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A World-Wide View of Global Studies

by Gene Bratek

In July of 1986, headmaster Eugene Bratek began his career at Providence Day School, where he remained until his retirement in 2007. He is credited with originating the Global Studies program, making PD the first school in the nation to offer a Global Studies Diploma. Here, he shares the origins of the Global Studies program in his own words:

One summer I received an invitation to attend a World View conference on the campus of the University of North Carolina. It was a weeklong gathering of mostly public school superintendents designed to encourage them to include more global oriented offerings in their curriculums. I believe I was the only non-public school leader in attendance. 

Each day we had lectures from distinguished professors from UNC and Duke speaking on various international topics on which they were experts. Since my undergraduate major was government and international relations I particularly enjoyed these classes. 

As our conference was nearing its conclusion, the World View Director, Robert Phay, informed us that before we left we were to submit our plan for making the curriculum at our schools more globally oriented. I dutifully completed this assignment and submitted it upon my departure for the journey back to Charlotte. I felt this was a pretty exciting opportunity to make a leap forward in the Providence Day program considering how events in other parts of the world were having a bigger and bigger impact on the lives of all of us in the United States. 

To be thoughtful citizens we would all need to have a better understanding of why people in different parts of the globe thought and acted the way they did. However, I was skeptical that this kind of initiative would be met with enthusiasm.

In September, our Board of Trustees had their annual retreat to plan the goals and objectives for the year. The Board Chair, Jim Thompson, asked me to speak to the Board after dinner on the first night addressing the idea of some new ideas for the school to pursue. There it was! This was the opportunity to present my plan for a Global Studies program for Providence Day School. 

I was quite surprised that the trustees expressed great enthusiasm for this idea and charged me with the responsibility to implement the program and keep them updated on our progress. Naturally, what I had was a couple of pages of hand-written ideas with a few specifics. 

At the next meeting of our Administrative Council, I explained to everyone about the board retreat and our mandate to put into place a Global Studies program. After a few questions, I could tell that the division heads were already buying in and thinking about what needed to be done to make this happen. As the action plan was being created, all agreed that this global focus should include all grades TK-12. Before long, (division heads) Ben Topham (of Upper School), Sam Caudill (of Middle School), and Lukie Rousseau (of Lower School) were enthusiastically fleshing out the details of an exciting new educational initiative.

For me, there were several features of the plan that I thought were unique. The first was the creation of a Global Studies Diploma for Upper School students. To earn this diploma students would need to fulfill course requirements that were in addition to the ones needed for the standard Providence Day diploma. There was also a foreign travel requirement. In addition, teachers could complete a Global Studies Certification by fulfilling certain requirements that included foreign travel.

It was our belief that the program we had created was far superior to the International Baccalaureate that several local schools had adopted. The IB was designed to qualify students for admission to European universities. 

Our Global Studies program was designed to inspire in our students knowledge and insight into world events and an understanding of why people in different parts of the world thought and acted the way they did.  

To hear Gene Bratek reminisce about his years leading PD, tune in at www.providenceday.org/podcast.

 

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