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The Global Leadership Center

Project Overview

A university center that aided students and organizations working on global social and political issues.

Identifying the Problem

While Sarmed was a student at University of Texas Austin, he helped organize the Act Local-Think Global conference on campus.  The conference was an opportunity for students who were interested in global issues and causes – such as HIV/AIDS and climate change – to meet with members of the university department, faculty members and student organizations that also focused on these issues.  The conference was a huge success, and those who attended wished the university offered more opportunities to assist students and student organizations that wanted to make a global impact.  There were many students at UT Austin who were interested in global issues but who did not have access to the necessary resources that would assist them with grant writing, funding, strategic planning and mentoring.  While some of those resources did in fact exist at the university, they were not well-advertised, such as the Arabic Flagship program that funded students' study of the language in Arabic-speaking countries.

Creating A Solution

Sarmed and the other organizers of the conference agreed that UT Austin students deserved to have access to the resources that would equip them with the necessary tools to become global citizens for change, so they decided to create the Global Leadership Center.  The Center offered four core services to students.  First, it identified the departments at the university that had a global focus, and then partnered with them to establish research scholarships for students.  Second, it created a forum that would allow student organizations to coordinate their activities.  Third, it developed a team of consultants to assist students with grant writing, fundraising and opportunities to pursue their interests.  Fourth, the Center committed to organizing the Act Local-Think Global conference every year.

It was very important to Sarmed and the other organizers that the Center attain a degree of legitimacy above and beyond that of a student organization.  The goal was to be a full-fledged university department, which the creators were able to achieve by convincing their student government to invest in the project.  Sarmed and his partners knew it was crucial to involve student leaders, student organizations, faculty, staff and alumni in the process of identifying what needed to be accomplished in order to attain the legitimacy and functionality of a university department.  They had several important goals, including ensuring that the Center would effectively address one of the university's critical needs, securing university funding and obtaining access to the university Listserv, which could allow the Center to reach 15,000 students within a moment's notice.  Once Sarmed and his partners achieved these goals, their focus turned to advertising.  They invited several high-profile individuals to speak at the Center, connected the Center with the Clinton Global Initiative University (which was held at the University of Texas the same year Sarmed’s project was being implemented), and announced the Center’s presence to the student body.

Lessons Learned

The biggest problem Sarmed faced was ensuring the Center's sustainability.  He and his partners created the Center during their final year at the university, so they knew that the Center’s survival would depend on people other than themselves.  In order to try and ensure that the Center would maintain its institutional knowledge, Sarmed and his partners housed the Center under the student government and selected and trained their replacements about four months before they graduated.  Unfortunately, the Center did not survive for very long after Sarmed and his partners graduated.  

Sarmed wishes he and his partners had put more thought and effort into ensuring the Center’s sustainability from the very beginning, such as by choosing replacements earlier in the process, and especially looking for replacements who were just beginning their studies at the university.  He acknowledges that for many university students who have big ideas for how to address certain problems on campus, the main goal is to develop a solution and figure out how to achieve it.  But students often neglect to consider how their project will continue to operate once they have left the university.  “I don’t think too many of us think about sustainability,” Sarmed says.

Funding

Sarmed and his team raised $25,000 for the Center, all of which came from on-campus fundraising.  Additionally, several different university departments, such as the Department of Middle Eastern Studies and the Department of South Asian studies, developed scholarship programs that provided funding for research, study abroad opportunities and internships that would provide learning experiences for students interested in global issues and causes.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Netherlands Netherlands 2008

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