Earlier this semester, Georgia M. ’20 submitted her proposal for a major independent research project, and now she’s about to embark on a year-and-a-half-long journey of in-depth research into immigration policies around the world. She conceived the project proposal for the Westridge Global Initiative, a new Upper School program designed to provide students an opportunity for meaningful interdisciplinary study of a modern-day global issue.
Previously, students like Georgia frequently pursued global-related interests outside of class in their personal reading and research, travels, and volunteer work; with the launch of the Westridge Global Initiative, juniors and seniors may propose a selection of Westridge courses relevant to their interests, and participate in experiential learning such as internships, volunteering, informational interviews, and more that will apply directly to their area of focus. Their independent Community Action Project, a Westridge graduation requirement, may also be tied to their Global Initiative project. Participating students will receive a distinction on their diplomas at Commencement.
“I’ve always wanted to do a research project,” explained Georgia, “and when I heard about the Global Initiative, I thought it combined the perfect amount of individualistic design with studying an issue that has global repercussions. And I chose immigration [as my topic] because it’s such a complicated issue that we don’t have the time to study in-depth in a class. I’m interested in really getting to the bottom of it.”
Students looking to participate in the Global Initiative submit proposals to a committee of Westridge faculty and staff, who also serve as advisors for students throughout the duration of their self-directed studies. Upon project completion, students will defend their final portfolio and present their work before the committee.
“We’re preparing our students to be globally aware, 21st century learners,” said Director of Upper School Gary Baldwin. “The Global Initiative is an avenue for students to develop confidence, leadership skills, and informed voices to advocate for themselves and others as they become models of global competence for our community.”
Regarding her own Global Initiative proposal, Georgia said, “I’m planning to study different immigration policies, mainly focusing on the U.S., Germany, and Siberia or Russia, and the effect of the policies on the social environment in each place. And my end goal is to combine all the good elements of the policies I study, to make my own policy.”
Georgia plans to interview both immigration policy experts and people who have firsthand experience in going through the process of applying for visas in various countries. In addition to her independent research, Georgia is taking both Global Studies and Ethics classes at Westridge this year. She will apply the knowledge she has gleaned from classes she’s already taken at Westridge, including The Modern World System and Spanish, which she says directly relate to her understanding of immigration in California, to her project.
Another student, Sophia R. ’20, is in the early stages of writing her Global Initiative project proposal. “When I’m in a class,” said Sophia, “I find that a lot of times, something is brought up that I’m really interested in, but we only focus on it for a couple class periods or a couple days. This is a chance to go deeper into an issue that I’m really interested in. Plus, I want to pursue a career in international relations, so when I saw the Global Initiative, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s perfect for me!’”
Sophia’s proposal will focus on child labor and corporate social responsibility, and she plans to interview industry professionals who study and create policies to address and prevent child labor. It’s an issue that’s very personal to her, she explained, because she has history with the topic; Sophia’s mother works to eliminate and prevent child labor in the corporate world.
“Being globally informed equips students for their futures,” said Upper School teacher Brittany Coker, who serves as the chair of the Global Initiative Committee. “It helps them lead lives of impact, knowing that what they’re learning is not just about this school, and it’s not just about us. When students see the interdisciplinary nature not only of their courses but also their lives, it makes them more holistic learners.”