Global Smarts: SJU Students Engage Youth in World Issues

Friday, April 25, 2014

by Katie Smith '15

PHILADELPHIA (April 25, 2014) – Each week, 13 Saint Joseph’s students visit six local middle schools to spend their afternoons with young students interested in world affairs. The Global Smarts Mentoring Program internship gives SJU students the opportunity to learn about a major global issue and a foreign country and then bring that knowledge to middle school students preparing for the Junior Model United Nations simulation at Temple University in May.

Global Smarts partners the political science department’s Philadelphia Area Internship program with the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization dedicated to informing and engaging people of all ages on matters of national and international significance.

Model UN requires that participants research the political, cultural, economic and historical profile of a country, as well as a particular global issue. This year’s topics focus on the Syrian refugee crisis, gender equality and economic development, the efforts to combat infectious diseases and the global arms trade. The program was first piloted with Saint Joseph’s and students from another local university during the spring semester last year. This year, SJU was chosen to carry the program forward.

Erica Shannon, Assistant Director of Student Programs at the World Affairs Council, says that while global education is extremely important in our increasingly interconnected world, it can be hard for teachers to fit this into their lesson plans. “Our goal is to create global citizens…We have been extremely impressed by the consistent dedication and work ethic exhibited by the Saint Joe's students in their roles as Global Smarts mentors,” says Shannon. “The creativity and thoughtfulness that they bring to Global Smarts have made this a much more engaging and enjoyable learning experience for our middle school students.”

“I think the value of community service that I learned at SJU pushed me toward this internship,” says Blair Kiley ’14, a Spanish major. “As a Global Smarts intern, I’m not necessarily teaching, but mentoring, and knowing that the kids are relying on me makes me more dedicated.”

As Global Smarts interns, SJU students enroll in the Philadelphia Area Internship course and receive credit for an upper-division political science or international relations class. The program is open to students of all majors and enables interns to use their specific areas of interest and skill sets while focusing on public service.

Susan Liebell, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science, who leads the Philadelphia Area Internship course, believes in the importance of showing students that their work matters.

“Our students report that they use everything they have learned at Saint Joseph’s — language skills, historical knowledge, understanding of political institutions, use of databases, etc. — to prepare the middle school students for Model UN,” Liebell says. “Faculty can tell students that the content and skills they acquire in classes matter, but nothing says it more than your own personal experience in the field.”

Global Smarts intern Rachel Sellers ’14 is majoring in both political science and international relations and will attend Temple University Law School in the fall. Sellers hopes to use the experience with her students at Girard College when she is a child advocacy lawyer.

“This internship has helped me to learn skills that enable me to create authentic bonds,” says Sellers. “Global Smarts helps us build reciprocal relationships with middle school students. The love I have for international relations is something I can share with them, and their life experiences and knowledge adds to my academic understanding of international situations.”

However, according to the middle school students in the program, the mentors provide more than just academic information. “Participating in [Global Smarts] has mostly changed how I think about myself in the world,” said an eighth grader at Saint Dominic School in a post-program survey conducted last year. “I didn’t really think I could make a difference before, but now I know that with determination and motivation, I could change the world.”

“From our perspective,” says Shannon, “the Saint Joe's students, in their roles as mentors, are the single largest factor contributing to the success of Global Smarts.”

Media Contact

Patricia Allen, Director of Communications/CAS, 610-660-3240,


Founded in 1851 in the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, Saint Joseph’s University is a top-ranked Catholic University that provides a rigorous, student-centered education. With a total enrollment of 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, SJU offers a wide array of academic programs designed so that each graduate enters the world with a competitive resume and global perspective. This is achieved through intense academic study led by thought-leading faculty scholars, a comprehensive campus experience and robust study abroad, service-learning, internship and co-op programs. Upon graduation, nearly 100 percent of students are employed, pursuing advanced degrees or volunteering in prestigious service programs. A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, SJU offers 20 Division I intercollegiate men’s and women’s sports. SJU alumni — over 68,000 strong — provide a powerful network that spans the globe.

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