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King University News :: King Honors Students Study Global Citizenship at Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria

A recent trip to beautiful and historic Salzburg was the culmination of three years of hard work and persistence for King’s Snider Honors class of 2013, the first to be eligible for the Honors Scholar Award subsidy to attend the Salzburg Global Seminar’s International Study Program (ISP). 

The 52nd ISP included a total of 30 students from King, Ferrum College, West Virginia Wesleyan, and Bennett College, the institution with whom King partnered in preparation for the study abroad experience.  Eleven King students participated:  Micah-Sage Bolden, Joshua Brunstad, Lisa Fahn, Courtney Haws, Claire Hesser, Sarah Houck, Benjamin King, Maggie Rust, Eden Sherrod, Alex Stophel, and Callie Todt. 

Bolden, a senior Political Science and History major at King said of his time in Austria, “The ISP in many ways was everything I expected, and yet beyond anything I could ever have imagined.”

The joint trip with Bennett, located in Greensboro, N.C., was a project that had been in the works for three years.  The idea for the combined effort originated with former Dean of Faculty Tracy Parkinson and administrators of Bennett.  Faculty from both schools met regularly for planning sessions, and then in the spring semester of 2012, they taught coordinated prep courses in advance of their May departure.  The students read the same books, discussed issues online, and met face-to-face during King’s visit to Greensboro in February.  While at Bennett, students engaged in thought-provoking conversations centered on the issue of race in America and more specifically the extent to which race forms one’s identity.  These topics would be integrated into their Salzburg ISP week. 

“Although the discussions on race, faith, and global citizenship were not always comfortable, in the long run our students were able to gain understanding and accord,” said Mark Dollar, director of the Snider Honors Program and professor of English at King.  “By the end of the trip, students had both a greater appreciation of one another as well as the knowledge that there are far more similarities than differences.”

The Salzburg Global Seminar was established by Austrian and American intellectuals after WWII and remains one of the world's foremost international, nonpartisan, educational organizations dedicated to the recognition and development of tomorrow's leaders.

The seminar’s week-long International Study Programs (ISP) for American undergraduates and faculty take place at the Schloss Leopoldskron palace, home to the seminar since 1947.  This 18th-century baroque castle, together with the adjacent Meierhof residence, offered the ISP students superb facilities including housing, meals in the schloss' magnificent Marble Hall, modern computer facilities, a historic library, a lecture hall, and seminar rooms. 

During their stay, students also experienced a day at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial outside of Munich, Germany.  When these same King students were freshmen, many toured the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum during their Experience D.C. trip, viewing powerful images of the atrocities committed during WWII.  Visiting Dachau brought them full circle, seeing first-hand the oldest concentration camp, where thousands of innocents suffered and perished. 

Poignantly, the late Dr. Jack Snider, for whom the Snider Honors Program is named, was a member of the Army’s XVIIIth Airborne Corps and helped liberate the Wöbbelin concentration camp, located about an hour away from Dachau. 

After the students visited Dachau, ISP program director Astrid Schröder spoke to the group about her own personal reactions to discovering her father had cooperated with the Nazis in WWII.  She also provided students with a unique perspective on her nation’s more recent past, as a student witnessing the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The Salzburg Global Seminar International Study Program maintains that, in an age of new international challenges and tensions, the need for Americans to understand international affairs, to recognize cultural values other than their own, and to view world events from a variety of perspectives, has become increasingly critical.

“The ultimate goal of the ISP is to get students to recognize themselves as member of a larger community, not just as Americans, or Southerners, or someone from a particular field of study, but rather to bring awareness to the students that their choices have an impact globally,” said Dollar. “Because our students had significant knowledge and experience as a result of the prep courses taught by both Bennett and King, the Seminar was able to provide a mix of topics on global citizenship, while including a much more narrowed and in-depth focus specific to the issues of faith, race, and gender our students had been studying.”

Each day, a different faculty expert from the Seminar addressed a new topic designed to enhance student awareness of and commitment to global citizenship and address America’s new position in the era of globalization.  These topics ranged from ethnocentrism, race, tech trends, economic sustainability, and the role of faith in social activism. 

“My favorite moments of the seminar by far were the profound conversations I shared with my fellow students and the faculty,” said Bolden.  “Not only did I discover kindred spirits that further inspired and developed my ideals and future plans, but I was also exposed for the first time to challenges that rarely transverse into my daily consciousness.  I have never before in my life had such weighty conversations that both influenced my way of thinking and helped me to understand the steps needed to confront these problems.”

“The sheer diversity represented by the faculty and staff was a wonderful addition to the topics discussed, and they provided valuable insights,” said Courtney Haws, a senior neuroscience major.  “I took away a great deal of knowledge and understanding simply from the conversations with the faculty and staff.”

Salzburg Seminar faculty member Najwa Gadaheldam of Sudan is a peace activist and industrial development officer at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Vienna, Austria.  During her lecture, she gave this advice to the students:  “Don’t think you can walk alone in this world and make a difference.”  The honors students from King who attended the ISP now have a much deeper understanding of this concept and move forward as global citizens with the knowledge there must be cooperation, communication, and a recognition that their decisions resonate globally.

The relationship between the Snider Honors Program and the Salzburg Global Seminar is happily continuing, as the King honors class of 2014 will be making their own way to Salzburg next May.  “This journey was one of those rare opportunities that students have to not only gain academic awareness of particular subjects but to couple that with actual experience,” said Dollar.  “King has been committed for many years to enabling our students and faculty to attend sessions of the Salzburg Global Seminar, but this latest trip represents a new era.  The experience truly helps fulfill the guiding charge of the Snider Honors program found in Matthew 10:16, that our students be as ‘wise as snakes and as innocent as doves’ in an increasingly complicated world.”