University News

Internship Program Fosters Global Citizenship and Developing Leaders

by Katie Smith '15


Matthew Burdsall ’16 mentors Global Smarts students at Girard College

When asked what one Saint Joseph’s experience best prepared Dan Soucy ’18 for his postgraduate career, he will readily answer, “Global Smarts.”

Living in New Dehli, India as a yearlong American India Foundation Clinton Fellow, Soucy implements a heritage-focused, culturally relevant curriculum in a local government school and creates guides for other local schools to follow suit.

“Much like Global Smarts, my role now requires a balance of community building and creative approaches to teaching,” says Soucy, a former international relations major from Bedford, New Hampshire. “The internship was my first and launched my professional path, making me competitive for the opportunities that built on one another to where I am now.”

In its seventh year, the Political Science Department’s Global Smarts Mentoring Program places Hawks in nine under-resourced middle schools throughout the Philadelphia area to offer students mentorship and formation into global citizens. Co-run by the World Affairs Council (WAC) of Philadelphia, the program culminates in the annual Junior Model United Nations conference, where youth demonstrate their expertise in a particular world issue and its effect on their assigned country. SJU students, in turn, grow as leaders, presenters, public speakers and coworkers, and receive professional development from WAC.

“Mentors, particularly sophomores, access a highly-scaffolded internship – potentially their first – where they’re challenged intellectually, emotionally and in their understanding of social justice,” says Susan Liebell, Ph.D., associate professor of political science and faculty coordinator for Global Smarts. “Students learn oral presentation, research, leadership, collaboration and time management skills, and get that experience of putting on a suit and going into the office for the first time.”

Mentors visit WAC weekly to create and share lesson plans, compare best practices, participate in mock Model UN conferences, hone classroom management strategies and get feedback from professional staff members. They then take those lessons into their classrooms each week for in-class and after-school enrichment.

“Getting to create relationships while guiding students and learning together has been a dream combination for me,” says Reaghan Smith ’21, an international relations major from Crofton, Maryland. “I am learning so much alongside my students – about ending forced labor and providing clean, affordable energy in Ukraine, but also about creating a safe space for students to thrive.”

The internship is the first to be offered by the Faith-Justice Institute’s Service-Learning program, which integrates reciprocal community-based work with course content. This added social justice lens challenges Saint Joseph’s students to critically engage with the issues of educational access they see in their partner schools.

“For some time, we have noticed that some service-learning students were staying at their community partner organizations after completing their service-learning course,” says Ann Marie Jursca Keffer, director of the Institute. “The internships offered students a deepened opportunity to learn from and contribute to the community partner's work.”

The contribution made by the Global Smarts interns to students in the partner schools is clear.

“Global Smarts levels the playing field,” says Kristin Hutchinson, director of student programs at WAC. “Before the program, our students from under-funded schools were shy and unconfident at the final conference, and they felt they lacked the knowledge and skills to be competitive. Now, Global Smarts students not only do well – they often win.”

Since piloting the program during the 2012-13 academic year, students have mentored nearly 800 middle schoolers across 11 Philadelphia schools, a handful of which are becoming self-sufficient enough to bring students to the Model UN conference on their own. The WAC program is exclusive to Saint Joseph’s.

“Year after year, we are blown away by the caliber of mentors that this program receives from SJU,” says Hutchinson. “Our middle schoolers’ confidence and knowledge is due entirely to their hard work week after week.”