In October of 2011, the St. Mark's Board of Trustees presented a Strategic Plan for the future. It focused on three major goals—increasing STEM opportunities, advancing global education, and creating a Center for innovation in teaching and learning—resolving to achieve these goals within a decade. The plan was called St. Mark's 2020.
Here it is, now 2020, and those goals have been accomplished. The Center was formally opened in 2013 and has continued its excellent work in a wide range of academic and supporting areas. An advanced STEM Research Fellowship program was successfully begun in the fall of 2012 followed by the dedication of the new STEM building in 2015. But an equally profound and perhaps more far-reaching impact came with the establishment of the Global Citizenship Initiative which evolved and expanded to become St. Mark's acclaimed Global Citizenship program.
Under the direction of Dr. Laura Appell-Warren (pictured here) and facilitated by the efforts of alumnus Bruce Wilson '54, the School developed a collaborative relationship with the Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria. Over the past eight years, a number of St. Mark's faculty have traveled to Salzburg to take part in programs there. In July of 2014, more than sixty participants from eleven different schools spanning three continents came together on the Southborough campus for the first-ever St. Mark's-Salzburg Global Citizenship Institute. The seven day program, featuring presentations, collaborative groups, workshops, and open discussions, and began an annual summer tradition at St. Mark's. Expanded opportunities for student and faculty travel (including an immersive Lions' Roam component to Lion Term each spring), the redesigning of the mandatory III Form Seminar course to focus on global issues, new and renewed relationships with a number of partner schools internationally resulting in a more robust program of student exchanges (now on every continent excepting Antarctica), and this past year the successful implementation of a Global Diploma offering for , students interested in advanced global learning, all exemplify the success of Global Citizenship at St. Mark's.
It is, however, a very different summer at St. Mark's in 2020. There was no Lions' Roam in May. The campus is now quiet, practically empty, and for the first time in seven years, there is no Global Citizenship Institute. Likewise, there are no international travel opportunities for members of the St. Mark's community. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought it all to a halt.
Still, the mission of the School's Global Citizenship Program remains: to help St. Mark's students see and appreciate the distinctive features and the beauty that exist in the variety of cultures of the world, to appreciate the human universals that make all people more similar than different, and to inspire students, through both curricular and extracurricular offerings, to be engaged global citizens. St. Mark's School believes that global education is a critical component of a 21st century education, particularly because of its emphasis on perspective taking and empathy.
In response to current events—not just to COVID-19, but to the increased awareness of systemic racism and a powerful petition from St. Mark's student leaders— the Global Citizenship program is adapting to meet these challenges and address these issues.
Plans are underway to shift in-person exchanges to virtual exchanges. For example, Dr. Warren is in discussion with St. Mark's newest partner school in India about having their faculty teach mindfulness as part of the exchange, something that was already on the agenda had the exchange been in person. More specific details will be worked out in August and September. The program's web presence will be updated and a website created specifically to enable international exchanges for students and faculty. Anticipating the possibility of travel being possible by the spring of 2020, "glocal" options (areas were global issues are present within the United States) are also being researched.
The St. Mark's Global Seminar and its Advanced Studies in Global Citizenship curriculum are being updated as well to address student concerns, with the intention of becoming more clearly anti-racist. The current curriculum focuses on the concept of cultural relativism, which Ibram Kendi, author of How to be an Anti-Racist, describes as the equivalent of anti-racism, but more can and certainly will be done in this area. Dr. Warren recommends this article, "Global Education's Anti-Racist Imperative" (from the Global Education Benchmark Group) as an exemplar of the ways in which the St. Mark's Global Citizenship program can help with anti-racist work.
"While the challenges we are facing as a global program because of COVID-19 are at times overwhelming," says Dr. Warren, "we continue to be committed to the value and importance of a global education for all of our St. Marker's. I am heartened by the work of the global office team to find ways to meet our objectives and to create alternative ways for our students to engage with our partner schools in 2020-2021. It will be an exciting and productive year for global at St. Mark's."
In a changing world, St. Mark's continues to model the spirit of Age Quod Agis, adapting its programs to meet the responsibilities inherent in that change, ever committed to engaging all members of the School community with opportunities to exemplify leadership and service as the best global citizens they can be.