The Global Community Center at Lees-McRae College took on a new face last fall with the hire of director Scott Crawford. Crawford replaces previous director Robert Black and intern Justin Eads, who, along with Center founder and campus chaplain Kathy Campbell, shepherded the Global Community Center through the previous two years of rapid growth. The hire of Crawford as the Center’s first full-time director marks a commitment by Lees-McRae to further emphasize and develop its international programs.
“I’m fortunate to have inherited a wonderful situation,” Crawford notes after his first two months on the job. “Kathy, Robert and Justin have laid a strong foundation for developing global awareness on this campus. I look forward to building upon their success.”
A relative newcomer to North Carolina, Crawford has spent a lifetime amassing experience that will serve him well in his new position. Born and raised in Ohio, Crawford earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and his master’s in Global Education from Ohio State. He then traveled widely, living in New York, Washington, D.C., Colorado and Puerto Rico before landing for a decade in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he and his wife, Sabrina, founded the first high school on the island of St. John. Crawford headed the school for six years, growing it from 13 to 180 students, achieving accreditation, getting 100% of his graduates into college, and finally securing land and moving the school onto its permanent campus before he and Sabrina relocated to North Carolina last year.
Crawford looks forward to utilizing this experience to take the Global Community Center to the next level. “As the world shrinks, the development of a student’s global consciousness becomes all the more vital,” he says. “We must provide opportunities for our students to interact with other cultures, engage in dialogue about differing belief structures and world views, and discover the commonalities and challenges that unite us.”
To this end, Crawford hopes to expand on-campus programs focused on global issues and to increase study and service opportunities abroad. This latter goal comes with an additional challenge: finding sustainable funding sources, something he is no stranger to from his days on St. John. “To really make a difference, our study abroad opportunities must be available to all students,” he notes. “Not just to those who can afford it.” Already Crawford is working with the school’s Advancement Office to create a sustainable development plan for international programs.
Crawford has long been an advocate for global education, having developed a travel and service program for his school on St. John. “[Travel] was so vital there, because many of our students had never left the Caribbean,” he says. “There is something acutely satisfying about watching students react to new experiences: touching snow for the first time, or seeing their first highway interchange, or interacting in a meaningful way with someone from a completely different culture.”
Crawford sees a similar sense of urgency at Lees-McRae, where many students have not traveled widely beyond their home state. “It’s a big, exciting world with many challenges ahead,” Crawford notes. “I’m thrilled to be in a position to help students understand that, and then embrace it.”
To help do just that, the Global Community Center has sponsored many service-based trips in past years, with many more to come. Students have visited such countries as New Zealand, Guatemala, Mexico, India and Ireland. But Crawford does not plan on stopping there. Preparation for trips to Mexico (January 2009), the Southwest (March 2009), Fiji (January 2010) and Guatemala (January 2010) are already in full swing.
Just as important as the beauty of the location, Crawford has worked to ensure that students are able to be immersed in the culture and walk away with a better understanding of each particular region and people. One way in which this feat is accomplished is by having the students eat and sleep with the people they are learning about. This could mean staying in an International Studies Center, a rural village, a Navajo Reservation or the home of a local family, depending on the region.
Domestically, the Global Community Center is making huge strides in opening the eyes of the students as to the amount of cultural diversity found right here on the Lees-McRae campus. With over 25 different countries represented, Lees-McRae has become quite the global destination. The International Club (a club sponsored by the Global Community Center) aims to tap into this diversity to bring a spirit of vibrancy and cultural awareness to the mountains.
They are achieving this dream by hosting such events as “International Night,” in which students from a different country can bring an awareness of their culture to the campus. The club hosted its first “international night” of the year in September, celebrating Mexican Independence Day with an authentic flare. Abril Rodriguez, a freshman from Mexico, helped plan both the decorations and the menu for the fiesta, turning the McRae House lawn into a flag-filled plaza ready for a celebration.
Further plans include a two-phase joint project between International Club and the college administration, in which MacDonald Dining Hall will be receiving an international makeover in coming months. Phase One, that is already complete, will see the hanging of flags in the cafeteria for each country currently represented by a student or faculty member on campus.
Phase Two will be a contest to create a mural on the opposite wall depicting Lees-McRae’s new tagline—Dream, Dare, Achieve—in every language spoken on campus. Students will be allowed to submit designs, which will then be reviewed by a panel made up of members of the administration, International Club, and students and faculty from the art department. The winning design will then be painted on the wall. When completed, the new decor will be a wonderful reminder as students come and go at mealtimes that they truly inhabit a diverse world…right here in Banner Elk.
Service-based international trips, International Nights and campus-wide diversity awareness only show a minuscule portion of the overall impact of the Global Community Center. With Scott Crawford as the new director, the Global Community Center will be certain to continue to leave its mark on the students and faculty of Lees-McRae College.