Fostering cross-cultural learning while building skills in ethnographic community-based research

The Global Citizenship and Sustainability (GCS) program currently works in partnership with the Institute of Social Informatics and Technological Innovations at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) and with Penan village leaders in Long Lamai. The Program expanded in 2018 to include University College Technology Sarawak (UCTS) and Iban communities in Bawang Assan and Machan.

The GCS program was founded on community-based learning principles, reciprocal learning, and trusting relationships.  Teams of students in the program conduct community-based research in partnership with village leaders and university partners with the intention of gaining a broader understanding of the issues of climate change and fostering cultural resiliency. With our partner universities in Malaysia, students work in cross-cultural and collaborative project teams to incorporate Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for rural and indigenous sustainable development.  Indigenous, local, and traditional knowledge systems and practices, including indigenous peoples’ holistic views of community and environment, are a major resource for adapting to climate change.

Our mission and vision

We learn, work, and take action collaboratively in addressing issues relating to climate change and community resiliency. The Global Citizenship and Sustainability Program fosters engaged research, cross-cultural learning experiences, student leadership and social responsibility.  The program promotes reciprocal learning, benefiting students, community partners and participants in Southeast Asia.

Faculty and staff directors

Faculty and staff directors guide teams comprised of Cornell University, Universiti of Malaysia Sarawak, and University College of Technology Sarawak students to learn and conduct community-based research with the intention of gaining a broader understanding of the complexities and social issues surrounding climate change, deforestation, and sustainability that are facing our world today.

Woman holds rope in Malaysian forest

Co-founder of GCS; Professor, Dept. of Natural Resources and the Environment, Dept. of Global Development, & Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University

Headshot of Narayan Kulathuramaiyer

Professor of Computer Science and Information Technology and Director of the Institute for Social Informatics and Technological Innovations, Universiti of Malaysia (UNIMAS)

Headshot of Amy Kuo Somchanhmavong

Co-founder of GCS; Associate Director of Community Partnerships, Public Service Center, Cornell University

Headshot of Tariq Zaman

Associate Professor School of Computing and Creative Media University College of Technology Sarawak


Headshot of Franklin George

Research Assistant & Global Citizenship & Sustainability Field Researcher of the Institute for Social Informatics and Technological Innovations, Universiti of Malaysia (UNIMAS)

Headshot of Farina Osman

Project Manager (Sprintz Design) of the Institute for Social Informatics and Technological Innovations, Universiti of Malaysia (UNIMAS)

Headshot of Gary Loh

Senior Lecturer, School of Computing, University College of Technology Sarawak

Program highlight

2021 International Conference on Community-Based Service-Learning Borneo

The virtual conference provided students, faculty members, and community partners opportunities for engaging in reflective dialogues on the process, learning, and experience of service-learning partnership and frameworks for community-based service- learning.

Group of students perform fieldwork in Malaysian forest

Learn more about the program

Students will be exposed to the multiple facets and perspectives of sustainable community development for indigenous minority groups with an emphasis on resiliency issues. Sustainable community development includes decision-making about livelihood options which is intertwined with issues of social justice, cultural survival, power imbalances, and economic development. Students will be challenged by applying theoretical frameworks on global citizenship to relevant questions of ethics, power, democracy, diversity, culture and environment.  These theories will be applied to the social dimensions of sustainable development and cultural resilience in Malaysia.  Teamwork, leadership and cross-cultural competency skills will be furthered through the research with UNIMAS, UCTS and Cornell students working together. 

The in-country fieldwork provides students with a hands-on introductory experience of community-based research.  In addition, students will have exposure to the higher educational system in Malaysia, its philosophy and approach toward community-based research and the opportunity to work and learn together with UNIMAS and UCTS students regarding sustainable development, and cultural resilience for indigenous communities. 

The “Global Citizenship and Sustainability” Program is a three-part learning experience that includes the following courses: 

  • NTRES 4000: A fall pre-departure course that provides students with the foundations of the community-based research methodology and methods
  • NTRES 4001:  A 3-week intensive community-based research trip to Malaysia during the January’s Winter Session
  • NTRES 4002:  a post-fieldwork course in the spring semester that includes reflection on the learning experience focusing on global citizenship and cultural competency, community-based research, sustainability and understanding of resilience and indigenized development.

There is a $2,000 course fee associated with NTRES 4000 and students must purchase their airfare to Kuching, Sarawak. The course fee does not apply to those students taking the course but not traveling.  The course fee will cover expenses related to in-country flights, ground transportation, village homestay, boat transport, food while in-country, and housing at the Universiti of Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) dormitory in Kuching.  Many students with financial need in the GCS program receive financial assistance to participate from sources in their College, the Southeast Asia Program, the Office of Engagement Initiatives, and other sources.  Please see the following for funding resources for possible funding sources for students.

