Global Leaders in Residence Review

Reverend Nicqi Ashwood (third from front, right to left) pictured with Dr. Bob Hansen (one down from top left) and his class.

It didn’t take long for our two Global Leaders in Residence – Rev. Nicqi Ashwood and Father Joe Maier – to shake things up on campus.  Both were outspoken about politics, international relations, religion, and the importance of Westminster’s philosophy of developing leaders in a global community.  The ripple effects of their visits are still being felt around campus.

Having outstanding “global leaders” come to campus is nothing new for Westminster College, but the Global Leaders in Residence program has only been around since the fall of 2011.  The program’s primary goal is to provide a multi-day experience for our students to formally and informally interact with individuals who clearly have made a difference in this world. Too often, great speakers come to a college campus, give their talk, and then are whisked away to another speaking engagement. With our Global Leaders in Residence program, students eat meals with our guests, engage in conversations as they walk across campus, listen to these leaders speak to classes, and meet with them in small groups.  This clearly is not a “one speech and gone” experience.

Nicqi Ashwood (feature photo above, front row, black shirt) interacted with Westminster students, faculty, and staff during the second week of October.  She is an activist in the Caribbean region and comes to Westminster College as an “International Peacemaker” sponsored by the Presbyterian Church – USA.  Reverend Ashwood works in over ten Caribbean countries on issues of domestic violence, conflict resolution, and community development.

To say she has an outgoing personality is quite the understatement – Nicqi fully engaged our students by passionately challenging them to “get up and make something positive happen” for the benefit of others and the world.  Nicqi met with five classes, three student groups, shared dinner with Micah House and CIVICUS students, helped prepare dinner with the women of the Remley Center, and even spent the night there.  Perhaps the most impressive part of her visit to Westminster College was the time she spent in the JCI snack bar area where she just “hung out” with students.

Father Joe (center) with two students from his Mercy Centre, Nantana Kwangtong (left) and Lekza Meechai (right)

Father Joe with two Westminster students from his Mercy Centre, Nantana Kwangtong (left) and Meechai Duangjai (right)

Father Joe Maier (above) also goes by several names – Father Joe, The Slaughterhouse Priest and The Slum Priest of Bangkok.  Although his names are many, his message was very direct and simple – serve others.  Father Joe has served as a Roman Catholic priest in the slums of Bangkok, Thailand for forty years.  His work there has required that he work with people of many faiths including Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

Today he directs The Mercy Centre, which provides educational, health, and economic empowerment programs in Bangkok’s most impoverished slum. He is most proud of the 50,000 young students who have graduated from the kindergartens that he helped establish, the HIV residential program for 200 youth, his work with the “sea gypsies”, and his ability to work with other religious leaders, primarily the Muslim Imam and the top Buddhist monk to bring peace to the slum community.

Father Joe has been instrumental in sending students to Westminster, including two in the photo above:  first-year student Nantana Kwangtong and senior Meechai Duangjai.  While on campus, Father Joe visited a number of classes to talk about leadership, cross-cultural relations, the treatment of trauma victims, and philanthropy.  Helping coordinate Father Joe’s visit during mid-October was Dr. Pat Kirby, Westminster’s international recruiter who met Father Joe during his travels to Thailand.

Article written by Dr. Bob Hansen.

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