t hold a Gambian child’s hand
  • I did, and I know now that there is so much more
  • That we could be doing to forge alliances instead of waging war
  • To reach out, despite the miles, despite the different languages and cultures
  • We need, as a whole, to stop being vultures
  • To stop focusing on how we are different
  • And see how much we are the same.
  • I learned to seek our similarity
  • I learned to work for the good of humanity
  • I learned to be perceptive in unfamiliar situations
  • Not automatically to make allegations
  • Just because it’s a new situation I don’t know
  • And I sincerely hope that I can show
  • Everyone else all that I’ve learned
  • That others can share in the friendships I’ve earned
  • By learning to be understanding and kind
  • By being hospitable and trying to find
  • The similarities between us
  • I hope others, too, can learn to love the differences,
  • To reach out across miles and oceans, or even at home
  • To make a difference.
  • To “be the change you want to see in the world.”
  • Because that’s what I have done.
  • It is what I hope to do, always.

–Kelly MacIntyre

September 24, 2010

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