The Global Leaders Program (GLP) is an experiential program designed to give domestic and international students real-world practice in problem-solving, cross-cultural communication, and organizational support throughout their undergraduate career. This is a cohort-based program that students begin during their first year at the University.
Applying a human-centered design framework, students, guided by mentors, develop innovative solutions to social challenges posed by local and global organizations. Challenge prompts range from the holistic integration of refugees into their host community to the interplay of public health and social equity.
The objective for each semester is identical: develop mutually beneficial relationships between the students and participating community partners. Students provide research and professional support to organizations and, in turn, develop the critical skills necessary to be impactful leaders in the global marketplace.
For more information, contact Nikia Brown, associate director of intercultural & global learning, international student experience.
The Love Fridge is a Chicago-based initiative created to nourish our communities through mutual aid by offering solutions to food scarcity and food waste. Powered by kindness, generosity, and, most importantly, love, they firmly believe that feeding oneself is not a privilege, but a right.
With food insecurity at an all-time high, keeping our communities fed is now more important than ever. Love Fridge volunteers come from all over Chicago, working within their own neighborhoods to collaborate with like-minded partners to place community refrigerators across the city.
These refrigerators, painted by local artists to reflect the communities in which they live, provide neighbors the opportunity to donate food as well as take what they need, ensuring accessible food 24/7.
The mission of the Education Justice Project (EJP) is to build a model college in prison program that demonstrates the positive effects of higher education on incarcerated students, their families, the communities to which they return, the host institution, and society as a whole.
EJP's vision is a more humane and just society, sustained through education and critical awareness.
Since 2011, the Education Justice Project has been a unit of the Department of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership (EPOL); they aim to become a campus center in the coming year.
EJP has about 70 active outside (i.e. non-incarcerated) members during any given semester and about the same number of incarcerated students. The "EJP universe" is much larger, though, and consists of almost 500 former EJP instructors ("faculty affiliates"), program alumni (released students), and students who have been transferred to other prisons.
Feeding Our Kids's mission is simple: provide nourishing food to food-insecure school children on weekends and school holidays throughout the school year. How they execute that mission takes many hands and a great deal of generosity. This organization primarily runs on volunteers who pack food in bags for and deliver food to their 36 partner schools & childhood programs.
Donors, corporate sponsors, and community partners have made this work possible with their donations and grants. The social workers in the schools work hard to identify which kids need services and provide respect and anonymity to them.
As Feeding Our Kids continues to provide food to the children in our community, they also work to spread awareness about hunger and food insecurity by speaking to organizations.
The Champaign County Bailout Coalition (CCBC) is a non-profit and volunteer-run alliance of local individuals and organizations committed to the abolition of money bail as the criterion for determining pretrial release in Champaign County. Unaffordable bail disregards the legal right of the presumption of innocence and condemns individuals to jail before trial. Moreover, decades of research show that the risks of an individual committing a punishable offense during pretrial release or missing their court dates are unaffected by payment of bond. The CCBC believes that justice will be done only when this criminal practice is replaced by mandatory non-monetary release for as many people as possible and support for those awaiting trial.
CCBC believes that jail is the worst place that a person can be. Studies show that holding people in pretrial detention increases the likelihood of conviction, recidivism, and suicide, and leads to longer, harsher sentences. Any time behind bars can cause extreme personal, social, and financial hardship, including the loss of employment, housing, and child custody. CCBC’s efforts to liberate our neighbors from pretrial detention and to abolish the practice of money bail does not simply undermine these harmful effects but also contributes to a healthier and safer community through fostering direct community support and mutual aid.
Learn about our FA21 mentors
Julia Lang is a Professor of Practice and the Associate Director for Career Education and Life Design and at the Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking at Tulane University.
In her role at Tulane, Lang creates design thinking and life design curricula to support undergraduate and graduate students in creating changemaking professional pathways, trains and supervises instructors to teach courses, and facilitates design thinking workshops for university and community partners.
