Hundreds of Brenau University students, faculty and staff gathered on the historic Gainesville campus Thursday, Sept. 8, to celebrate the Miller Institute for Global Education and the international efforts in motion. Brenau’s fall formal convocation is held at the beginning of each academic year.
Longtime Brenau trustee Pete Miller, whose donation funded the creation of the institute earlier this year, spoke about the importance of global understanding during closing remarks in Pearce Auditorium.
“No matter what your chosen profession, a global environment will have an impact on your aspirations,” he said. “This requires us to be inquisitive, constructively challenge what may be perceived as the norm, to take the time and effort to listen to the other side, understand and validate the views of others, particularly those who did not share your perspective. And it requires us all to put aside our biases and our cultural misconceptions. The fact that we’re going to do so requires a desire, requires skill, and requires knowledge.”
An estate gift by Miller and his wife, Cathy, led to the establishment of the Miller Institute for Global Education in February 2022. The Millers have been supporting Brenau’s international and globalization efforts since 2006 through an endowment that has allowed about 250 Brenau students to travel for international experiences.
Executive Director Rosi Ponce said the institute’s goals are to facilitate global education opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students and develop programs that benefit the university’s diverse student population.
“We are all familiar with the phrase that originated from an African proverb, ‘it takes a village,’” Ponce said. “In our case, it takes a global village to help us reach our destination, because from Brenau, we can.”
Four students visited Panama this summer as global ambassadors and were recognized at the convocation: Keren Kapwadi, WC ‘22, senior Annabeth Vandiver, junior Sarah Nolan, and sophomore Imani Tornes. Each one spoke about her experience traveling abroad.
“We went to Panama with the intention of leaving impacts, to let the students know that there were no limitations to their dreams and to follow their hearts no matter what path they chose,” Tornes said. “But they taught me the most important and valuable lesson: I should never forget why I’m here at Brenau pursuing higher education and where I want to go on this journey called life.”
The institute also supports Brenau’s institutional goal to foster a culture of inclusion and belonging through increasing global awareness, diversifying the student population, and creating an inclusive and intercultural campus community. Globalization efforts include the two cohorts of Panamanian students attending Brenau through a partnership with IFARHU, Panama’s financial aid agency, that brings students to the historic Gainesville campus each year for a five-year program.
The Miller Institute also will co-sponsor the GOLD Speaker Series talk later this month featuring former Vice Minister of Environment for Costa Rica Pamela Castillo Barahona. This year’s GOLD program focuses on the diversity theme. Barahona’s talk about unlocking the unseen power within will take place at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, in Hosch Theatre.