Beyond the hyper-connectivity of our online lives, we are all tangibly impacted in countless ways by the quality and quantity of our human and institutional connections — the old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know, that counts” rings true. But for many first-generation college students, the struggle to understand the “whats” and to connect with the “whos” can be overwhelming.
Student success author, speaker and entrepreneur Carol J. Carter has been working to address this matter throughout her career. Having been a speaker in the Dominican Republic, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Kenya, China, Spain and Switzerland and a guest in more than 50 countries, Carter has developed a unique perspective on how institutions of learning, youth development and businesses can prepare students from all backgrounds and levels of learning to thrive in an increasingly complex modern world.
In 2014, Carter founded the nonprofit GlobalMindED in order to to bring leaders in education, government, business and social enterprise together to improve access and equity for promising first-generation students seeking educational and professional opportunities, both nationally and globally.
In June of 2019, I attended GlobalMindED’s annual conference in Denver, Colorado, USA. As I entered, I was surrounded by a sea of changemakers from around the world. More than 1,000 attendees from 39 states and 11 countries came to eagerly participate in what felt like an elaborate global family reunion. CEO’s, government officials and educational leaders rubbed shoulders with teenagers and first-gen college students — all there for the common purpose of creating meaningful connections, in-person.
On “What You Know”
For Dr. Yvette Jackson, winner of the 2019 GlobalMindED Inclusive Excellence Award for K-12 education, “what you know” goes well beyond information. Jackson has combined her years of research in neuroscience, cognition and mindfulness with a career in education to ensure students know themselves first. “When you believe in [students] and push them to the frontier of their intelligence, starting with their strengths, you give them the opportunity to use them,” Jackson explains. “We were born to discover our strengths and then use them for our own self-actualization.”
Jackson urges us to value and leverage our culture without allowing it to create unnecessary division. “Where does culture play in? It’s about whatever is meaningful and relevant to you. It’s anything that God did not make,” Jackson says. “Culture is always a strength because it frames how you make meaning of the world. [And, yet why] do we strip down everyone’s culture and think about the grey matter? Because that’s where we can find the commonalities and the intercultural aspects that lead us towards empathy. Once you are strong in this piece, then you can look at diversity from a strengths perspective.”
In agreement with this perspective was conference presenter Bethlehem Gronneberg, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of uCodeGirl, a nonprofit designed to inspire, engage and equip teen girls, so they can confidently choose to forge a pathway to technology careers and engineer their world. As a female software engineer in an often male-dominated field (and as an immigrant from Ethiopia living in Fargo, North Dakota, USA), Gronneberg has learned to lean into her differences. “Knowing your unique strengths and identity can become your unfair advantage,” she shares.
Through uCodeGirl, Gronneberg is able to help girls from various backgrounds find common connections. “Coding is a common language that we can use to solve our problems,” she says. “[At uCodeGirl], we are all nerds together and have this in common, despite our differences.” Gronneberg is dedicated to seeing a world where the people who create technology more closely mirror the people who use it.
On “Who You Know”
“My father always said, it’s not about what you ate, but about who you ate it with. That’s the community that builds and shapes you,” shares panel moderator Dr. Oscar Kenya Radoli, an IT Project Manager at Carnegie Mellon University and co-founder of Mawalking Radio, a company that develops, produces and presents digital media content to a global audience.
Radoli, like many throughout the GlobalMindED community, stressed the importance of making room at the table for those who may not otherwise be there, or in some cases, setting a new table.
Saadia Muzaffar, founder of TechGirls Canada and co-founder of Tech Reset Canada shared, “Inclusion implies a power dynamic. Someone in power owns a domain to which someone else must be invited.” She asks of the audience, “Are you willing to risk your social capital to lift someone else and allow for their full potential?”
It’s this call to bravery that seems to be part of the GlobalMindED culture. The organization is focused now on their “Bold Goal.” By 2025, they want to algorithmically connect 25 million first gen high school and college grads, those who work with them and those who want to hire them to be role models, mentors, interns and employees. Using the power of our hyper-connected digital age, coupled with the human connections forged through their organization, this goal is well within reach.
Unlike many other professional associations, GlobalMindED ignores traditional silos, and instead, works across sectors to reveal the “hidden curriculum” many students need in order to be successful. Session topics included gender diversity, social/emotional resilience, climate justice, inclusive leadership, Blockchain application, global classrooms, bias awareness and impact investing. There is something for anyone who values education.
In more than 20 years of attending professional events, I can honestly say this was one of the most purposeful, impactful and impressive conferences I have ever attended. The next GlobalMindED conference will be held in Denver, Colorado, USA June 6-8, 2020. For more information, visit www.GlobalMindED.org.