Senior Madison Martin reviews ‘Spillover’ by David Quammen, an assigned reading for the Isdell Global Leaders. Photo: Ashley Myers

After an intensive application process, the Isdell Center for Global Leadership (ICGL) selected seniors Madison Martin and Evan Elster and juniors Jordan White and Pranavh Pradeep to represent the student body as Isdell Global Leaders (IGLs) this school year. Each year, the IGLs dissect a specific issue by traveling to relevant locales and later presenting what they’ve learned to the student body. These students sacrifice a free period once a week to discuss readings and plan ways to educate their peers.

This year, due to changes because of COVID-19, global leaders are not able to travel or present in person at assemblies. Despite these changes, the IGLs are excited to dig into the theme and find other ways to educate students.

This year’s theme, Global Health, relates to how the environment and global pandemic affect the world. “Previous annual themes have focused on humans’ impact on the environment,” said ICGL Director Trish Anderson. “In planning for this year’s theme two years ago, we decided to flip that approach and focus on the ways the environment impacts us. Seeking a humanities-based study that could incorporate lessons from our previous themes, we arrived at global health.” 

ICGL has five focus areas that help guide the IGLs’ study of global health. These areas of focus are Science and Technology, Culture and Arts, Social Entrepreneurship and Business, Community Engagement and Environmental Sustainability, and Public Policy and International Relations. “I love being an Isdell Global Leader because I think being an informed citizen of the world is one of the most important things you can be,” said Martin. “The different areas of focus help us to see the bigger picture, because a specific issue may seem small, but can affect all of these different aspects of the world.”

The global leaders have begun learning through readings and discussions. “Even though we can’t travel this year, I find that being a part of ICGL has been an amazing experience, especially as the theme of global health is so relevant to the time we are living in today,” said Elster. “My favorite thing we have done so far has been reading ‘Spillover’ by David Quammen, as this book went into detail about the different viruses that have happened in the past.” 

Martin also has enjoyed finding new ways to investigate global health. “Though not being able to travel has made it harder to truly immerse ourselves into the theme of global health, we have all persevered and found new ways to learn and engage with the topic,” she said. In addition to “Spillover,” the IGLs have read “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Kidder.

The book recounts the work of Dr. Paul Farmer, who, according to publisher Random House, “in medical school found his life’s calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most.” The IGLs meet via Zoom every week to discuss current events around global health. 

Although the application process is long and involved, these global leaders decided it was worth it. “I applied [to be an IGL] because I hope to pursue a future career in public health, and it all just really fascinates me,” said White. Martin is also fascinated by global health, but for a different reason. She became “enthralled” with this topic through Model UN and trips abroad.

Pradeep entered the year with background knowledge on the theme. He applied because he was an ICGL Fellow for Global Health last year, and thought that the Isdell Global Leader program would give him the opportunity to “dive deeper into global health.”

White explained her thoughts about not being able to travel as an IGL this year. “I would say that I am definitely sad that we are unable to travel this year but luckily we live in Atlanta, where the headquarters of CDC is located, so it will still make it an interesting year considering the circumstances,” said White.

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