Written by Madeline Hughey
When Charlie Harcourt graduated from Green Mountain College in 2012 with a secondary education certification in history, he was looking forward to getting out in the world and putting what he had learned to good use. He soon found himself teaching seventh grade social studies at the H.W. Solomon Middle School in the Mississippi Delta with Teach for America, a part of AmeriCorps. His passion for education grew as he received intensive training on strategies for effective education for students from high poverty and disadvantaged minority communities, learning the kinds of lessons that come from striving to make a difference.
Upon completion of the two-year Teach for America commitment, Harcourt returned to Vermont, and found his way back to GMC with a position in the Office of Admissions. In this role, he enjoyed welcoming students from around the country and around the globe. Harcourt’s connection with one international student had a lasting impact on his passion for international education and later work in Myanmar. The student, Sian Huai, came to GMC from the Pre-collegiate Program of Yangon, was a recipient of the Make a Difference Scholarship in 2017, and is now attending Prescott College. It was during this time that Charlie decided to pursue a Master of Arts in Education from Prescott College. Inspired by the international students he met through his work, he conducted research in Myanmar for two months in 2017 and published a thesis concerning the experiences and challenges of Burmese students seeking higher education in the U.S. His work focused on collecting the personal stories of Myanmar students as they overcame numerous challenges to pursue their dreams of studying abroad.
Following his return home and upon completing his Master’s Degree at Prescott, Harcourt accepted a position implementing and managing the inaugural international student recruitment program at Wells College in Aurora, NY. “My focus right now,” he said, “is to support international students who are inspired, passionate, change-makers from around the world and connect them with opportunities for higher education in the United States.” This work provided a rich global perspective and demonstrated how international students can significantly add to the classroom experience, giving local students opportunities to learn about how different the life experience can look in other parts of the world.
“Conversations of sustainability are sometimes too abstract in privileged circles,” Harcourt explains. “International students can bring their lived experiences to the conversation to make it more real, such as those who are living on the frontlines of climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa or those who have experienced the series of natural and economic disasters in Haiti and Nepal. Such perspectives are essential to helping students develop a global context for understanding the challenges that are already defining the twenty-first century.”
Looking back on his own education and career thus far, Harcourt appreciates how institutions such as GMC and Prescott College helped him shed the layers of social conditioning that taught him to place undue value on material things, wealth, and consumerism. “My experiences made me appreciate the value of human relationships, experiences in nature, local history, multicultural understanding, and artistic expression,” said Harcourt.