Global Consortium Earns Simon Spotlight Award

Posted: March 17, 2014 at 5:01 am, Last Updated: March 19, 2014 at 6:50 am

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By Sudha Kamath


Provost Peter Stearns addresses the first Global-Problem Solving Consortium. Creative Services photo

George Mason University has been named as one of only three recipients of the 2014 Senator Paul S. Simon Spotlight Award from NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Named for the late Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois, the award will be presented this fall in Washington, D.C., by the association formerly known as the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers.

The award recognizes institutions of higher education using innovative and creative approaches to a specific area of internationalization. George Mason University was recognized for the Global Problem-Solving Consortium (GPSC), created by Provost Peter Stearns, and led by the Office of Global and International Strategies to bring together students and faculty from around the world to study global problems.

The proposal for the Spotlight Award was created by  Susan Graziano, global grant coordinator; Madelyn Ross, global consortium and China initiatives director; and Rita Rowand, global relations specialist. “We felt the GPSC was a prime example of innovative, internationalized learning and perfectly suited for the Paul Simon Spotlight Award,” says Rowand. “As an active member of NAFSA, I am extraordinarily pleased that Mason can be recognized in this way.”

Mason also will be profiled in in the 2014 edition of Internationalizing the Campus: Profiles of Success at Colleges and Universities. This NAFSA report annually showcases the Simon Award winners’ outstanding and innovative work. NAFSA distributes this report widely to higher education institutions across the United States every year.

“We are proud to present NAFSA’s 2014 Simon Awards to these colleges and universities for their comprehensive commitment and remarkable achievements in bringing global education opportunities to their students,” says NAFSA executive director and CEO Marlene M. Johnson. “They are excellent models for how higher education across the country can and must innovate to prepare our students for the global economy we live in today.”

Mason’s GPSC is a worldwide network of eight universities from eight nations: Brazil, China, India, Kenya, Korea, Russia, Turkey and the United States. The consortium has three goals:

  • To improve levels of global awareness among students
  • To turn universities toward exploring and alleviating global problems
  • To provide greater opportunities for students to explore regional differences in approaches to global issues

Representatives from each institution were invited to Mason for a Global Problem-Solving Conference hosted by GO in spring 2012. Participants recognized their different perspectives could shed light on common problems, including water and food security, environmental and sustainability issues and regional conflict resolution.

Every year GPSC plans to hold a workshop for student fellows to examine global issues, rotating to each member institution. The first two-week workshop welcomed student fellows from international universities to Mason last summer, focused on water management and environmental sustainability. The next workshop on food security will be held this summer at the Higher School of Economics in Russia, followed by a workshop on conflict resolution next year at Istanbul Şehir University in Turkey.

GPSC members also are trying to develop internal programs to help their students’ global problem-solving knowledge and skills, and link them to GPSC goals.  Mason is developing the Global Problem-Solving Fellows Program for undergraduates. Nine fellows are taking a common set of courses, participating in special activities related to global problem-solving throughout the school year and are eligible to apply for a grant to be used for study abroad.

Mason also is producing a massive, open online course (MOOC), Confronting Global Challenges, which will be available to students at all eight consortium universities. The MOOC has four modules, each dealing with a specific global problem. Students from each consortium university have tested the modules, and plans are underway to expand the course with lectures from other consortium faculty around the world.

Write to Sudha Kamath at

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