International Studies & Programs

Global Meets Local: A Summer of International Connections and Community Building at VIPP

VIPP's 2023 summer programs connected 100 students from all around the world

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Published: Monday, 28 Aug 2023 Author: Teresa Svec, Visiting International Professional Program

Student leaders from 17 European countries, German Fulbright students, young African leaders, and international university students from Asia. What do all these groups have in common? They were all hosted at MSU by the Visiting International Professional Program this summer. Between the four summer programs- SUSI, the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the German Fulbright Summer Institute, and the Global Summer School, VIPP hosted over 100 students and fellows from four continents, including 13 MSU students who helped with the programs as cultural ambassadors. There are, of course, other common threads that weave through these diverse groups of students: a passion for learning, community building, personal growth, and cultural exchange. Throughout the summer they came together in unique ways to enrich each other’s experiences.

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A Summer of Civic Engagement: “Global is Local”

The Study of the U.S. Institute on Civic Engagement (SUSI), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State brings student leaders from all across Europe to the U.S. for a five-week intensive program to study how citizens have shaped U.S. history through community organizing and social movements. Beyond the classroom, the SUSI students participated in community life here at MSU and Lansing through volunteer work, cultural activities, and site visits. As part of their program, they engaged in community service at the Cristo Rey Community Center and the Refugee Development Center. They learned about civics in the U.S. through sessions at the Michigansusi c.jpeg Hall of Justice and the MSU Law Immigration Clinic, and got a glimpse of what life is like for Americans with visits to local host families who showed them highlights of Mid-Michigan. As a culmination of their program at MSU, the students senna.jpgpresented their own innovative action plans (CAPs) aimed at fostering engaged citizenship in their home communities. The CAPs topics covered a wide range of issues including voter turnout, climate change, cultural preservation, and youth empowerment. A recurring theme throughout the program was “what’s global will be local," and the students' CAPs demonstrated just how true that is.

mandela.jpegThe SUSI students also had the opportunity to learn from their counterparts in the Mandela Washington Fellowship, another impressive group of young civic engagement leaders on MSU's campus this summer. The fellowship empowers young African leaders through academics, leadership training, mentoring, networking, and local community engagement. The 25 Mandela Washington Fellows are actively working on initiatives in their home countries related to a variety of crucial issues facing their communities such as climate change and food scarcity, gender discrimination, education and professional development needs, mental health awareness, and institution-building in difficult political environments. “Ignite Talks," a conference hosted by MSU was an opportunity for the fellows to present about these issues and their active civic engagement efforts to address them, and was an inspiring and powerful reminder of the impact of community building.

Creative Innovators and Engaged Entrepreneurs

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Another VIPP summer program, the German Fulbright Summer Institute brought 30 German university students to MSU for a three-week exchange to experience academic life in an American university, with a focus on intercultural communication and creative entrepreneurship. The institute students were joined by international university students in the VIPP Global Summer School, which returned to on-campus programing for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The summer school students hailed from Taiwan, Indonesia, and South Korea, and together with the German students and the American cultural ambassadors, a collaborative and culturally enriching cohort was created. Students from the two programs became classmates in Creative Entrepreneurship and Innovation, led by MSU Professor Ross Chowles, which introduces students to the entrepreneurial mindset and creative thinking strategies. With a focus on socially conscious entrepreneurship, some highlights of the program included a panel discussion by automotive executives, a visit to the world-leading Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), and high level entrepreneur guest speakers such as Faris Alami, David Baldwin, and Nancy Vonk.

There was of course time for fun and experiencing the beauty of Pure Michigan in the summertime with trips to Saugatuck, Detroit, the Ann Arbor Art Festival, Frankenmuth, and a Lansing Lugnuts baseball game. The students also had the opportunity to combine entrepreneurship with community building when returning to the Lugnuts stadium, this time to create projects to help promote the Lansing Lugnuts. Each team, named after a Michigan destination, developed a video pitch to help the Lugnuts in creative ways. As the Fulbright Institute came to a close, the Global niagara.jpgSummer School students headed off on one more adventure: a trip to the East Coast, including Niagara Falls, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

Throughout the summer the students learned about each other and themselves through the exploration of 2023-08-04 15.44.27.jpgculture, community building, and common goals. They left a lasting mark at MSU and in Lansing, creating their own community while enhancing ours. It was inspiring to observe how the students approached their experiences with open hearts and minds, a willingness to learn from one another despite different backgrounds, and how quickly they developed a strong connection with their peers, the local community, and Michigan State University, knowing that we are all connected because "what’s global is local."

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