Where “Urban” and “Global” Share Space

May 8, 2023
Mary Patillo-Dunn – Coordinator, Urban Educators Cohort Program
Alyssa Morley – Coordinator, Global Educators Cohort Program
Yetunde Alabede – Doctoral Student, Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education

Two undergraduate cohort programs in the Teacher Preparation Program prepare future educators to teach in global or urban contexts. In November 2022, the Urban Educators Cohort Program (UECP) and the Global Educators Program (GECP) went on a joint trip to Grand Rapids, MI to help students better understand how “urban” and “global” can share space.

The overlap of contexts stood out to two Spartans who literally share space: roommates and cohort members Emily Evanski (UECP) and Morgan Miesmer (GECP).

They were among the 40 students—20 from each cohort—who filled the bus for the trip. Coordinators Mary Patillo-Dunn and Alyssa Morley led the trip, along with doctoral students Yetunde Alabede, Aliya Bizhanova and Elena Selezneva. They visited the Grand Rapids Public Museum, spoke with educators at the Refugee Education Center (REC) and heard about teacher experiences through a panel of practicing teachers at Frederik Meijer Gardens.

GECP and UECP students pose for a picture in Meijer Gardens.

Throughout the trip, Evanski said seeing “global” and “urban” together was “very enlightening,” and it highlighted various elements of diversity, including racial, cultural and linguistic.  

The educator discussion at REC stood out to GECP senior Emma Sharp. She learned about the “tools and resources educators have access to that will allow them to best support multilingual learners and other individuals from different cultural backgrounds.”

Both Miesmer and Evanski described the importance of having trip experiences to help concretize learning and understanding topics discussed in class and at play in larger society. While the Grand Rapids trip was one combined cohort trip, individual cohort trips have taken place in Dearborn (GECP) and Chicago and Detroit (UECP).

GECP and UECP students listen to a presentation at the Refugee Development Center in Kentwood, MI.

“The trips are … rich with everything that we learn about,” Evanski said. “I unpack what I learned for months after. It’s really nice to go on the trip and then connect what you learn on the trip in class.”

That is exactly what was envisioned when the cohorts were designed and launched more than a decade ago.

About 75 first-year students begin in a cohort each fall. Throughout their time at MSU, cohort participants partake in coursework and co-curricular programming.

The specialized programs “offer opportunities to be a part of a smaller group of future educators who have access to special course sections with particular global and urban emphasis,” said Gail Richmond, director of the Teacher Preparation Program.

GECP and UECP students engage with in-service teachers during a panel.

Grand Rapids is an ideal location to showcase how the contexts intersect.

The city is diverse, populous and has a rich history of immigrants settling in the area. It also has a large refugee population that necessitates resources and support. Both contexts show up in area schools and require future teachers to be knowledgeable and prepared to provide support to students.

Trips like the one to Grand Rapids are important components of both the cohorts. UECP students have had other opportunities to go to Chicago and Detroit, while GECP has developed a learning experience in Dearborn, MI. 

Miesmer, who is from Dearborn, was drawn to GECP because of her background in Dearborn schools.

“A lot of the people I went to school with were children of immigrants or the grandchildren of immigrants,” she explained. Now, she wants to gain a global perspective to be able to support transnational immigrant children in her work as a teacher.

Roommates Emily Evanski (left) and Morgan Miesmer (right) pose for a selfie on campus.

Evanski, who is from Waterford, MI, was very close to attending a different school before she learned about UECP.

“I looked further into MSU’s education program and saw UECP and said, ‘OK! I’m going to be a Spartan.’”

Indeed, the cohorts are a special feature of MSU’s Teacher Preparation Program and continue to a be touchpoint for alumni.

GECP alum Taylor Sandweg described how her experience in the cohort continues to shape her successful teaching career:

Being a part of GECP gave me the unique opportunity to participate in my teacher education program within a smaller network in the College of Education. This community included classmates and faculty who were similarly enthusiastic about global education but were also willing to challenge my perspectives to develop my critical thinking skills around pedagogy. The program ultimately provided the confidence I needed to pursue a career teaching abroad, and a network I can still rely on today.

The cohort programs provide an enriching space for students to deeply pursue their interests—global or urban—in a community of supportive peers and faculty.

Evanski put it simply: “This is something that other schools don’t provide.”


Launched: 2008
Director: Bethany Wilinski (bethanyw@msu.edu)
Coordinator: Alyssa Morley (morleya2@msu.edu)

“The world outside our doorstep is constantly changing, and teachers must be prepared to help their students grapple with complex global issues and to communicate and build relationships across cultural and linguistic differences,” said Wilinski.


Launched: 2006
Director: Terry Flennaugh (flennaug@msu.edu)
Coordinator: Mary Patillo-Dunn (patillom@msu.edu)

“UECP gives future educators the tools to understand the history and effects of social, cultural, political and economic issues that play out in urban schools, and to effectively meet the needs of all learners,” said Flennaugh.


Evanski and Miesmer met for the first time on their way to the College of Education’s Erickson Hall in the Fall 2021. They were on a CATA bus and realized they were both heading to a meeting for the Aspiring Educators of Michigan (AEMs) group. They discovered they had more in common than their plan to be teachers: including a shared friend group and being part of different cohort programs within the college.