The Story of the Center for Global Awareness

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

The Center for Global Awareness (CGA) officially started in June 2003, when my daughter, Mia, designed a simple website and it flashed onto the internet for the first time. I started CGA after being inspired to expand my research and teaching about a holistic world history, the global economy, and global education. I taught many workshops about the global economy to groups of lifelong learners in 2002. It went so well that I wanted to continue. Along with teaching at Central New Mexico College, I expanded my workshops on global topics for the general public.

After several years of teaching in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area and having many wonderful experiences, I decided that I wanted to broaden my teaching and research focus. CGA took a turn in an additional direction. Starting in 2005, I conducted numerous workshops and classes around the country for educators in the areas of a holistic world history, the global economy, and global education. I particularly enjoyed a week-long globalization workshop for educators in Singapore in 2006.

Many teachers and others requested additional materials on the workshops I presented, in particular my holistic approach to world history. It was an approach I had been working on since my graduate work and teaching at Illinois State University in the 1990s, and in 2008 I decided it was about time to take up the challenge of writing Waves of Global Change: A Holistic World History. With some sadness, I taught my last semester at Central New Mexico College in 2008 and started writing full time.

Writing was a little more difficult than I had expected. The book took several re-writes and lots of close editing by others. It seemed I would never finish. In the meantime, I thought about starting an educational non-profit that offered holistic, globally-focused educational books and resources for educators and students in grade 9-university. But that seemed like a big task for one person. However, little did I know that the story of CGA was about to take another turn.

As luck would have it, I reconnected with a friend I first met at a globalization study group in 2003: Nancy Harmon. We met again while serving on the board of a local non-profit in 2007. By the end of 2009, Nancy was ending her long and varied teaching career but wanted a project to keep her connected to the educational community. We met for dinner one cold December evening at a local Thai restaurant in Albuquerque. We talked non-stop about forming a partnership to write, publish and disseminate globally-focused/holistic books and educational materials. Nancy had an English background, my background was in social studies, and we both had a real interest in global issues, it was a perfect match!

Nancy and I wrote a detailed business plan, in which we determined it would be the best strategy to form our partnership as a non-profit organization. We immediately dove into filling out the long and complicated IRS application process for a 501(c)(3). As with anything, it took a lot longer than expected! By May 2010, we finally mailed the tome, expecting favorable response in a couple of months. In the meantime, we thought it would be best to continue writing and developing resources and books so that when we "launched" our new non-profit we would have resources available. Nancy worked on her book, International Folktales for the ESL classroom, and edited my books. I finished my holistic world history and an educator's handbook for teaching it. I then plunged into researching and writing two new books, one on the Global Economy and the other on the Financial Sector.

When I opened the mailbox one day in September 2010 and found a letter from the IRS I assumed it would be a message reading: "congratulations you are now a member of the non-profit community." That was not the case. We had to submit more information and a few months later more information once again. As the months dragged by, we thought our application was doomed. Finally, on a crisp clear fall day in October 2011, I opened our acceptance letter from the IRS. I was stunned. Nancy couldn't believe it. We were now a non-profit.

Now that we were a non-profit we could barrel ahead with our elaborate plans for CGA. We launched CGA's new website and social media sites. We toiled away for another full year on getting everything ready to go. As a somewhat frustrating 2012 drew to a close, we thought 2013 looked more positive.

June 2013 marked the 10th anniversary of the CGA, and it seemed like we were finally making progress. We had finished five books that were available for sale through our website, we had posted blogs and on social media, and we had sent out monthly newsletters. In the meantime, I was asked to travel to several countries–Iran, Turkey, China, and Germany (twice)–to develop educational resources about those countries. I thoroughly enjoyed the experiences.

The year 2014 was an exciting year for me. I had a change of pace from writing books. I traveled to Germany in July as a consultant with the Goethe Institute, developing a Cross-Cultural Understanding Teaching Unit for Educators on Germany, and to South Korea in November with the Academy of Korean Studies. Preparation and follow-up for the two trips took up much of my time as I prepared for my consulting projects and completed a series of blogs and a lesson plan on South Korea.

I participated in 2015 on an educational tour to Bahrain, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates sponsored by the Bilateral U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce. I used this opportunity to write a lesson plan and blog about the area. The trip fit in nicely with the publication of my sixth book in 2016, Human Rights: A Universal Values System.

After much reflection, we decided to start a new program at CGA called GATHER, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection. GATHER is a conversation-based study program connecting small groups of concerned adults. Each group gathers together to enhance global awareness by studying and conversing about pressing global and cultural concerns. Using a unique four-dimensional approach called SEEK–see, evolve, engage, and know–participants are able to see different perspectives, evolve attitudes and skills to interact with those different from us, engage with others to bring about positive systemic change, and become more knowledgeable about pressing global and cultural issues.

Along with other projects, we spent most of 2016 and 2017 preparing and planning for GATHER. I also finished my seventh book: Five Worldviews: The Ways We See the World, which was published in early 2017.

2018 brought big changes to CGA. It had been a decade since Nancy and I had taught in the classroom. Also, global education was falling out of favor with some educators and a social justice approach appeared to be more in vogue. We decided that the time had come to step out of the role as global educators and pursue different interests.

I liked teaching, so I reasoned that turning from educators to lifelong learners was a fairly seamless step. I thought it would be fun to teach the Five Worldviews book and other content in adult education programs in Albuquerque. I enthusiastically submitted proposals and fine-tuned courses. I enjoyed teaching some of my tried and true topics–a holistic world history, the global economy, five worldviews, human rights, and cross-cultural awareness–and added some new ones too, such as Indigenous Wisdom and a Transformative Worldview. I had good response to the classes, and it was fun.

From 2018 until COVID-19 hit in March 2020, I continued with my lifelong learning classes at various venues in Albuquerque. I published my eighth book in early 2020: Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them. But then came COVID-19. Like many people around me, COVID turned my life upside down. My adult education classes were cancelled and I was left in limbo. 2020 has been a year of turmoil and change, hopefully 2021 will prove to be more stable, civil, and optimistic.

My Reflections on the Center for Global Awareness

The course of events that CGA has followed since its beginning in 2003 has left me with hope and appreciation. It started with hope that my holistic approach and global perspective to global issues and world history would be something others would like to learn about. I have followed that mission from the beginning. With Nancy Harmon, and others, CGA has evolved into an educational non-profit that is reaching thousands of people in the U.S. and around the world. Our books continue to be popular. I am appreciative to all who have helped CGA thrive and continue. I am also hopeful that our message of seeing the world from a holistic and global perspective is one whose time has come.

Kind Regards,
Dr. Denise R. Ames