Ashoka Fellow
United States,
Fellow Since 2014


This profile was prepared when Abby Falik was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
As American higher education struggles to stay relevant in a changing society, Abby is pushing colleges and universities to rethink learning priorities and traditional course sequencing that have remained largely unchanged for decades. By re-imagining the traditional “gap year” to be a structured international “bridge year” apprenticeship, Global Citizen Year holds universities accountable for providing real-world exposure and training that complements and integrates our K-12 and higher education systems in the context of a global society.

Abby has transformed the traditional notion of a “gap year” between high school and college, converting a self-piloted wanderlust taken by underachievers or wealthy elite into a transformative leadership experience: An apprenticeship in a developing country, with structured reflection around self-growth, global society, and social impact. In doing so, Global Citizen Year’s goal is to help universities equip first-year students with the social and emotional skills and global perspective necessary to excel in college and 21st century careers. A bridge year acts as a primer for high school graduates, illuminating the world during a critical transition, and providing them with a framework of experience on which to hang the knowledge and skills they acquire in college. Global Citizen Year has started to prove that a bridge year also results in stronger motivation and better academic performance, which could help intercept the one-third of college-goers who do not complete their degree despite thousands of dollars invested. Abby’s long-term goal is to give rise to an entire field of bridge year opportunities, helping the American public to recognize and demand a better transition into the higher education system.

Global Citizen Year re-envisions traditional study abroad models by intentionally structuring reflection on leadership and accountability in a globally connected age, and by welcoming alumni into an active network of leaders. Perhaps most importantly, Abby is partnering directly with universities like Tufts University and The New School to formally incorporate a Global Citizen Year bridge year into the institution, in some cases counting as a full year of academic credit. Not unlike Teach for America, Global Citizen Year aims for its growing coalition of young alumni to be not only better-equipped students and leaders, but also ambassadors for the bridge year movement across disciplines and institutions.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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