Actor Lance Gross is playing a new role as a global ambassador for the Howard University Freshman Leadership Academy.
The voyage started this past Sunday, when the Howard alumnus and about 60 students and faculty members boarded their flight to Beijing. On this three-week immersion trip, students will examine practices in education, business and leadership and learn about China’s culture and history, according to a press release issued by the school. Attendees will visit landmarks such as the Shanghai World Financial Center and the Great Wall of China, as well as major U.S. companies doing business in the country.
“I wish this program had been at Howard when I was a student,” Gross told Howard officials. “Every parent, teacher, professor, adviser and employer should support making international experiences an essential and affordable component of a well-rounded education.”
Established in 2010, Howard’s Freshman Leadership Academy aims to expose first-year students to the opportunities and challenges associated with student leadership and service. This year China-bound students raised more than $145,000 through fundraising. Although this is FLA’s fourth annual trip to China, Gross is the organization’s first global ambassador.
The students are just as excited as Gross—if not more so—to embark on this overseas journey. Rising sophomore finance major Tiera Williams has high expectations for the 22-day trip and looks forward to “immersing [herself] in a culture so timeless and dynamic,” she told The Root.
The undergrads also have high expectations for their celebrity chaperone.
“I expect Lance Gross to shed light on all of the amazing opportunities afforded to students at HBCUs,” said senior Danielle Scott, who is attending the trip as a campus leader. The political science major said she believes this will be a landmark trip for Howard. “I also think his presence will encourage other alumni to get involved and give back to the university.”
The experience is designed to broaden students’ appreciation of world cultures and languages, improve their intercultural communications skills and increase awareness of what it means to be a global citizen, according to university officials.
Students and faculty will make stops in Beijing and then Shanghai. They will return to the U.S. on Aug. 3.
Taryn Finley is a summer intern at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.