Impact At Scale

The Beeck Center engages global leaders to drive social change at scale.

GU Impacts 2017: How We’re Building NextGen Leaders

April 10, 2017 | By Matt Fortier, Project Manager, GU Impacts

This past Saturday, we hosted an all-day orientation for our largest class of GU Impacts fellows to date. This 2017 cohort includes 22 students from the SFS, the College, the MSB, and the Global Human Development (GHD) program. The fellows will be working with nine global organizations, including India, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, and the U.S., representing the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. These partners were chosen because they drive social impact through innovation by empowering communities and providing students with the opportunity to challenge their character in new environments. GU Impacts reaches beyond the classroom, pushing its fellows to tackle real world issues.

Since its inception in 2012, GU Impacts has provided 75 undergraduates at Georgetown with global experiential learning opportunities, an average of 15 each year. This year, we’ve increased the program size by nearly half, from 16 students to 22 and from 6 partnerships to 9. We’re piloting new initiatives, such as the inclusion of a GHD graduate student to our fellowship class, a local university partnership model in the Philippines with the Ateneo de Manila University, and multiple single-country partnerships in Rwanda with kLab, Akazi Kanoze Access, and the Gashora Girls Academy for Science & Technology. Moreover, we’re incorporating feedback from last year’s program to build an even more comprehensive and robust orientation, to deepen our faculty engagement, and to further develop our program’s monitoring and evaluation.

Our partners at Georgetown are critical to the program’s success. At every stage, including partnership development, recruitment, selection, orientation, project implementation, and campus integration, we work closely with the University, individual schools, staff, and faculty. The Africa Studies Program was critical in introducing us to various organizations across East Africa as we developed our seminal partnerships in Rwanda. Faculty and staff within the SFS, the College, and the MSB, have helped us develop a prospective applicant list of over 200 students, aiding us in the selection process and forming our most competitive class of fellows to date. This spring, dozens of staff and faculty are engaging our fellows through workshops and mentorships, preparing them for success in their projects around the world.

We know that Georgetown students are high achievers: that’s why they’re here. But GU Impacts challenges these students, taking them out of their comfort zone while simultaneously equipping them with the tools and resources needed to succeed. It is a learning opportunity first and a service opportunity second, as students learn to appreciate their role and potential in the global community by cultivating both humility and confidence. It is an opportunity to explore or build on a potential major, to develop a foundation for a thesis or Georgetown University Research Opportunities Program, and to explore a career field. It is an indelible experience befit for the classroom, the resume, the work world, and the dinner table.

This type of program, whose key features include community based learning and immersion, experience-wrapping (pre- and post-project workshops, reflection, and mentorship), and academic and professional integration, is part of a growing effort at Georgetown to complement the classroom with experience. There is a growing demand for programs like GU Impacts, on both the employer and employee side. We had an unprecedented number of students interested in the program this year, but also an unprecedented number of organizations around the world eager to host the intellectually curious and self-motivated leaders of tomorrow. It is these two facts, coupled with the brains and determination of Georgetown’s staff and faculty leaders, that make me hopeful that we can continue to increase the number of students engaged in these important learning and service opportunities each year. The scale we achieved this year was relatively impressive, a 50% increase in program capacity over 1 year, yet this is a drop in the bucket relative to an undergraduate class of 7,500 and a graduate class of nearly the same size.

This is a test of scale, and it is the perfect challenge for the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation, which hosts the GU Impacts program. How do we achieve scale for such a high-touch program, one that requires intensive work to develop meaningful, community-based partnerships? How can we grow while still providing individual mentorship, training, guided reflection, and career development services to each student, extended to graduation and beyond? The solution lies within the University, in bringing together disparate forces all driving towards this common goal: investing in our future leaders of tomorrow by enhancing the student experience at Georgetown today.

This announcement of our 2017 GU Impacts fellowship, along with last month’s Hoya feature, kicks off a 22 piece series where we will profile each and every fellow. This series will give you the opportunity to hear directly from the fellows themselves as to why they applied to GU Impacts, how they hope GU Impacts will contribute to their personal, academic, and professional growth, and what social impact means to them personally. We will release 2-3 student profiles each week through the end of July, when fellows complete their fellowship projects. So stay tuned, and share your thoughts on why you think global experiential learning should be integral to education.

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