Iacocca Institute Global Village Town Hall

The Iacocca Institute’s Global Village at Lehigh University held a virtual town hall on July 29th, to discuss its future plans to adapt to the new reality facing us today. Kira Mendez, the director of Iacocca, said that the institute’s goal is to build “an intimate global community” online that does not sacrifice the experiences students gain on campus.

Having such a diverse and immersive community has worked well in the past, but the new challenge for the village was to bring the values of providing a base of self-challenge and encourage students at the university to an “acceptance of diversity” into a virtual space, now that the campus has closed. 

Mendez added that in an effort to move forward, the team at the village “decided to put [their] assets to work” and design an entire virtual village complete with virtual chat spaces, hallways, dormitories, events, and more.

Since Lehigh’s alumni have spread out across the globe, with over 2,250 alumni in 140 countries, moving online has extended opportunities for them to connect with the village. In this way, the move from in-person to online has allowed the village a wider global reach.

In an effort to maintain a level of intimacy within the community, the model has been designed to have each member be assigned a virtual roommate with whom they will journal, complete tasks, and hopefully become close friends. 

Taking into consideration the different time zones of villagers, the village has tried to take that into account when assigning roommates so that they are paired with someone in a similar enough time zone to manage, but are also from a country different enough from their own so that they are able to get a cross-cultural experience.  

In addition to these dormitories, there will be a virtual kitchen, patio, parties, and events. This way, villagers can continue to converse, laugh, and learn from one another as they would have done on campus. Visitors can be invited to this virtual patio to host concerts, dance parties, activities, or even just small discussions. The virtual kitchen can host zoom calls where one villager can share traditional recipes from their country and continue to build this connection with the others.

Overall, the goal of this endeavor has been not to replace, but to add to the experience and develop it further with the ultimate goal of expanding the future of the village.

Article written by Molly Siegel on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association.