Skip To Main Content

Celebrating 10 years of Global Scholars

Celebrating 10 years of Global Scholars
Celebrating 10 years of Global Scholars

Senior Shaffer Dale presents at the 2024 Global Scholars Expo.

Harpeth Hall senior Shaffer Dale was participating in an international relations course led by Georgetown University when she heard about the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS).

First signed in 1959, the ATS currently regulates international relations in Antarctica between the 12 countries that were politically active in the continent in 1957-58: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Russia (the Soviet Union at the time), the United Kingdom, and the United States. When enacted, the ATS established the continent as a military activity-free zone and designated the area as a scientific preserve.

 Antarctica's political map

Through her class at Georgetown, Shaffer participated in a simulation with her classmates to evaluate the effectiveness of ATS. If students felt that the treaty proved ineffective, they devised an alternative approach from the perspective of an international politician. This project introduced Shaffer to Antarctica’s geopolitical issues and solidified her interest in exploring the topic for her Global Scholars capstone at Harpeth Hall.

“Antarctica is a region that is not often explored by students in the Global Scholars program, so I wanted to educate my community about the politics that go on regarding the polar continent,” Shaffer said. “I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to major in something global-related in college, and this program has helped me narrow my interests to choose the right path for me.”

Founded in 2014, Global Scholars encourages Harpeth Hall students to think beyond the geographic and cultural boundaries of the familiar to develop the leadership skills necessary to become effective and responsible global citizens. This year, the program celebrates 10 years of expansive thinking and learning.

To join the program, students must have at least a 3.0 GPA, complete an application process, and receive support from two faculty members. Throughout the program, Global Scholars collect “action badges” when they take global-focused classes, participate in a club such as  Model UN, learn more about a global issue in the Nashville community, and more. Sophomores attend speaker sessions and student-led discussions about international issues, including healthcare, education, regional conflict, climate change, and mental health. In their junior year, students lead these sessions, encouraging classmates to engage in meaningful conversations. The program concludes in senior year with an independent research project on a topic of the scholar's interest. In addition to conducting research and analysis, the capstone project requires the student to create an authentic product related to her topic that may be presented to the school community or a broader audience.

 2024 Global Scholars Expo

“Our goal is to promote global competence, but really what we mean is investigating the world, learning about different challenges, thinking about how people approach those challenges, and even sometimes offering solutions,” program co-founder Elizabeth Allen said. “We want to raise the understanding that the problems that we face are as much local as they are global. They can find them in our backyard, and they can find them in other places across the world.”

Global Scholars was founded partly in response to students who graduated from the Scholars Engaged in Extending Knowledge (SEEK) program in Harpeth Hall’s middle school. In SEEK, 7th and 8th grade students work with a faculty mentor or an expert in the field to research and produce a project on a topic not covered in the middle school curriculum. Over the years, students’ SEEK projects have covered a wide range of topics from “Digital Real Estate in the Metaverse” to “Creating an Enrichment for Red Pandas at the Nashville Zoo.”

Ms. Allen found that when students came to the upper school from SEEK, they were still yearning to better understand the world around them. A group of Harpeth Hall teachers began planning a co-curricular program that would allow students to investigate the world, learn about global challenges, and consider the different approaches entities take to address challenges.

The academic council approved Global Scholars in the fall of 2014, and by the following spring, the program had its first cohort.

Harpeth Hall middle school math teacher Keely Hendricks ‘16 was one of the eight members of that founding cohort of scholars.

Keely Hendricks '16 (furthest right) and members of the first Global Scholars cohort.

Ms. Hendricks first joined the program because she wanted to increase her awareness and understanding of global events to better participate in the conversations around her.

“It's one thing to turn on the news, and it's another thing to really digest that news with your peers and to form your own opinions,” Ms. Hendricks said. “I wanted to understand what was going on in the world in a safe place and in a place where the point was to learn not to form an opinion right away.”

During that first year, scholars met once a month. In meetings, students picked a topic that interested them to present to their peers for further discussion or engage in discussions with expert speakers. Ms. Hendricks’ capstone was a Spanish documentary featuring Mexican immigrants in the Nashville community.

