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Global learning program helps freshmen connect to UIC, world

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Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares

Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares speaks with students in the pilot program for the Global Learning Community Campus Certificate program, open to about 100 freshmen this fall.

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Small learning communities with an international focus — that’s the goal for the new Global Learning Community Campus Certificate program offered to freshmen this fall.

The program, initiated by Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares, offers students the opportunity to enhance their undergraduate experience and access the diversity of the student body and the global focus of many of UIC’s programs, said Bruce Neimeyer, resource and policy analyst/special project coordinator of the Chancellor’s Global Leadership Initiative.

“The chancellor’s vision was to tap into the extraordinary resources here on campus so that undergraduates would leave the university with a deep understanding of global issues and the tools to bring real leadership with a global perspective to whatever field of endeavor they chose,” Neimeyer said.

The program, open to about 100 freshmen in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences this fall, is organized around year-long seminars with about 20 students each. These “learning communities” help students build friendships and strengthen their connection to the university, he said.

One important aspect of the year-long seminar is familiarizing students with campus resources available to help and support them.

“At the library, for example, we discovered how much the librarians could help us,” said Diana Alvarez, 18, one of nine freshmen who participated in the pilot program spring semester. “It was really eye-opening.”

The pilot program, focused on public health, drew students interested in pursuing health-related careers.

“We want to help students who have a general idea of what they want to do find out how they might actually do it,” said Neimeyer.

“It’s been exciting in the pilot program to see the transformation of the students as their goals become more focused.”

“I always knew I was interested in health care and working with people, but I didn’t really know where to start,” said Alvarez, who plans to combine a career in nursing and public health.

“Learning about public health — wow! — there were areas I didn’t know existed.”

In addition to the core course, students will select courses from four of five global regions: Africa and the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and Western Europe.

Students will also take one course in global themes to help synthesize what they have learned in their more specific regional courses.

The students will be encouraged to enroll in a study abroad program or approved international-related internship.

The certificate they earn for completing the program will be a valuable credential in the job market, Neimeyer said.

“We consider the Global Learning Community Program a permanent work in progress,” he said. “We know that learning communities can increase retention rates and help students graduate sooner and we hope to keep evaluating and improving the program to make the best use of all UIC has to offer.”

Alvarez said the program made her really feel connected to the university, gave her a group of friends and helped her find a way to focus on a future career that met her goals.

“The program really made the experience of my first year in college much better,” she said.


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