Heaven Brown, who earned her Associate of Arts degree from Gaston College on Friday, May 11, completed all the requirements of the College’s Scholars of Global Distinction initiative. Building friendships within diverse communities in Gaston County inspired Brown’s interest in global issues and cultural diversity and prompted her involvement with the Gaston College Scholars of Global Distinction (GCSGD) initiative.
The GCSGD initiative is part of the NC Global Distinction program, a collaboration between North Carolina community colleges and UNC at Chapel Hill to globalize the curriculum and increase faculty and student involvement in global issues, activities, and dialogue. The Global Imprints team at Gaston College coordinates the initiative. The team comprises faculty and staff members who are committed to creating opportunities that build and enhance global awareness, inspire cultural competence, stimulate personal ethical growth, and deepen intellectual inquiry at the College as well as in the larger community. More than 20 students currently are participating in the initiative.
Brown, 20, grew up in Dallas, North Carolina. “I had been unaware of all the diverse cultures in this area,” said Brown, “and of the many hardships, they often encounter. My interest in global issues and cultural diversity blossomed as I began to seek out more information about these communities in America and worldwide. I am a strong believer that becoming aware of people’s situations is the first step in helping them, so as to create solutions and raise awareness.” When she learned about the GCSGD initiative and attended some of the multicultural programs on campus, she decided she wanted to participate.
Although the Scholars of Global Distinction initiative usually takes two years to complete, Brown was determined to complete it within her remaining time at Gaston College and she fulfilled all the requirements of the initiative in just eight months. She took more than 15 credit hours of courses with a global component, such as World Religions, Sociology, and World Civilizations. To meet the other requirements of the initiative, Brown attended eight international activities and dialogue events hosted by various organizations within Gaston College and wrote reflection essays highlighting the most important aspects of the events and how they increased her global competency.
The initiative also requires that its participants study abroad or complete 30 hours of a domestic intercultural experience project. Brown chose to volunteer with refugee youth through the Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte (CCDC). She intends to continue volunteering with CCDC after graduating from Gaston College and may pursue her bachelor’s degree in International Studies. “Having completed the Scholars of Global Distinction initiative,” she said, “I have recognized my desire to help people and have discovered my interest in global issues. Working with ‘my girls’ at CCDC opened my eyes to all the privileges I have enjoyed. Dedicating myself to a life of service will make me feel worthy of those privileges.”
“As Heaven’s advisor for the Scholars of Global Distinction initiative, it has been heartwarming to see her become more understanding, compassionate, and empathetic of people of other cultures,” said Deborah Neuman, Instructor of Foreign Language. “Her zeal to reach out to immigrants has been especially obvious in her service-learning project through the Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte.”
Along with Neuman, Brian Bookout, Instructor of History and Sociology and Chair of the Global Imprints Team, worked closely with Brown as she participated in the GCSGD initiative. “I have also nominated Heaven for the Associate in Arts Outstanding Student Award,” he said. “Heaven is an outstanding student and those who have taught her have witnessed a massive change in her outlook on life and people. She now feels service to others is her calling and is planning on majoring in International Studies. She worked tirelessly to complete the GCSGD initiative requirements, which are substantial, in eight months rather than the usual two years. At every presentation she made, she stood out in the discussions for her comments and insight which always had the capacity to inspire further discussion.”
On April 26, Brown embarked on her first international trip—a visit to Italy. “This amazing opportunity to travel abroad came from a sales competition my mother won,” Brown said. “We are lucky enough to have a guide who is a native of Italy, and our group will be visiting a vast array of locations, including medieval hilltop cities, ancient towns, and many popular tourist sites. Ten days of food, history, and art await us, and I cannot fully express my excitement!”
Gaston College Alumni Profile:
Gaston College provides opportunities for students of all backgrounds to achieve their educational and career goals. The Gaston College Foundation wants to hear your story and share it with fellow alumni, students, and the Gaston College Family. We want everyone to know about our great alumni. To share your story, please click here.