Beyond Borders: Employing Empathic Global Citizenship as a Framework for Enhancing Critical Community Engagement

Publication Date



Chapter in Perspectives on Lifelong Learning and Global Citizenship: Beyond the Classroom (Sustainable Development Goals Series)


In this chapter, we employ what we term our “empathic global citizenship” framework as a novel, dual emotional-logical approach to critical community engagement that helps enhance and promote global citizenship values that are transferrable and applicable in multiple contexts. We describe how this approach enriches existing community engagement models for students in a manner that is responsive and accessible to student demographics not equally represented by the higher education landscape. Therein, we also posit that, whether students conduct engagement activities locally or abroad, they are likely to gain valuable intercultural experiences and interactions that lead to the cultivation of empathy and global awareness. This chapter is situated in the context of critical global citizenship education and community engagement experiences at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), a large Hispanic-Serving Institution. UTEP is located in El Paso in the far western part of Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border with Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and neighboring Las Cruces, New Mexico. The area, known as the Paso Del Norte region, represents the largest bilingual, binational work force in the Western Hemisphere with a population of approximately 2.3 million people. UTEP’s unique cultural and geographical location presents a rich landscape, with its own set of challenges and global interdependent dynamics, to create an environment where students and institutions must work in concert to address community challenges and model the type of engagement and mutual collaborative partnerships needed to deconstruct larger world problems. We posit that the experiences and skills our students learn in this context serve as invaluable and transferable building blocks for their development as empathic, global citizens throughout their educational journey and beyond, whether they remain in the region or relocate to another part of the world. The chapter concludes with a discussion of future avenues for continued development of empathy, global-mindedness, and critical lenses in our students, as well as the challenges and opportunities posed by our higher education landscape and the realities of the world as we know it today.