Penn State creates new Global Engagement Special Living Option

November 29, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State has made becoming a global university a strategic priority in recent years. This focus can be seen in all aspects of University life, from the creation of international research partnerships to tackle pressing global issues, to the increased presence of international students on campus, to major growth in the number of Penn State students going abroad.

A new initiative is on the way that will further build the University’s global profile, with a special focus on the undergraduate experience. Called the Global Engagement Special Living Option (SLO), it is a new living-learning community on campus that will bring international and domestic students into a shared space for the exchange of cultural perspectives — while getting to know each other as people and developing the intercultural relationships that define global community.

“We’ve found that many international students tell us they are eager to make American friends,” said Meredith Doran, director of the English for Professional Purposes Intercultural Center (EPPIC). “And we hear the same from American students, who are interested in connecting with their international peers. It’s common, though, that students don’t know how to ‘break the ice’ with each other, so connections don’t happen automatically.”

This community is also intended to be a welcoming space for study-abroad returnees who are looking to continue to engage globally.

“Being part of an international community on campus can be great for American students who study abroad, and then come back and say, ‘What’s next? How can I stay involved — with a language I’ve learned, or a culture I’ve been a part of?’” said Doran.

The Global Engagement SLO, which will house students in Beaver Hall, is set to begin in Fall 2019. Beyond space to live together, the community will offer programming for students — including cultural events (movies, cuisine, music, parties), facilitated discussions on cultural topics, and service projects that will provide opportunities to develop global leadership skills and to impact the larger Penn State community. Future plans include offering special classes for community residents that focus on intercultural and global themes.

“We think this is a valuable and practical way to increase global dialogue and awareness across our diverse student population,” said Nikki Mattson, associate teaching professor in applied linguistics. “This new intercultural community will put our goal to globalize Penn State into action in a way that everyone can see. And this is just the start — we hope it grows!”

To date, support for the Global Engagement SLO has been provided through a cross-unit partnership that includes the Student Engagement Network, the College of Agricultural Science’s Office of International Programs, the Intensive English Communication Program (IECP), the English for Professional Purposes Intercultural Center, Global Programs, and the University Libraries. Additional program partners and sponsors are in development.

If you are a student and are interested in signing up for the Global Engagement SLO, please be sure to select that option on eliving. Upperclassmen are encouraged to apply.

For more information about the Global Engagement Community, contact Doran at or Mattson at

Last Updated December 19, 2018