My Story

My perspective was shaped in part by growing up in Miami, Florida of the 1970s and 80s: Doing the hustle, dressing like Annie Hall, and roaming the aisles of Dadeland Mall. Playing marbles on the vinyl floor and “Philadelphia Freedom” on the radio. My maternal grandfather came to Miami Beach in 1921, both parents graduated from Beach High in 1960, and I completed my K-12 Dade County Public Schools education in 1984. My childhood was benchmarked by regular servings of bagels and cream cheese at home and delicious “Aha!” experiences at school–food for the body and mind for which I’ve never lost my craving.

As a student I seldom travelled and never studied abroad. TVs had three channels and libraries had card catalogues. But my teachers used our local diversity and the limited information at hand to teach me basic tenets of a global mindset. I learned that the world is more complex than meets the eye. That people are more complex than meet the eye. And that the process of looking for interconnections amongst different people, places, and perspectives will lead me to new knowledge about myself, others, the problems we face, and the solutions we can make together.

When we share our stories, we are reminded of the humanity in each other. And when we take the time to understand each other’s stories, we become more forgiving, more empathetic, and more inclusive.

Michelle Obama

The first book I remember reading aloud was The Little Engine That Could. Over the years I’ve developed a passion for being part of the beginnings of big things, collaborating with others to make something special  out of nothing. As a conservatory member I got to make plays with Obie-Award winning director Anne Bogart during her avant-garde first (and only) season at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI. I was a rookie teacher at Fern Ridge Middle School in Elmira, OR, when we developed the “High Five” program, a national model for positive behavioral intervention. I was Miami’s founding volunteer director of DetermiNation, the American Cancer Society’s fundraising program for distance athletes.

Fast forward to 2008 when I was asked to help develop and direct FIU’s university-wide Global Learning for Global Citizenship initiative. My proudest achievements in this work–which many describe as putting the “I” in FIU–are those that lead to positive ripple effects of which I’ll never fully know. I’ve worked with 700+ faculty to infuse global learning into 225+ courses across the undergraduate curriculum. I’ve developed two rubrics used around the world to expand students’ global awareness and perspective. And I initiated a university-wide Collaborative Online International Learning program that uses technology to help faculty and students produce and exchange knowledge across borders. I am now providing students with the global education I enjoyed growing up. In coordination with so many other colleagues’ efforts, we are graduating tens of thousands of FIU students with a global mindset–citizens of Miami and the world empowered with tools of empathy, inclusivity, perspective taking, and collaborative global problem solving.

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