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Global Citizens and Next Generation ‘Mr. Fix-Its’

The newest interdisciplinary center, the Melrose Center for Global Civic Engagement, is where students can not only carry on the legacy of an advocate for global citizenship but also develop into socially responsible citizens.

By encouraging students to apply what they learn to build a more peaceful, just and sustainable world, the center honors the legacy of a beloved professor, mentor and friend. The late Professor and Ambassador-in-Residence Joseph Melrose Jr. ’66 spent 33 years in foreign service and was U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone, where he brokered a peace treaty to end that country’s civil war. He was a representative to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and a senior area adviser to the U.S. Delegation to the 61st, 62nd and 63rd U.N. General Assemblies, among other achievements. The media referred to him as “Mr. Fix-It,” for his diplomacy in difficult situations.

Fulfilling a Dream

One of his former students, Carolyn Smith Strainic ’11, believes the center could “fulfill Joe’s dream of Ursinus students becoming the next generation of ‘Mr. Fix-Its’ for the world’s problems.” Strainic is now working in the State Department, in the same section Melrose once led, where she is an adviser for the Permanent Mission to the U.N.

“Joe always believed in the practical application of what we discussed in class,” she says. “And he rarely, if ever, contradicted a student’s views. Instead, he challenged them. He asked them why.”

In that spirit, the center will bring speakers to campus to share their knowledge and global perspectives on current events, and will expand opportunities for global internships and travel. “The Melrose Center gives Ursinus the opportunity to carry on Ambassador Melrose’s legacy by providing students with real-world experiences and insights,” said center Co-Director and Associate Director of Politics Rebecca Evans. “It continues his commitment to both local and global engagement, giving students an opportunity to bridge classroom learning with a hands-on commitment to community development, close to home and around the world.”

In November, the center hosted its inaugural conference, Building Peace in Post-conflict Societies: Looking Back in Order to Look Forward, on how to build lasting peace in countries that have suffered violent conflicts that devastated economic, political and societal structures.

Melrose Fellows

This spring, the center directors—faculty members Matt Mizenko and Christian Rice ’98, in addition to Evans—will select up to 12 students as the inaugural cohort of Melrose Fellows, student-scholars dedicated to global and civic engagement, interdisciplinary and experiential learning and collaborative work. In their sophomore year, Melrose Fellows will focus on a specific contemporary issue and then travel as a group to explore the global implications of their chosen theme. This may include coursework, for example, on environmental issues followed by a trip to Ecuador in January 2018 to participate in an international Model United Nations conference. They will learn firsthand the importance and challenges of protecting the unique biosphere of the Galápagos. Melrose Fellows will study abroad as juniors and will take a leading role planning a conference on their chosen issue when they return as seniors.

These new initiatives build upon existing programs such as the Bonner leader program, Model United Nations and the more recent Peace Corps Preparatory Program.

One former Bonner leader who was a participant in the Model U.N. and a student of Melrose’s cites the significant impact on her life by Melrose and those programs. “I’m happy that there is a center dedicated in his honor to ensure that his spirit is kept alive and that other Ursinus students will have opportunities to become global citizens,” said Jessica McIlhenny ’11, who is a senior administrative associate at a poverty action lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “He always believed in me and was truly invested in the success of his students,” she said.

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