Iacooca Global Village has been welcoming students from 140 represented countries to Lehigh's campus since 1997. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has moved the program online, leaving students to participate remotely from their home countries. (Courtesy of Wagner Previato)

Iacocca Global Village teams up with The Brown and White


Lehigh University prides itself on providing its students with a global perspective. Offering flourishing international relations and global studies programs, diverse study abroad options and even a partnership with the United Nations, Lehigh grants students the chance to go out and experience the world firsthand.

Yet, what many students don’t know is that access to the wonders of the world already exists on campus, and it has for 25 years.

Since its first summer on campus in 1997, the Iacocca Institute’s Global Village program has brought groups of international students and professionals to Lehigh’s campus for five weeks each summer.

During this time, the “villagers” are granted the opportunity to learn about different cultures, establish long-lasting connections and even use their combined skill sets to work with international companies from various industries. Today, the Global Village’s alumni network comprises over 2,250 members and 140 countries.

Despite both its long-standing history on campus and growing alumni base, the program is considered one of Lehigh’s “best-kept secrets” by the Institute team, a secret that The Brown and White intends to share.

As the first act of its partnership with the Global Village, The Brown and White has launched a Global Diversity beat, a new section of the publication dedicated to highlighting the program and its accomplishments.

The idea for the partnership was initially conceived by Wagner Previato, the Iacocca Institute’s program manager for partnerships and recruiting, and Kira Mendez, the Institute’s director. Both Previato and Mendez said they wanted the Lehigh community to know more about the program, particularly its participants.

Mendez believes the program’s external focus contributes to its lack of awareness on campus. She hopes the partnership with the newspaper will present both the Global Village and the Lehigh community with the chance to develop new connections and experiences.

“One of our challenges is that we play so much out in the world that it’s harder for us to be visible and connect to the communities on campus, especially during the academic year,” Mendez said. “We would like everybody in the Lehigh community and in the Lehigh Valley to connect to this amazing network, and the fact that we bring the world to Lehigh every year. If we can get people excited about this and collaborate on new ideas for how to connect the program and its network, it could be an opportunity for new values, programs, and relationships.”

The partnership hopes to explore multimedia formats including a “Keeping it Global” Instagram account, traditional feature articles, conversations for the beat’s “Keeping it Global” podcast, and a video interview named “The Brown and White’s 23 Questions,” which is modeled after Vogue’s “73 Questions.”

The “Keeping it Global” podcast can be found on the Keeping it Global Spotify account, and “Brown and White’s 23 Questions” video series can be found on the Brown and White’s YouTube channel. All of the content will be linked and kept on the Global Diversity homepage on the Brown and White’s website, with important links also found on this page.

This year, the Global Village program is hosting 50 participants from over 30 countries, with at least 20 more Villagers joining before the summer. Although the program is typically conducted on campus, the COVID-19 pandemic has moved the village online, leaving Villagers to participate remotely from their home countries. However, villagers are hopeful when it comes to living on Lehigh’s campus next year. 

“If COVID allows, fingers crossed, I will be very glad to finally experience U.S. campus life, meet new people, and not sit at home on Zoom,” Aknur Berdigulova, Global Villager from Kazakhstan, said.  

While Mendez and Previato hope to bring the Villagers to campus soon, Mendez said that the coordinators plan to integrate elements of the virtual village into the upcoming school year to promote more interaction between the program and the Lehigh community.

For now, Previato said that the partnership with the Brown and White and the beat presents a “great opportunity for collaboration.” He noted how the two groups can work together not only to bring students’ attention to the program, but also to share the honest and interesting aspects of the participants’ cultures and lives.

“The Iacocca Global Village is a very distinct program at Lehigh, and the Brown and White has a wonderful group of students that could take advantage of discussing news from around the world, but even more than news: life,” Previato said.

While Previato said that one of his goals for the beat is to show the participant’s unique backgrounds, he also hopes to highlight the similarities that they share with members of the Lehigh community.

“The message we’re trying to get across is that we have these wonderful people from around the globe coming to Lehigh every year to be part of the Iacocca Global Village,” Previato said. “They are smart and dedicated and they come here to share, teach, support and learn from each other. There’s a wonderful world to explore that goes beyond overly-hyped beaches and traditional tourism. I hope that all of us, Villagers, students, faculty and staff continue to get to know each other, share our cultures and make lifelong friends from all over the world.”

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