  • Allred, S.  2021.  Cultural resilience in Borneo.  Northern Illinois University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies Graduate Colloquium and the Dept. of Geographic and Atmospheric Sciences, April 16, 2021.
  • Allred, S.  2021. Conservation and culture and Borneo.  Presentation to the Southeast Asia Youth Leadership Program (SEAYLP), April 15, 2021.
  • Allred, S.B.  2020.  Cultural contributions to community resilience in Borneo.  Cornell Undergraduate Research Board Humanities Mini-symposium, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, October 28, 2020.
  • Allred, S.B.  2020.  Exploring community resilience across space and time.  A 2020 View of Climate Change, Trustee Council Advisory Meeting, Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, Panel Presentation, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, October 9, 2020.
  • Allred, S. 2019.  Meridian Diplomacy Forum: Countries of the Mekong.  Panelist: Leveraging tourism for sustainable ecological development and cultural heritage.  Washington DC, June 6, 2019.
  • Allred, S.  2018.  Building Sustainability and Resilience through Engagement.  Keynote Address at Cornell University’s 2018 Sustainability Leadership Summit, Ithaca NY, Dec. 6, 2018.
  • Allred, S.  2018.  Exploring Indigenous Community Resilience in Long Lamai:  Results from Participatory  Research.  Research Seminar at the Institute of Social Informatics and Technological Innovation (ISITI), University of Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Kuching, Malaysia, January 5, 2018.
  • Allred, S. 2018.  Global Citizenship and Sustainability:  UNI-COR Partnership for Indigenous Community Resilience.  Presentation at the Institute of Social Informatics and Technological Innovation (ISITI), University of Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Kuching, Malaysia, January 4, 2018.
  • Allred, S. 2018.  Journey to Borneo:  Finding your place in the world.  Cornell Orientation.  Ithaca, NY, August 19, 2018.
  • Allred, S. 2017.  UNI-COR Partnership for Global Service Learning in Borneo.  6th eBorneo Knowledge Fair:  Community-Based Sustainability, Bakelalan, Malaysia, Oct. 25, 2017.
  • Allred, S.  2017. Global Citizenship and Sustainability:  Partnership for Indigenous Community Resilience.  Trustee Council Advisory Meeting, Vice Provost for International Affairs.  Cornell University, Ithaca NY, October 21, 2017. 
  • Kulathuramaiyer, N., Allred, S., Harris, R., Zaman, T., Somchanhmavong, A. and F. George.  2017.  University-Community Partnerships for Indigenous Community Resilience.  Sarawak Development Institute, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, Jan. 10, 2017. 
  • Allred, S., Zaman, T., Jengan, G. and A. Kuo Somchanhmavong.  2016.  Partnership:  Cross Institutional Collaboration and Mutual Learning.  4th International Service-Learning Summit, Manhattan, KS, October 23-25, 2016. 
  • Allred, S. and A. Kuo Somchanhmavong.  2016.  Service-learning for community-based outcomes.  Seminar at the Institute of Social Informatics and Technological Innovation (ISITI), University of Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Kuching, Malaysia, June 16, 2016.
  • Allred, S.  2016. Strengthening the resilience of rural communities:  The Role of Indigenous Cultural Resilience.  Smart Villages and Resilience to Natural Disasters workshop, National University of Singapore, Singapore, May 5, 2016. 
  • Harris, R. and S. Allred. 2016.  Community-led Research as Service Learning. International Symposium on Service-Learning: Network Strengthening for Service-Learning Regional Collaboration, Lingnan University, Hong Kong, China, March 11, 2016. 
  • Allred, S. and A. Kuo Somchanhmavong.  2015.  Engaged Learning:  The Global Citizenship and Sustainability Community-Based Research Program.  Seminar at the Institute of Social Informatics (ISITI), University of Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Kuching, Malaysia, January 19, 2015.
  • Allred, S.B. and A. Kuo Somchanhmavong.  2014.  Examining Student Learning Outcomes from the Global Citizenship and Sustainability Community-Based Research Exchange Program.  Second Summit on University Social Responsibility, Inaugural International Conference on Service-Learning, Hong Kong, China, November 21, 2014. 
  • Allred, S.B. and A. Kuo Somchanhmavong.  2014.  Global Citizenship and Sustainability Program.  7th Annual Global Service Learning Institute, Skaneateles NY, November 5-7, 2014. 
  • Allred, S.B. and A. Kuo Somchanhmavong.  2014.  Global Citizenship and Sustainability Program.  Trustee Council Advisory Meeting, Public Service Center.  Cornell University, Ithaca NY, October 17, 2014. 
  • S. Allred and A. Kuo Somchanhmavong.  2014.  How do Universities Plan, Prepare, and Carry Out Engaged Learning?  Engaged Learning and ICTD in the Curriculum, Shah Alam, Malaysia, June 4, 2014. 

Photos from the field