“My biggest takeaway from the program was learning about microcosms of the world and very specific issues,” Ms. Hendricks said. “So you're learning about larger truths, but through smaller topics that have very human interest at heart. And I think that's a great way to go about understanding the world, taking it in small bites.”

Since the early years of Global Scholars, the program has evolved. In 2024, 31 students completed a Global Scholars capstone and showcased their projects at a mini-academic conference on campus that mirrored collegiate and professional research conferences. Harpeth Hall students were grouped into thematic sessions to present to classmates. In addition, students practiced their public speaking skills with a poster session at the annual Global Scholars Expo in the Bullard Bright IDEA Lab.

2022 Global Scholars Expo

“To me, the continued and growing interest in Global Scholars keeps speaking to the fact that this is something the students are looking for,” Ms. Allen said. “This is not a graded program. All they get at the end of this is to stand at the Expo to talk about their project to their peers and their teachers, and they get a certificate. That’s it.”

The students who participate in the program truly do so because they are interested in exploring more about the world around them.

Over the last 10 years, students have explored the environmental effects of the Chernobyl disaster, the legal and ethical debate of art repatriation, preventable pediatrics hearing loss in sub-Saharan Africa, cultural differences in OB-GYN healthcare in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, electric aircraft and sustainable aviation fuel, the curative effects of art therapy on child soldiers in Central Africa, designing classrooms for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and so much more.

Graduates who participated in the program attribute their success in college and their careers in part to Global Scholars.

As a Global Scholar, Anna Clarke Harrison Paxton ‘17 spent a year researching the history and evolution of HIV and AIDS in the United States and on a global scale. Under the guidance of Dr. Marie Martin, a health policy professor at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, she worked to better understand the social response and cultural implications of the outbreak, receiving an introduction to the world of public health.

Anna Clarke Harrison Paxton '17 (front row, furthest to the left) and the class of 2017 Global Scholars.

Though she originally joined the Global Scholars program because she was curious and knew it would help bolster her resume, in reality, it became so much more.

“I couldn’t have seen that it would provide a chance for me to explore questions and curiosities outside of the classroom setting,” Ms. Paxton explained. “It was an extra learning experience without any pressure for an exam or a ‘grade,’ which meant that I got to learn for the sake of learning, and that was so inviting and refreshing. It was a community of people who wanted to learn ‘just because’ and that is such a special environment.”

After graduating from Harpeth Hall in 2017, Ms. Paxton studied health policy and management at the University of North Carolina. She is now pursuing a dual master's in public health and international education policy at Vanderbilt, where she works with Dr. Martin once again. Her master’s in public health, specifically global health, focuses on a holistic view and understanding of diseases like HIV/AIDS and how the world can be better prepared to respond to and treat epidemics through education, research, data collection, and response.

“My initial interest and then completion of my Global Scholars project was a micro-version of what I am now interested in and studying in school,” Ms. Paxton said. “It was dipping my toe into the world of global public health and was a stepping stone towards my studies now.

2018 Global Scholars presentation

“Global Scholars taught me how to converse about things I was passionate about and taught me how to communicate with adults who had worlds more experience and knowledge about what I was passionate about,” Ms. Paxton said. “Through Global Scholars and my mentorship with Dr. Martin, I’ve learned how to enter a room of more experienced individuals and absorb information and ask questions out of curiosity and a willingness to learn, which is a lifelong skill.”

While not all students in the Global Scholars program discover career-defining interests, Ms. Allen hopes they will walk away with the confidence to ask questions and independently seek answers, trust their academic abilities, and open their minds to different cultures worldwide.

Global Scholars allowed Shaffer to gear her learning experience toward her passions. Something, she said, that appeals to a lot of students.

“I think that sometimes it can be hard for every student to find their interest within the high school curriculum. Many people benefit greatly from the opportunity to choose what they are learning about,” Shaffer said. “It also helps people realize that the world is so much bigger than the bubble we live in. People all over the world are so different, yet also so similar, and I think that is an important lesson to learn.”