Warren First Scholar of Global Distinction

Warren First Scholar of Global Distinction

The first Gaston College Scholar of Global Distinction graduates on May 12 and plans a career with an intercultural focus

Gaston College graduated its first Scholar of Global Distinction on Friday, May 12. Avalon Warren, who earned her Associate of Arts degree, qualified for this recognition by taking a number of globally-intensive courses, participating in international activities and dialogues, and by dedicating Student photo of Avalon Wheelertime to a global experience. She also compiled and presented a portfolio documenting all the completed initiative requirements.

The Gaston College Scholars of Global Distinction (GCSGD) initiative is part of the NC Global Distinction program, a collaboration between North Carolina community colleges and UNC at Chapel Hill to globalize the curriculum and increase faculty and student involvement in global issues, activities, and dialogue. Coordinating the GCSGD initiative is the Global Imprints team at Gaston College, which is composed of faculty and staff members who are committed to creating opportunities that build and enhance global awareness, inspire cultural competence, stimulate personal ethical growth, and deepen intellectual inquiry at the College as well as in the larger community. 

Warren learned about the GCSGC initiative during a class taught by Brian Bookout, instructor of history and sociology and Chair of the Global Imprints Team. The concept seemed to be a perfect fit for her interests and she asked how she could join. Bookout told her what she needed to do, and she applied to participate.

Spring 2017 was the first full semester for the GCSGC initiative. Recognizing Warren’s intense interest in global studies, the Global Imprints Team enabled her to fulfill the requirements of the initiative within just one semester by accepting the credit hours she had earned with some relevant classes she had taken previously.

Warren, 18 years old, currently lives in Dallas, N.C. She grew up in Shelby, where she was home-schooled. She developed a fascination with other cultures through the example and encouragement of her parents. “Since I was a child my parents exposed me to all sorts of intercultural experiences,” Warren said. “International travel wasn’t necessarily an option financially, but they believed that within our ‘melting pot’ of a country there was still much to discover, so they would take me all over the place throughout the U.S.

“Whether we were in the rough inner city or a quiet indigenous community, my parents wanted me to experience everything,” she continued. “If we were ever in a big city, it was always a major priority to visit the Chinatown (my personal favorite activity), we would attend different religions’ worship services, and my parents made it a point to eat the food native to that area. It gave me a sense of understanding, acceptance, and love for all people, no matter their background, race, gender, or religion.”

“Avalon has been our most passionate student since the beginning and has really shown a willingness to expand her knowledge of globally-themed issues as is evidenced by her attendance and participation in most of the relevant events we have held over the past two semesters,” said Bookout. “Avalon’s successful completion will be recognized on her Gaston College transcript as well as with certificates of completion from both UNC-Chapel Hill and Gaston College.”

Currently, approximately 12 students are participating in the GCSGD initiative. To become a Gaston College Scholar of Global Distinction, students must complete a minimum of 15 credit hours with a grade of A or B in globally-intensive courses such as Art Appreciation, World Geography, World Civilization, International Cultural Exploration, International Business, Global Logistics, Spanish, and certain sections of Developmental Psychology, Introduction to Computers, and Writing/Research in the Disciplines.

Also required is a global experience with a minimum of 30 hours in a study abroad or domestic intercultural experience program, each featuring a service-learning project. A journal about the experience must be submitted.

Warren’s Study Abroad experience was her June 2016 trip to Singapore with the Yale Young Global Scholars program, which is designed for outstanding high school students from around the world. The trip was Warren’s first international excursion. “I was exposed to so many different cultures and I met so many wonderful people from over 12 countries,” she said. “The amount of diversity in the world never ceases to amaze me. Though there is much to discover within our own country, I think it is important for everyone to explore internationally. It is truly life-changing.”

Students in the GCGSD initiative must participate in at least eight events pertaining to international activities and dialogue, and must write reflective essays on each event. The events could include passport events, on-campus activities with a global component; WorldQuest, an international knowledge competition produced by the World Affairs Council of Charlotte; or Global Imprints activities like the Turning Pages International Book Club, the ReelCulture film series, and the Global Imprints speakers and performances events. These events have included presentations on global travel and world religions, and a historical overview of the Gaston College study abroad program. With pre-approval by the Global Imprints Team, other activities and events at Gaston College, such as those presented by the Multi-Cultural Affairs Committee (MAC), may also qualify for the initiative.

Beginning in the fall 2016 semester, Warren took advantage of the wide variety of on-campus events, ranging from documentary film showings to musical performances to presentations by notable speakers, that fulfilled the requirements of the GCSGD initiative. One of her favorite events was the screening of the PBS film “Neuland,” sponsored jointly by Global Imprints and MAC. “I was always engaged and excited to attend whatever MAC and Global Imprints presented,” she said. “They really know how to keep things interesting and fresh.”

Warren recommends the initiative to anyone who is interested in exploring different cultures. “Although becoming a Scholar of Global Distinction required a good bit of time, dedication, and hard work, everything was so enjoyable and it felt more like entertainment than education,” she said. “That’s not to say I didn’t learn anything. I feel as though my understanding of the world around me and the social issues that follow has increased substantially. The initiative and the Global Imprints Team were wonderful.”

Participation in the Gaston College Scholar of Global Distinction initiative reaffirmed Warren’s desire for a career involving cultural diversity and international exposure. “I hope to pursue a career in International Affairs within the government. It is my ultimate goal to become a member of the U.S. Congress or to be a U.N. Ambassador,” she said. “I’m not sure if my career and/or education will be international or domestic, but for now I am just going to continue my studies and learn everything I can so that one day I can be an honorable and good servant to our country, our world, and all of the good people in it.”

For more information about the Gaston College Scholar of Global Distinction initiative, contact Deborah Neuman at 704-922-6238 or neuman.deborah@gaston.edu.

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