Since its inception in 1856, the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur has been at the forefront of academic innovation for young women. Within its current Strategic Plan, the Academy is now embracing a robust international studies program through its Center for Global Leadership. Seven partnerships with “sister schools” in Asia, South America, and Canada provide Notre Dame middle and high school students with collaborative learning opportunities designed to prepare them to be informed, global citizens. In addition, the curriculum has added an emphasis on the concept of the global classroom and within that context, initiated a global scholars’ program.
Here, Dr. Judith A. Dwyer, President of the Academy, shares her thoughts.
Q: What is the Center for Global Leadership?
A: The Center realizes a key part of our Strategic Plan (2015-2020), which is rooted in our Catholic identity and the mission of the Academy to educate, empower, and inspire young women to be compassionate leaders in a global society. This mission also continues the legacy of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and their dedicated service throughout the world.
Q: Why is it important to the Academy to educate young women who are well versed in global issues?
A: We have the privilege of educating the next generation of leaders and I believe that it is our critical responsibility to impart to our students an understanding of the richness, diversity and complexity of our world. Through the study of multiple, interrelated disciplines and cultural immersion experiences, a student can come to appreciate the numerous factors that shape our world — economic, geographic, environmental and religious, to cite a few.
Q: What opportunities are available to students through the Center?
A: The opportunities are manifold. In addition to cultural exchanges, the Center provides our faculty and students with the opportunity for collaborative learning projects. For example, our sister school in Singapore will work with Notre Dame students in our Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship class this fall.
I am particularly pleased that Notre Dame has been awarded a grant from the prestigious Edward E. Ford Foundation to host an International Sisters in STEM Symposium in June 2020. The Symposium will bring together high school students and faculty from each of our seven sister schools to work with Notre Dame students on one of four tracks: design thinking and entrepreneurship, environmental science, robotics or participle physics and neutrinos. A special track for faculty will run parallel to the student teams. The Symposium will also showcase the Academy’s new Center for STEM Education as a dynamic learning hub that supports such innovative collaboration.
Q: What are the student exchanges?
A: Students travel to our affiliated schools for cultural exchanges but do so only after interdisciplinary academic work to prepare for their specific site. Students identify a topic to explore throughout the exchange, a focus that develops into a research paper or presentation for academic credit. Topics can range from the country’s 20th century art, to its geographical challenges, to its contemporary religious practices, to cite a few examples. Our sister schools also visit our campus, often stay with Notre Dame “host” families, participate in our classes and explore the rich historical and cultural heritage of the Philadelphia region.
Q: What impact does the Center have on students’ lives?
A: International experiences, through study or travel, can change one’s life. Fostering authentic friendships with talented young women throughout the world often highlights a deep, common human bond. Cultural differences are very real. The hard work of recognizing an international common good, however, can begin in simple ways—potentially though a Center for Global Leadership and its vibrant network of young women, eager to learn.