By FHSU University Communications
Hays, Kan. – A key focus of Goal 5 of Fort Hays State University’s strategic plan, Unlocking Untapped Potential, focuses on cultivating impactful internal, local, national, and global partnerships. The driving force behind building these extensive partnerships is the mission-driven commitment of FHSU to develop engaged global citizen leaders. Through the experiences the university and its partners create, students will develop essential leadership skills and a life-long commitment to “think globally and act locally.”
Under the leadership of Interim Assistant Provost of Internationalization and Strategic Initiatives, Dr. Jeni McRay, the university is moving forward on three key fronts. The major student experience initiatives that Jeni and her Global Affairs/Civic Learning & Engagement teams are developing focus on leadership development, global learning, and civic engagement.
Leadership Development and Civic Engagement
Service learning, or educational experiences built around service to others, has long been a mainstay of the curriculum in the Department of Leadership Studies. Students majoring in this field must complete Leadership 310, a course designed to help move students from the study of leadership to actual participation in a leadership project. Students are asked to serve as citizen leaders in a local community project of their choice in conjunction with an existing organization.
In 2021, Leadership Studies professor Dr. Donette Noble was asked to serve as the Director of Civic Learning and Engagement. She was charged with moving civic engagement from a student-led initiative to one supported by the entire university. Under this new model, she and her colleagues are identifying internal and external assets, identifying curricular and co-curricular initiatives, and building a collaborative community partnership network.
Noble, her Civic Learning and Engagement co-chair, Forsyth Library Outreach Specialist Brittney Squire, and their colleagues aim to expand experiential civic learning (“learning by doing”) opportunities for FHSU students.
Developing opportunities for FHSU students from all walks of life and countries of origin is the core of what McRay and the Global Affairs team focus on daily. McRay employs nearly a dozen international students from several countries as global ambassadors. These ambassadors serve as the first points of contact for prospective international students interested in attending an American university. Global Ambassadors come from all over the world and often include students from China, Paraguay, Senegal, Nigeria, Spain, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.
Luciana Mendoza is an international business and economics major from Paraguay who is committed to living the FHSU mission of engaged global citizenship and sustainability. Last year, she and Nuria Garcia, a former graduate student from Spain, competed in an event called the CEO Global Pitch Competition. Sponsored by the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO), the CEO Global Pitch Competition invites student entrepreneurs from around the world to present their business plans to corporate CEOs and compete for a $20,000 first prize.
Mendoza and Garcia created a sustainability-oriented business plan for a company they named “UPpreciate.” Their plan was built around refurbishing and repurposing used household items for discounted resale to college students. UPpreciate was one of 500 entries in the competition. Mendoza and Garcia won a trip to Chicago to pitch their business plan as one of 20 competition finalists. While they did not bring home first-place honors, they gained invaluable experience.
“Experiences like the CEO Global Pitch Competition and the annual FHSU Epic Challenge entrepreneurial competition moves you to develop a new mindset,” said Mendoza. “I think it makes you more selfless and more caring about the world and future generations.”
FHSU plans to continue to focus on expanding academic and student life programs that develop leadership skills, foster a lifelong commitment to civic engagement, and deliver transformative global learning experiences. In the months ahead, faculty, staff, and students involved in this effort to live the mission of the university will focus on expanding essential partnerships here in Kansas and the world beyond and identifying innovative ways to include United Nations Sustainability Goals in the student experience.
Plans are also underway to offer a new “Global Citizen Leader” credential. The credential will be built around leadership coursework, a community-based service-learning project, and a global experience (e.g. Study Abroad or Global Internship). Upon completion, students will deliver a formal presentation, earn a special notation on their official transcript, and be recognized during their graduation ceremony.
McRay and Noble also plan to pursue two new Carnegie Foundation institutional classifications (“Leadership for Public Purpose” and “Community Engagement”) as a demonstration of FHSU’s comprehensive commitment to producing engaged global citizen leaders.