Lang also runs the Changemaker Institute, a semester-long social venture accelerator for graduate students that deepens students’ understanding of social issues, connects them to local mentors and experts, and equips them with entrepreneurial tools to create a social enterprise.
Lang created the “Taylor Your Life” design thinking career development lab, which has reached over 8,000 students and is used by educators in more than 75 universities and colleges worldwide. Lang is also a trainer/coach at the Stanford University Life Design Studio and Higher Education consultant.
Over the past decade, Lang has helped build two University Centers from the ground up as their inaugural staff member and has created multiple programs, classes, and experiential service-learning trips from idea conception to implementation at scale. Lang has taught numerous courses at Tulane University and Oregon State University and has created curricula, trained and supervised instructors; led dozens of workshops in design thinking, social entrepreneurship, and ethical community engagement; and facilitated transformative experiential gap-year programs for students throughout the Pacific Northwest, Central America, South America and Southeast Asia. Since 2017, Lang has served as a coach for three international cohorts for the Ashoka U Changemaker Commons of university educators embedding social innovation in higher education.
Lang holds a B.S. from Cornell University and a M.S. from Oregon State University.
As an enthusiast of human rights, environment, and cultural exchange, Shannon Johnson's career has found its home at the intersection of environmental justice and international development. Fundamental values of service and community engagement were impressed upon her at a young age. As she interacted with people from various cultures and degrees of privilege in her hometown outside Atlanta, she became increasingly interested in travel and learning about systemic injustice.
During her undergraduate studies, she was introduced to the detrimental impact of climate change and African studies. This led her to pursue fieldwork in East Africa around conservation and climate change as well as to gain experience with high level policy in Geneva, Switzerland. After graduating, she continued to learn about natural resources and conservation in the domestic context by working with the US Forest Service at Mt. St. Helens. Then, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin for two years with the most wonderful community leading youth programs at the local middle school.
She wanted to develop a critical lens of international development and continue to learn about justice related to environmental governance, so she then received her master’s at The Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies. Through her graduate studies, she had the opportunity to work with classmates from around the world and develop an understanding of political ecology. Her graduate thesis concluded that international interventions regarding climate change are useless without land rights for local and indigenous communities. As a result, she landed at her current job at the Rights and Resources Group where she works with African civil society to develop advocacy strategies to realize their collective land rights.
Overall, her professional experience has oscillated between working directly with communities, high level policy, and research. She believes both personal, interpersonal, and systemic transformation are essential to create a more empathetic and just society. When she's not at work, she enjoys interacting with her local community or dabbling in swing dancing, rock climbing, and board games.
Dr. Cecilia Xi Wang is an Assistant Professor in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. Her primary research interests lie in the overlap of design philosophy, user experience design, healthcare design, service design, visual communication design, and multi-disciplinary design. With the underlying of an increasingly complex and dynamic social and culture, we must rethink the value of design. The critical near-term challenge is understanding how better design thinking can help achieve an organic flow of experience in concrete situations, making such experiences more intelligent, meaningful, and sustainable.
Dr. Wang is interested in discovering how designers' ability to find new relationships among signs, things, actions, and thoughts take advantage of design thinking; the challenge is to reconsider and reconstruct the relationship between design research and practice. With her visual communication and user experience design and research experience, she feels well-placed to recognize how to exploit new design thinking philosophy and methods for ever more meaningful and valuable experience in concrete situations.
María Garzón Garzon Maceda is a political scientist focused on global security, disarmament and non-proliferation issues. She works for UNIDIR in Geneva and was previously a civil servant at the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Wearing her second hat, María sits on the Board of the NGO Just Innovate, has co-directed its flagship educational program on social innovation for graduate students, and facilitates design thinking sessions for practitioners.
Passionate about empowering youth, women and the global south, she is an active participant in several initiatives in the field. With substantive interdisciplinary training, María holds a master’s degree in International Affairs from the Graduate Institute in Geneva and graduated cum laude as a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Buenos Aires.
