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Global Education Helps Shape Women Leaders at The Ursuline School

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With sister schools in countries across the United States and the world, The Ursuline School in New Rochelle, an all-girls 6-12 grade independent Catholic, college preparatory school, has a ready-made network of partners to provide students with a global perspective that enriches their studies and adds to their understanding of world issues.

The school’s Global Education & Serviam Program is in keeping with the Ursuline mission of respect for other cultures. Through travel abroad, language immersion and exchanges with other Ursuline schools, students gain invaluable life-defining experiences and have a head start at becoming global leaders of the future.

For example, 42 members of the school’s Honors Choir traveled to Italy in February of 2020, where they sang at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, as well as visited an ancient amphitheater in Pompei along with other cultural sites.

“We sang for the Ursuline Sisters and at a Mass at St. Peter’s. We also got to attend one of the Papal audiences,” said senior Mary Wrotniak. “It was an amazing experience.’’

Mary said that as a freshman she traveled to Australia for an exchange with St. Ursula’s College in Toowoomba. “Even though we lived so far away from each other. We had so many similarities,’’ she said of the student she was paired with. “I was nervous at first, but once I met her it was comforting to know that we were just two girls trying to get through our teen-age years.’’

Students like Mary who want to delve deeper into the global experience can continue their studies by becoming Global Scholars, completing their experience with a capstone project.

“I had to do a lot of independent work, writing reflections and independent research, which helped me in my normal course work,’’ said Mary, who is completing her capstone project on global food waste and food loss in India and Australia and how that impacts food scarcity.

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has sidelined trips abroad for the girls this year they continue with virtual foreign exchanges. Upper-level Spanish classes are planning a virtual exchange in March with the Colegio Santa Ursula in Santiago, Chile and the students are participating in global student dialogues through Global Education Benchmark Group; Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center; Junior Council on World Affairs; and Working Group on Girls, a partnership with the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Junior Hanah Ciccarelli who will be a student facilitator at the Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center’s virtual student conference also in March said recent discussions on the Holocaust with students at sister school Brescia House School in Johannesburg, South Africa, helped put things in perspective for her.

Hanah said students discussed the Middle East conflict as part of a Global Scholars seminar where they looked at current events in the context of history. She said students there had very little exposure to Jewish families and that she was able to share some of her experiences, while they shared some of their experiences on apartheid which shaped their perceptions.

“We were talking about Judaism and antisemitism and I learned that they do not have many Jewish people in their community. They were intrigued to learn that we did, and to share their perspective with us as well.”

Maria Barton, Director of Global Education at The Ursuline School, said the program is unique because it not only broadens horizons, but inspires girls to take action to improve the world around them.

“At Ursuline, Global Education is not just about where you go in the world. We develop global citizens by teaching our students the competencies needed to broaden their cultural perspectives and to understand that the world’s issues are our shared issues. With this deeper understanding of the world, combined with our mission of Serviam (I will serve), Ursuline students are inspired to take action on world issues of importance that matter most to them,” said Ms. Barton.

The Ursuline School prepares girls to be leaders in other disciplines as well. A major focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) works to prepare girls for careers in science and technology and increase representation of women in those fields.

With its laser printers, 2,070 square-foot “makerspace” and collaborative areas, the school’s new Innovation Hub boasts all the tools that students need to learn robotics, engineering and computer science. A dedicated STEAM educator works with girls on projects using 3D printers, pens and scanners, laser and vinyl cutters, as well as app enabled robots.

In partnership with Manhattanville College’s Center for Design Thinking, 7th-grade students will participate in a three-day workshop on Design Thinking with the center’s director Alison Carson. The exercise will work with students to problem solve, using the design thinking method of empathetic research.

“At Ursuline, our mission is not simply to send young women out into the world prepared for what they will find. We send them forth with passion and knowledge to embrace and enhance what is good, and to change what they find that is wrong,” said School Principal Rosemary Beirne.

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