Thinking Inside the Box
Dana Curran Mortenson ’97 noticed a serious problem in the American public school system in the wake of 9/11 – a lack of awareness about global issues.
In 2001, Mortenson was studying international affairs as a graduate student at Columbia University in New York City. After the attacks, she began to explore how K-12 education helped students to learn and understand the global community.
“In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, we saw that global awareness – being truly informed and engaged citizens in the 21st century – had to begin with education reform,” she said.
She and fellow student, Madiha Murshed, a Bangladeshi Muslim who Mortenson describes as “having a worldview that is effortlessly global,” decided ten months later to start WorldSavvy. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to promoting an international curriculum in American schools.
Mortenson and Murshed hit the ground running. They ran youth programs, taught classes and facilitated professional development for teachers, all while trying to expand their operation.
Today, WorldSavvy is a thriving organization with offices in San Francisco, New York and Minneapolis. Last year alone, its global education programs reached more than 6,000 students and 750 educators.
Mortenson has been interested in international affairs her entire life. She said her experiences at Connecticut College allowed her to take that interest to the next level.
“Conn is where I developed a truly well-informed perspective and thirst for knowledge about global issues, but more importantly, it’s where my belief in the transformational power of education to impact development began,” she said.
Though her commitment to the women’s basketball team prevented her from doing a traditional semester abroad, Mortenson was able to self-design a four-week independent study away program to Costa Rica. There, she lived with a family and interned at the United Nations in San Jose.
As executive director of WorldSavvy, Mortenson now spends most of her day behind a desk, planning and fundraising. She gets great satisfaction from her work.
“There are so many rewards to seeing youth engaged in thoughtful dialogue about global challenges and then making connections to local issues in their communities and neighborhoods,” she said.
So what’s in store next for WorldSavvy? The organization continues to grow and staff members are also working nationally to advocate for global education. Mortenson hopes to involve more individuals outside of the K-12 realm in international dialogue in the future.
Visit www.worldsavvy.org to learn more.
-Matt Zientek ’10