GLOBAL CITIZENS ACADEMY
Global Citizens Academy is a civic engagement project that aims to bridge the University of Nebraska international students with the community through making them teach about the world in an Omaha area upper elementary school, Montessori Children’s Room. The program helps the elementary students learn more about world geography and understand how interconnected our lives with the world. It helps UNO international students integrate better to the larger community. Every Fall, international students visits the elementary school on weekly basis to talk about their own countries through informal conversations. The international students are provided with engaging materials about the country covered.
For a story about the program, see, “Effort Brings Together Different Cultures, Generations” at UNO News.
STUDENT RESEARCH ON THE TRI-FAITH INITIATIVE
The students in my honors colloquium course, “Sacred and Violent,” in Spring 2018 conducted a semester-long research on the Tri-Faith Initiative. Eighteen students interviewed eighteen leaders and participants from the Tri-Faith Initiative in an effort to understand their motivations to start and continue to support this unique interfaith project. Their findings were compiled into a report that was presented to a full audience, including many of the Tri-Faith leaders who participated in the interviews on April 24, 2018. The report can be accessed here.
INTER-GENERATIONAL CONVERSATIONS ON POLITICS
Intergenerational Conversations on Politics provides a dialogue forum between UNO students and the seniors in the Aksarben Senior Living. Since Fall 2015, I implemented this program for five semesters. Throughout each semester, the students were asked to lead and conduct an hour of discussion with the residents of Aksarben Senior Living on Thursday nights at 6 p.m. The discussions at Aksarben Senior Living carried our class discussions to the community. The students were asked to assign a newspaper article to the seniors related to the discussion in advance. The residents read the article before the discussion took place. After the discussion, the students wrote a reflection paper summarizing the discussion and their experience.
Below are some selections from student reflections:
“Meeting Bruce, Jack, and the ladies to discuss politics was a highlight of my academic year. Older generations offer wisdom and joy that cannot be easily expressed. Sadly, many people in the U.S. seem to forget about the generation that raised them. It is sad for the older people, obviously, but it is also sad that many people are missing out on this kind of relationship. I left the meeting at about 8:00 feeling happy and invigorated.”
“The way they joked reminded me of my grandfather and I really appreciated their enthusiasm and ability to have respectful disagreements. I took a lot away from the conversation and I was amazed at how sharp the seniors were.”
“They were super cool and were genuinely interested in what we thought we had in store with our lives and urged us to leave the world a better place than we found it.”
“After leaving the session, we could not believe how amazing the conversations were. We felt so uplifted and encouraged to know that more people stand together on these social issues in this country than we originally thought.”
“Overall, I found the experience at the Aksarben Retirement Center to be fulfilling and rewarding. Being able to apply my knowledge and understanding of the Middle East to an educated discussion to a well-informed and highly educated group of senior citizens gave me confidence on the material I have learned in class.”
“The interaction with these residents contributed to me by reenergizing hope that there isn’t such a stark divide across generational gaps and that elderly people do care about the type of world they’re leaving behind.”
“I honestly haven’t had a political discussion with someone outside of the academic setting or my close family in years because of the general tone these discussions take anymore. This experience taught me that shying away from these difficult, heavy, and often partisan-tinted discussions is not only irresponsible, but it’s also, quite simply, lazy. By actually sitting down and speaking with these seniors, I found many more shared experiences and perspectives than I thought I might. This made the disagreements we might have had just sticking points to work through using reason rather than insurmountable differences of opinion as they might have been in a digital landscape of relative anonymity.”