Learn about prior community partners and mentors
We are excited to partner with many inspiring organizations and mentors through the Global Leaders Program. Read about the amazing partners who are helping change our students lives and the world at-large.
The mission of Brasil+Saúde is to contribute to the elaboration and implementation of public policies around the subject of health, especially for patients with rare diseases and socially vulnerable populations. Through public campaigns and direct protection, including judicial, Brasil+Saúde understands that the public's right to healthcare must be guaranteed to every citizen as dictated by the Federal Constitution: health as an unlimited right and universal.
Champaign-Urbana Public Health District's mission is to improve the health, safety, and well-being of the community through prevention, education, collaboration, and regulation. They wish to build capacity of community members to hold and support each other in all of our diversity of challenges. They know that the needs are greatly outpacing the professional resources available. They research best practices for building community capacity to determine what the next steps could be to build capacity for the community, by the community in CU.
Immigrant Services of Champaign-Urbana helps immigrant families overcome their adversities and together build a future where their assets and talents fulfill their hopes and dreams. At this time, much of their work is with Guatemalan residents of the community. There is great variety in this community, as some members arrived in the area more than three decades ago; however, they most often work with more recent arrivals.
RefuSHE protects, educates, and empowers orphaned, unaccompanied, and separated refugee girls and young women to build healthier and more resilient futures for themselves and their children. RefuSHE was founded in 2008 to address the significant, unmet need for girl-focused refugee services in Nairobi. The organization recognized that the situation among the refugees is compounded for unaccompanied and separated young girls and women who are highly vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and at risk of sex and gender-based violence.
Juliana Bertolini is a Brazilian designer and Associate Professor of Design at Mackenzie University in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She holds a Master's in Education, Art, and History of Culture from the same University. Her work now is especially making connections between the academic environment and social impact design initiatives, using Design Thinking and Human-Centered Design as main tools to facilitate these challenges. She has been working since 2004 with NGOs and communities of artisans, co-creating new products and integrating design methodologies in their process. With her personal work in the field of fashion design, especially inspired by nature and manual techniques, she participated in several international exhibitions in France, Portugal, and Germany.
Shannon Johnson is an enthusiast of human rights, the environment, and cultural exchange. Her career has found its home at the intersection of environmental justice and international development. Fundamental values of service and community engagement were impressed upon her at a young age. Her professional experience has oscillated between working directly with communities, high level policy, and research. She believes both personal, interpersonal, and systemic transformation are essential to create a more empathetic and just society. When she's not at work, she enjoys interacting with her local community or dabbling in swing dancing, rock climbing, and board games.
Michelle Ngure is a learning experience designer who has contributed to the development of STEM curriculum in primary and secondary schools. Michelle believes that collaboration and creativity in problem-solving are not only a fundamental part of academic and entrepreneurial excellence but are also the building blocks of analytical and critical thinking. She has managed an afterschool STEM program serving over 700 marginalized youth in low-resourced schools at Global Minimum. In her role as East African Regional Manager, she established STEM learning centers in Kampala, Uganda and her hometown Nairobi, Kenya for STEM Cafe. She is a member of the International Development Innovation Network and currently holds the position of Project Lead at inHive where she works with local partners across the world to strengthen young people's access to strong networks and relatable role models.
Biliana Vassileva is a social innovation specialist, executive coach, and educator. She works with international organizations, multi-disciplinary startups, and individuals. Biliana helps them build trust to unleash their creative and courageous genius. As a result, they design and bring about brighter futures. Born in Bulgaria, raised in Iraq, and worked across Europe and South-East Asia, Biliana is a key player in the Swiss innovation ecosystem. In addition, Biliana is a professor of Managing Innovation and Innovation in Times of Uncertainty at the Geneva Business School. Visit her website: www.bilianav.com.