Left to right: Alexander Thomas, Maya Lawnicki, Juan Galicia-Diaz

Seniors Juan Galicia-Diaz ’22 (Little Rock, Ark.), Maya Lawnicki ’22 (Milwaukee), and Alexander Thomas ’22 (Kerala, India) are the recipients of the 2022 Global Citizenship Student Award. The Kofi Annan Institute for Global Citizenship presents the annual award to graduating seniors who demonstrate a commitment to the ideals and practice of high academic performance, internationalism, multiculturalism, and civic engagement. The winners shared some of the steps in their global citizenship journeys. 

Juan Galicia-Diaz
Major: Political Science; Minors: Sociology and Spanish

For Juan Galicia-Diaz, a global citizen works toward “social justice and liberation within our global community through a collective process of reflection, action, and transformation on the ground and from the bottom up.” 

He co-founded the Latinx Student Union on campus, creating a space for Latinx students to explore and reclaim their identities, learn from each other, and foster a sense of belonging and community within a predominantly white organization. 

As the Bonner Community Scholars Enrichment Fellow he created programming and support to address the needs and issues of first-generation college students in their transition into college. 

Both of these experiences took a community centered approach. “You’re able to see the next generation of leaders blossom and take form,” he says. “There is no better satisfaction but to see those that come after you excel and live their truth.” 

Galicia-Diaz says he has immense gratitude for his community. “For me, this award isn’t just a recognition, but a reflection of the guidance, love, and inspiration they have transmitted onto me and many others. Thank you for allowing me to learn and be in community with you, it has truly shaped and transformed who I am.”

Maya Lawnicki
Major: Biology; Community and Global Health Concentration 

A global citizen is “someone who listens to understand, has a desire to engage with, and learns from the communities around them,” says Maya Lawnicki. “They have great respect for communities that are very different from their own, whether those be international or local communities, and they choose to learn about those differences and revel in them.” 

Listening to students inspired Lawnicki to co-found Diversity and Equity in Chemistry (DEC), whose group members share a mutual desire to create a community in STEM and make it a more equitable place. DEC shared ideas with faculty, drafted an open letter to STEM departments, created an annual social justice seminar, and worked to create anti-racist programming at both a departmental and institutional level. 

She also has advocated for communities off campus, conducting public-health research for the Community-University Health Care Center on Somali perceptions of the COVID-19 pandemic and how to make care more accessible to that population, and by working as a clinical research intern at Hennepin County Medical Center.

These and other experiences leading on-campus identity groups and serving on staff and faculty search committees have helped her become a leader and begin her journey to be a culturally sensitive emergency medicine physician.

“A global citizen must be able to take risks and do the uncomfortable to truly engage in a meaningful way with members of other societies, to deal with issues that concern everyone,” she says. 

Alexander Thomas
Majors: Environmental Studies (Sustainable Design Emphasis), and Studio Art

As an international student with no connection to the Twin Cities, Alexander Thomas was challenged to learn about and engage with local communities and cultures that were drastically different from his own. Connecting with artists, activists, and architects helped him develop meaningful community relationships. 

“At its core,” he says, “being a global citizen involves a passion for equitable community change, to ensure that everyone moves forward together.”

Together with artist Seitu Jones and Collage Architects, Thomas helped create public-facing artwork for the Neighborhood Development Center’s new headquarters in St. Paul, also known as Frogtown Crossroads. The artwork speaks to the diversity and history of the Frogtown neighborhood and brings together elements of Black culture and history with Minnesota elements. 

Thomas says, “Working on this project exposed me to ways of engaging with different cultures and ways to bring them together to create a cohesive, conscious sense of place.” 

As he continues on his journey toward becoming an architect, Thomas says he wants to hold onto this social and aesthetic sensibility and work toward actively listening to the communities around him and design dignified, sustainable, and equitable spaces.

April 27 2022

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