Twenty-four students selected for first Global Fellows cohort

East Carolina University welcomed its first group undergraduate students to the Global Fellows program this fall. Twenty-four students were selected for the program designed to help develop leaders in our increasingly global world and economy.

The program is facilitated by ECU’s Office of Global Affairs and positions high-achieving students for success. A variety of majors including nursing, biology, planning and education are part of the program.

In addition to a study abroad scholarship, the fellows participate in special activities that will prepare them academically and professionally to be a global citizen. Fellows also have the opportunity to live in the Global Fellows Living Learning Community (LLC) where students live together in the same residence hall to help ease their transition to college form relationships with peers.

Isabella Sardina, a freshman intending to major in community and regional planning, said she chose ECU in part because of the Global Fellows program.

“I thought it would be such a unique and beneficial experience to be a member of the first-ever Global Fellows cohort,” she said.

Global Fellows attend a picnic at the International House.

Global Fellows attend a picnic at the International House. (Contributed photo)

In its first year, Global Fellows is finding its place within the broader university landscape at ECU and global affairs staff say this group of students have hit the ground running.

Rose Malone and Erin Taylor are education abroad coordinators at ECU and work closely with students in the program. According to them, the students are self-motivated, take initiative and are very focused on community and connections. They are eager to represent ECU and the Global Fellows program on campus and in the community through volunteer opportunities.

“They’ve already helped spread the word to other students on campus about study abroad opportunities and scholarships. They are creating access points for other students on campus,” Malone said.

Though studying abroad is an experience each of them works toward during their time at ECU, the program prepares the fellows for so much more. Malone says Global Fellows really centers on building relationships between students, faculty and staff.

Those relationships are fostered early during the first year through the Global Fellows LLC, meetings with staff liaisons and special events. Stephanie Batayiannis is a freshman from New Jersey who intends to major in nursing and lives in the LLC.

“Being part of the LLC has been beneficial because I got to make a lot of new friends and we have created a strong support system for each other. Being a freshman and coming into a big campus can be very intimidating but having a good support system of other freshmen has been very helpful,” she said.

Sardina added, “I think my favorite part about being in the Global Fellows program is having a sense of community on campus. It has not only been lovely building relationships with other fellows but also with the faculty that run the programs. Faculty members from the Office of Global Affairs have put so much effort into the program.”

The students participate in a freshman seminar together the first semester that covers topics like Study Abroad 101 and securing a passport as well as helping students reflect and learn about their own culture identity. Malone and Taylor facilitate the class.

“We will work with them in some capacity for their entire career at ECU, and this class is laying the foundational relationships between us so we can understand what they are looking for in their education and in their career so we can provide those resources,” Taylor said.

During their second semester the students will participate in one of ECU’s award-winning Global Understanding courses, where students will meet and interact with students from other countries, in real time, through video conferencing. For many of the students, this will be their first experience interacting with people from other countries.

Global Fellows receive up to $1,500 toward study abroad costs and can apply for more aid if needed. Last fall, the Office of Global Affairs awarded $95,000 in scholarships to students at ECU for study abroad opportunities.

According to Dr. Jon Rezek, assistant vice chancellor for global affairs, ECU’s study abroad participation rate was between 16% and 17% before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic, the number of participants continues to go up as travel restrictions are lifted in many countries.

Global Fellow Cooper Hilbert said he wanted the opportunity to see the world and visit new places while still accomplishing his academic requirements. He hopes to complete two study abroad trips while at ECU — first through the ECU Tuscany program, which will take him to ECU’s campus in Certaldo Alto, Italy, and then South Korea to study sustainable urbanism.

“Visiting Italy has always been a big goal for me as I absolutely love the culture and history and the cities. The trip to South Korea is a great way to study concepts that are very relevant to my studies to see first-hand the impacts of sustainable urbanism on a societal scale,” Hilbert said.

Taylor explained that any student at ECU can study abroad or take advantage of a Global Understanding course but students in the fellows program are interested in preparing to work in a multicultural environment or internationally. She said staff will lead the fellows through a career preparation series that includes training on how to gear their resume and experience toward international populations and strategically talk about their experiences in the international realm with potential employers. Students will have the opportunity to work in the Office of Global Affairs.

“I see a lot of interest in analyzing where the world currently sits and how we — whether that’s ECU, as individuals, as a country — connect globally and what holes there are to fill. I think that’s where they (the students) are approaching it now and will play a role in their career aspirations,” Taylor said.

Applications are being accepted now for the 2023 Global Fellows cohort. The program is designed as a four-year program, but transfer students are considered.

Sardina said she has contacted the counselors from her high school in Goldsboro to tell them about the program so it can be shared with other students.

“I hope to see this program continue to grow and evolve because I feel that it is important that our future leaders have a global perspective and that is what the Global Fellows program aims to work toward,” she said.