UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Global Engagement Community (GEC), a new Special Living Option for Penn State students at University Park, is off to an exciting start. Students who live in the community on the 4th floor of Beaver Hall come from diverse backgrounds, both domestic and international.
The GEC seeks to “engage a diverse group of globally-minded students (both international and domestic), supported by faculty and staff mentors, around the shared goals of peer-based intercultural exchange, and the development of global competency and citizenship.”
“I believe the Global Engagement Community provides a microcosm to fulfill the mission of Residence Life," said John Norris, a senior assistant director in Residence Life. "To quote our mission, we focus on the development of a ‘safe and inclusive living-learning community which fosters academic, social, cultural, and personal growth.’ The GEC facilitates a community where personal growth comes from cultural growth, facilitated by academic and social experiences."
Nikki Mattson, the GEC faculty associate, is enjoying planning and attending events with the residents of the floor.
“This community is a great opportunity for students who want to lean in to global citizenship,” said Mattson. Mattson also sees the community as supporting Penn State’s Strategic plan. One of the Foundations of the Strategic Plan is “Enhancing Global Engagement,” says Mattson.
Within the GEC, students engage in various activities related to intercultural exchange and developing global competencies. They were recently given access to the 4th floor lounge space in Beaver, where they are looking forward to holding events and gatherings.
There are three aspects to the community: social, service and academic.
Socially, students have group dinners and attend globally-themed campus events together. The GEC also hosts movie nights, where the group watches international films and discusses the ideas, cultural understandings, and contextual issues within each film.
“It’s really interesting to hear all of the different perspectives,” said Callum Nissen, resident in the GEC.
Students also engage in service, such as attending LION Bash, serving food at the Multicultural Unity Fair, and co-hosting an event for Humphrey Fellows at Penn State.
The community seeks to challenge students academically through hosting workshops on intercultural communication and other relevant topics. One recurring event that will launch soon is an international news reading group in conjunction with the University Libraries. Students will read stories from various international newspapers and discuss the styles, cultural references, and inherent biases within the stories.
Intercultural understanding is a key component of global competency. Last year, the University Faculty Senate approved an in-house definition of "global competency," which informs curriculum and University activities.
“It’s an exciting thing, to get the students involved on this level,” said Mattson. “Actually, the GEC has just become a student organization, which will allow us to do even more.”
Even students who do not live in the Special Living Option can join the student organization as an associate member.
“Spending time in this community makes my heart smile — everyone here genuinely cares about intercultural exchanges. I love working with this diverse group of people and wish more globally minded students and staff can join us,” said Chris Lang, president of the GEC’s student organization.
The Global Engagement Community is just one of many Special Living Options offered by Penn State. These options allow students to opt-in to special housing related to an interest or identity. Students only need to follow the steps laid out on the Residence Life website to request a Special Living Option.
Those interested in requesting a Special Living Option have a deadline for requesting on-campus housing, Oct. 31. Follow the steps on the Residence Life website above.