Start of a new relationship with Global Mentors


After an inaugural call for Global Mentors applications, the Office of Global Affairs has selected the first cohort of mentors who will work with University of Virginia faculty and students in the spring semester. 

The seven mentors come from across the world and work in arts, music, environment, refugee rights and health, among others.

Vice Provost for Global Affairs Steve Mull said while study abroad is one of the key ways for a student to have a global experience, bringing global leaders to Grounds is another important way to share those experiences.  “The mentors bring an on-the-ground experience to the events and stories unfolding around the world and encourage a deeper understanding of global issues,” he said.

These mentors will work with faculty and students across Grounds through the spring semester. The engagements include advising students, helping build innovative global classes, engaging with community and public lectures. With these activities, they hope to share their unique outlook and showcase varied approaches towards pressing global problems.

 “The Global Mentors provide an understanding that lives are intimately bound with each other; that there is wonder in building relationships across differences; that there are other viable and important ways of knowing and being in the world,” Cliff Maxwell, general manager for Global Grounds, a unit in Global Affairs that is leading the project said. He added that the mentors provide an opportunity for students (and faculty) that goes beyond the academic.

Phoebe Crisman, Director of Global Studies will work with architect and activist Jane Harrison and her nongovernmental organization - PITCHAfrica. Harrison’s design of Uaso Nyiro Primary School in Laikipia, Kenya received the U.S. Green Building Council’s “Greenest School on Earth” Award in 2013 and her work has been featured widely in scholarly journals and news publications. Harrison will spend time in classes, advise students and give a public lecture in the coming months. “Her work and projects are a global model of applied research and community engagement at the intersection of social justice, women’s education, school design, and the provision of clean water in underserved communities,” Crisman said. “It is an innovative way for our students to think and work on global sustainability challenges in the Global South.”

Noel Lobley, assistant professor in the Department of Music will have a curated series known as 'Lost Conversations' developed in partnership with The Black Power Station. There will be six open workshops for a dedicated cohort of about 15 students recruited from a series of loosely linked classes in music, global studies, drama, English and anthropology. “Xolile “X” Madinda is a recognized expert in community arts activism, Xhosa/ Indigenous Knowledge Systems in South Africa, as well as a poet, playwright, producer, festival organizer, and inter-generational educator,” he said. “We hope to learn more about ubuntu (humanity), collective organization, and inter-generational community building.” In addition, Madinda will also continue his links with The Rap Lab, Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, and other departments through class visits, pop-up events and performances.

Mull is hopeful that these experiences with global mentors will continue after the semester is over. “We would like to see UVA students continue to work with these Mentors by pursuing study abroad and global internship possibilities in the Mentors’ home communities,” he said. “More broadly, I expect all of our students to develop the kind of significantly enriched perspective on their fields of study that always come from global engagement.”

The other Global Mentors for this semester are:

  • Ajpub’ Pablo García Ixmatá: He is a Maya Tz’utujil scholar who researches medical knowledge in the Popol Wujis and is a part of a broader program of language revitalization and cultural activism in the Guatemalan highlands and diasporic K’iche’ communities in the US. He will be working with Allison Bigelow, Tom Scully Discovery Chair and associate professor of Spanish and her students.
  • Mandla Majola: He is founder and director of the Movement for Change and Social Justice, based in Gugulethu, Cape Town, South Africa. He will be working with Chris Colvin, associate professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences.
  • Dustina Gill, Nis’to, Inc: Nis’to is a Dakota-directed non-profit focused on creating conditions for the flourishing of Dakota youth on the Lake Traverse Reservation. In addition to working with David Edmunds, associate professor in Global Studies and his students, the group will also work with non-profits and organizations in the Charlottesville area to share stories of working with UVA and generate recommendations.
  • Abiol Lual Deng, myAgro: She is a South Sudanese American international relations expert working in humanitarian policy and government relations. Deng works across public and private sectors with the goal of moving farmers out of poverty in Senegal, Mali and Tanzania. An UVA Alumna, she will work with Karen James, associate professor in the Department of French and her students.
  • Seelai Karzai, Instructor, University of Oregon and Gazelle Samizay, Artist-in-resident in FORUM: They will work with Helena Zeweri, assistant professor in Global Studies to further develop a new course being offered in Spring 2021, called Migrant Women’s Political Activism: Global Perspectives.
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