The Global Vision Endowment, a program that has helped engage more than 100 University of Central Missouri students in service to individuals living in impoverished areas around the globe, is receiving a significant financial uplift thanks to a generous
$5 million estate gift from an anonymous donor.

The gift to support UCM students was recently announced by Michael Sawyer, dean of the university’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHSS), in cooperation with the institution’s Alumni Foundation. It comes as the college is planning a service trip to Tanzania in May 2023, working with the internationally known organization Global Volunteers.

This will be the third such visit students and faculty have made to Tanzania since the program’s inception in 2008. The earnings from the endowment will be used for travel fees, lodging and meals for students and faculty advisors who participate in this outreach opportunity.

Sawyer said the Global Vision program exemplifies UCM’s “Education for Service” motto. The donor established the Global Vision Endowment to provide a travel opportunity for students who have an interest in service learning and community engagement, regardless of major, or their financial situation. Prior to their death, the donor quietly demonstrated how much they cared about this program and the university through philanthropy and participation in events in which students shared information about their volunteer experiences overseas.

“This person was deeply committed,” Sawyer said about the donor. “They had a background in traveling internationally, living and working abroad, and also had a commitment to service. They understood the difference this can make to our students and in turn the difference they can make in communities around the world."

Many people representing higher education, corporate and faith-based organizations are participants in Global Volunteers, which is the organization that partners with UCM for the Global Vision program. UCM students who wish to take part in the Global Vision opportunity must submit an application by Feb. 1, 2023. If accepted, they will enroll in the eight-week Global Vision course that begins in mid-March.

After six weeks of classroom experiences to prepare them for their service opportunity, they will spend two weeks after the spring 2023 semester ends in Tanzania. While they are in that country, students will volunteer for community projects and also assist Global Volunteers in educating families on proper nutrition, particularly as it relates to the prevention of stunting, the impaired growth and development of malnourished children.

“For many of our students, this will be the first time to ever leave the country, and for some the first time to go on an airplane,” Sawyer said. “It is so impactful for them to see that even prior to graduation they can use the skills they have right now and get out and make an appreciable, meaningful difference."

Professor of Political Science and International Studies Henry Wambuii accompanied the group to Tanzania in 2019 and will do so again in 2023. He said students can participate in the Global Vision program at any point while pursuing a degree at UCM. CAHSS expects to select at least 10 student participants in spring 2023 while also supporting two faculty advisors.

While the size of this upcoming group is similar to groups of individuals who have participated in such trips in the past, the college plans to expand the number of participants in the future, thanks to the generous estate gift that increased the endowment. In the spring semester, Dean Sawyer will call together a university-wide steering committee to expand the number of participants and destinations in programs under the Global Vision umbrella. The anonymous donors generosity is making it possible for the college to triple or quadruple the annual number of awardees.

“One of the things we want to be is as representative as possible,” Wambuii said, noting that students in all majors across all four UCM colleges are welcome to apply. “We would love to have people from areas such as Nursing, Political Science and Business. We want a very diverse group every time we go."

Wambuii was born in Kenya and joined the UCM faculty in 2004. He will help prepare students for their visit through the Global Vision course, imparting knowledge of the geography, culture and basic conversational Swahili. He noted that throughout the program’s history at UCM, groups have traveled to places such as China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, India, Malaysia, Peru and St. Lucia.

At least two students who returned from their experiences, Moeryae “Sunny” Smith, an  international studies major who went to Malaysia, and Danielle Donnell, a professional photography major who traveled to Colombia, were named semi-finalists in the Fulbright program.

“We get involved in the day-to-day work,” Wambuii said about the two-week long trip. “I get to teach little kids, I do home visits, I do agricultural work. We (faculty) are volunteers just like the students. I’m giving back, but also most important, I am giving students a chance for experiential learning."

The donor who made these experiences possible had a keen interest in what students who participated in the Global Vision program took away from the trip and would visit campus to hear participants share their experience with the campus community.

“Estate gifts such as this allow a donor to truly leave a lasting legacy,” said Courtney Goddard, vice president of University Advancement and executive director of the UCM Alumni Foundation. “A donor’s wish of supporting UCM can be fulfilled not only during their lifetime but far beyond. This amazingly generous gift will enrich the experience of UCM students who participate in this unique program for years to come."

In October a panel of students who took a Global Vision service trip to an orphanage in Ancòn, Peru, in December 2021 spoke about what the opportunity meant to them. Joe Masters, a senior Political Science major and U.S. Navy veteran from California, discussed volunteer experiences at a kitchen where all of the food was cooked on a wood stove. He helped bottle water, which had to be purified, made home visits to speak with families about proper nutrition, and particularly enjoyed opportunities to regroup with other students in the evenings to discuss the day’s events in ways that aren’t always possible in a typical educational setting.

“I was in the Navy for 10 years, and we used to port at different countries where I would go on community relations projects,” Masters said. “I thought this would be almost the same thing, but this trip had a different meaning to me. It has a special place in my heart."

In her panel presentation, Jessica Miller, a senior International Studies major and Political Science minor from Sedalia, read an entry from her journal describing a child she met on her first day volunteering at the orphanage.

“Miguel conveyed how life is about living, and everyone is deserving of living a good life,” she wrote. “That is what [the orphanage] is doing for the children they house through education, shelter, mentorship and more. I’m looking forward to today, the next day and the next. I’m so excited for what more is to come.”

To learn more about the Global Vision Endowment, visit the websites listed below:

In the photo: Students and faculty members at the University of Central Missouri who participated in the 2021 Global Vision Endowment service trip to Peru gather for a photo during their experience abroad. They are, from left, UCM students Reagan Holivay, Joe Masters, Yami Crabaugh, Bonnie Ray, Austin Gutmann, Jessica Miller, Natalie Buss, Jessica Fugate, Meilani Cervantes, Alex Swords, faculty member Robynn Kuhlman, Political Science and International Studies, and staff member Anna Ball, International Student Services. (Photo courtesy of Diego Acosta from Global Volunteers)

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