Senior CapstoneSenior Capstone Project Fourth-year students bring the many skills they have honed in the Global Citizenship Program to bear on a year-long project of their choosing. This group project addresses a need present in a tangible target community. Of course problem-focused endeavors can take many shapes and sizes, but all capstone projects will exhibit a strong intellectual component and demonstrate the initiative’s relevance to global citizenship clearly. The end goals are knowledge and sustainability rather than brute charity. Students may choose to work on GC projects carried over from previous years or to construct a new venture. Regardless, the best projects tend to draw upon many disciplines of thought, build on pre-existing university partnerships, and engage with human beings in some real way.
Global education must start from a young age, and, in order to promote global citizenship, one should start with educating the youth. As such, team members created an afterschool program to teach elementary students about cultures from across the globe. Once a week for five weeks, the group worked with a homework club and used various activities to celebrate multiculturalism. Each lesson addressed a specific country’s cultural traditions, including instruction in how to make a healthy snack. When the students completed that nation’s activities, they received a stamp in their passports to show their progress.
“While my understanding and interpretation of global citizenship have evolved over the course of my time here, the essential understructure remains the same. I believe that a strong moral foundation based on mutual respect that unites people all over the world defines global citizenship. Global citizenship is a shared ethic of compassion that is fostered best through the actions of education.”
~ Maren Gallina
Team members brought Lehigh’s attention to racial tensions and environmental issues affecting the South Side community. The capstone project created a forum for citizens to discuss Bethlehem’s ever-changing cultural landscape. After witnessing racial discrimination on the Lehigh River firsthand, the group recognized the need for a conversation between the Global Citizenship Program and the larger Bethlehem community. This dialogue addressed the effects of shifting cultural dynamics on Bethlehem’s resources—for instance on New Bethany Ministries and the Bethlehem Police Department—and the relationship of the existing community to new Asian immigrants and casino patrons.
“I have viewed myself, especially in recent years, as a generally cultured, tolerant, and accepting young adult. The fact that I missed this ‘red flag’ of racism and generalizing blame in the narrative of missing turtles was very disturbing to me. The component of this project that I am most proud of is the process of self-evaluation that it inspired in me.”
~ Bridget Joyce
There is a huge divide between the Bethlehem community and Lehigh University. This capstone project took for its foundation the belief that literature has the power to diffuse social boundaries and prompt difficult but necessary conversations. Literature has a way of connecting people from different backgrounds and inciting compassion, empathy, and a passion for social justice, all of which are crucial for conscientious citizenship. “Bethlehem Unbound” thus brought diverse members of the community together in the Bethlehem Public Library’s South Side Branch to discuss literature and investigate urban identity.
“It has been both gratifying and surprising to see how many members of the community support this vision, and their excitement has served to reinforce the principle that has guided this entire project: literature truly does bring people together …. I now believe, without any hesitation or apologies, in the power of literature to connect people across boundaries and to generate inspiration for social change.”
~ Jane Givens
In keeping with the ideas explored in Cohort VI’s Cluster Experiment, this capstone project examined the profound disconnect that exists among the different social groups on Lehigh’s campus. It is no secret to the student body that closed-mindedness and exclusion are negatively affecting the campus climate. “The Elimination of Prejudice” therefore took for its goal, similar to the inaugural year of the project, the interaction of students from all social groups on campus and the courageous investigation of prejudices that face students at Lehigh University.
“Students buy more into change when it is caused by their peers …. I hope that one day Lehigh can change from the ‘boys will be boys’ culture which has dominated the campus for decades to a fun-loving college atmosphere that accurately represents the professional world that awaits us after we don our robes and graduate.”
~ Viraj Singh
Maria Theresa Mejia
This capstone project created a short documentary film highlighting the narratives of individual refugees, the work done at the Lutheran Children and Family Services Refugee Resettlement Program in Allentown, and the opportunities available for volunteering at the center. In this way, “Starting Again” strengthened the relationship between Lehigh’s Global Citizenship Program and Lutheran Children and Family Services. In addition, the documentary raised awareness not only of refugees’ struggles in their new homeland but also of their physical presence within the community. Indeed, there is a lack of information about refugees’ lives in the Lehigh Valley.
“This project has sparked my interest in producing documentaries and in trying to learn more about qualitative research methods, which I would love to integrate into my studies as a rising sociologist …. I cannot wait to be a part of something that is bigger than myself—this seems very real!”
~ Maria Theresa Mejia
Team members conducted an anthropological cross-cultural analysis of community reactions and attitudes towards the respective water resource management initiatives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Cochabamba, Bolivia. This examination enabled them to expand their capacities as global citizens to communicate cross-culturally, develop independent research skills, and think critically about pressing issues that transcend national boundaries. Ultimately, “Water as a Human Right” placed Allentown’s recent water privatization developments within a global context as it also analyzed the differing social perspectives and level of resource awareness in two dissimilar cities.
“The grant-writing portion of our project has allowed us to further develop our writing skills, which are valuable tools for students of all disciplines. As many look at graduate school as a viable option, the research involved in finding different foundations for monetary support … will be valuable practice for those wishing to continue their studies.”
~ Elizabeth Keenan