Chestnut Hill College Becoming Prominent Philadelphia Institution with Global Reach

By Amanda Finlaw, for GPA --

Chestnut Hill College (CHC), located in picturesque northwestern Philadelphia, has been putting a lot of momentum in recent years behind its international outreach.

Trachanda Brown, Director of Global Education, is herself a worldly individual in the Philadelphia region, and spends her days working with international students coming to the college, as well as helping facilitate study abroad opportunities for CHC students.

Brown studied abroad in both high school and college, and has traveled extensively to many countries. “It was just a natural progression for me to work in international programming,” Brown said. She helps about 16 students each semester.

“I have come to appreciate Philadelphia from traveling to other cities and looking back to see how much it has to offer,” Brown said. “Also, I can see the cultural influence [in cities abroad] that has helped shape Philadelphia.” Her travel knowledge allows her to relate to international students in Chestnut Hill’s inclusive campus environment.

In addition to globally-minded staff at Chestnut Hill College, there are many students on campus with international backgrounds. One Senior, Political Science major Aizaz Gill, moved to Philadelphia from Pakistan in his elementary school years. He grew up in a very different culture that he claims was “deeply conservative and corrupt,” with his family sometimes going without electricity for many days. When he transitioned into Philadelphia life, Gill says he was able to treasure the things many American-born individuals take for granted, while also having a difficult time assimilating. “I had to learn everything from scratch,” he said about the culture here.

While Gill is an immigrant, he still wants to experience cultural diversity.

“I like to meet people from different backgrounds and Philadelphia is a good city for that,” he reflected. “I’d like to be globalized more. One of my goals is to work for the UN one day or become a foreign diplomat. I realize the value of culture.”

As an International Students representative in the Admissions Office, Gill meets many fellow students from abroad. “It’s really cool we embraced the global community because you wouldn’t expect something like that from a small school, and Chestnut Hill has gone out of its way to do that.”

It is clear that Chestnut Hill College students have taken note of the international activity on campus. This past June, a group of student leaders for the club Unified for Unifat (U4U), which helps Ugandan youth receive education, had the chance to travel to meet the children they have worked unremittingly to help. Chelsey Patten, Senior member of U4U went on this trip after playing a vital role in the organization and being inspired by the stories of the kids for whom she was working to provide education over the years. 

Patten was drawn to helping because she was inspired by the children she read about at the Unifat School and wanted to make in impact on individual lives who needed guidance and kindness.

“I wanted to do something bigger than myself,” Patten said, emotionally. Two children that she met in Uganda, a 9-year-old boy, and a boy starting high school, personally thanked her for the education, inspiration, and help they received from the CHC chapter of U4U. “With the experience that I had there and the relationships that I made, I can’t see myself not going back,” Patten said of Uganda. 

Another aspect of global focus at CHC lies in the organization Global Education Motivators (GEM), working to “bring the world into the classroom.” GEM Founder Wayne Jacoby started his international career with a global education project as a history teacher. This evolved over the years into GEM, hosting a variety of internationally-focused educational events in the Philadelphia area and in many nations around the world. Jacoby greatly appreciates the history of Philadelphia, the human rights focus of the Sisters of St. Joseph at CHC, and the importance of interdependence in the history of the city.

Though a small institution, Chestnut Hill College’s campus is wealthy with global thinkers. Students, faculty and staff who truly value the importance of engaging in international culture and affairs are contributing greatly to Philadelphia’s world-class academic atmosphere.