Skip to main content
Shield icon Arrow cta icon Close icon Pencil icon
Gregor Petakovic '19 Gregor Petakovic '19
Learning For The 21st Century

The Global Classroom Initiative

Gregor Petakovic ’19 watched the sunrise from the top of Mt. Kenya, Africa’s second-highest mountain.

“I’d never done anything like that and I’d never seen anything so gorgeous.”

Reaching the 17,000-foot peak was part of a three-week, St. Lawrence summer course called Kenya: Bioexpedition.

“It took days of hiking to summit,” he says. “Throughout the course, I learned a lot about biology, field work and collecting data.”

Petakovic says he wanted to study a subject very different from his economics major. At times, however, the course spoke directly to his studies.

“We learned about Kenya’s ecological problems and the economic drivers behind the country’s conservation efforts. So there was quite a bit of crossover between my major and biology. It was nice to see these studies combined so well.”

The course also worked with his athletic schedule. As a member of the St. Lawrence rowing team, he competes in both the fall and spring.

As his plans for the Kenya Bioexpedition fell into place, one hurdle remained: his finances. Fortunately, Petakovic got help from the James D. Lee Travel Fund, which covered the cost of tuition for the summer course. He still had to buy airfare and the gear to summit Mt. Kenya, but the assistance was a deciding factor.

“It made it possible for me to go,” he says. “By reducing the financial burden, the Lee Travel Fund brought the course and the experience within reach.”

Many student athletes and science majors have schedules that make it difficult for them to spend an entire semester off campus. For them and others, summer programs are often ideal, but the additional costs can make it difficult. With additional funding from gifts, the Global Classroom Initiative would help more students attend classes overseas.

International and Intercultural

“74.3 percent.”

Marina Llorente says it again, slowly, pounding her fingers on her desk to punctuate each syllable.

“That’s how many St. Lawrence students do academic work overseas,” she says. “Among small, liberal-arts universities across the country, we’re a leader in this.”

The number is both a point of pride and frustration for Llorente. While signifying success, it also means that a quarter of the University’s students are not taking part in the academic programs that change lives and shape careers. As the Hanson Professor and Associate Dean of International and Intercultural Studies at St. Lawrence, Llorente wants these opportunities available to every Laurentian.

“Students change after going abroad,” she says. “They see cultural differences and they come to understand why these differences exist. They study, too, of course. When they’re awake, they’re learning. They’re also navigating difference—new languages, new ways of doing everything. A simple trip to the market is a negotiation. It challenges our students, but they prove themselves. They can thrive in foreign environments and social interactions. These are the abilities that every employer wants right now.”

All over the world, Llorente and her fellow faculty members have found opportunities for St. Lawrence students.

“There are research projects and internships happening across the globe right now,” she says. “In many majors, overseas fieldwork is essential to professional development. Undergraduate geology students and others are expected to spend time on international projects. This is experiential learning and our students must be able to take advantage of it—for their futures and ours, too. Our international work distinguishes St. Lawrence from many peer institutions.”

In fact, the University received the 2018 Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Comprehensive Internationalization. Given to only five higher-education institutions, the award is bestowed by

NAFSA: Association of International Educators. It recognizes excellence in integrating international education throughout all facets of the University.

“It’s a great honor,” Llorente says, “and it shows the importance of endowing the Global Classroom initiative. It will ensure that every student can take part in our international education programs.”

The James D. Lee ’15 Travel Fund

As a St. Lawrence undergraduate, James D. Lee studied in New Zealand. Based on the life-changing effects of studying abroad—particularly the Kenya program—James wanted to make this experience available to other students who might not otherwise have the resources available to study abroad.

Established in 2015 by James D. Lee and The Spring River Private Foundation Trust, this fund has covered the cost of tuition for seven St. Lawrence students studying abroad.