Interview with an Expert
Founder and ceo of global citizen year
1. What does your company do and why did you found it?
Global Citizen Year (GCY) is on a mission to make it normal for kids to take a year between high school and college. Our model offers leadership training for students from diverse backgrounds alongside deep, long-term immersion (10 months long) in either Senegal, Brazil, Ecuador, or India. I founded GCY in 2010 to try create systemic change in our education system and make this bridge year an integrated part of how we think about a pathway to college.
2. What's the biggest challenge you've faced as a founder and director?
Balancing my vision, ambition and aspiration with the reality of how hard it is to build something from scratch. I have learned to embrace the mantra of going slow to go fast, to grow deliberately from a strong foundation. If you are a big thinker, reality is just never fast enough!
3. What is your proudest moment? Shining minute?
I was very proud to see Tufts University take this model on as their own. I had lunch with the Provost years ago and he decided to launch a 1 + 4 model. Students do 1 year with GCY and then 4 with Tufts. It's the sign of a school that is ahead of its time. They have created incentives and pathways to help more kids see this as the greatest advantage they could have in the world.
4. Any particular mentor you had who you'd like to give a nod to?
Wendy Kopp, the Founder of Teach for America. Now she leads Teach for All, which is modeling the Teach for America model in 40 countries around the world. She has been a consistent source of support and guidance, clear-eyed feedback, warmth, and encouragement when I need it. She helps me keep my eye on the bigger picture. She has been honest and vulnerable about the early challenges of Teach for America. How it took a decade for it to get traction. This has given me patience and comfort.
5. Any advice to rising female leaders in this field?
Think big. Think without constraints.
Abigail Falik is the founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year, and an award-winning social entrepreneur. Falik is driven by the conviction that talent is universal, but opportunity is not. Prior to founding Global Citizen Year, Falik applied her entrepreneurial instincts to innovative educational initiatives in the U.S. and around the world. She was an early team member at College Track, an organization focused on ensuring college success for low-income students, as well as a strategic advisor to Room to Read, an organization that helps build literacy skills in Africa and Asia. During her tenure at NetAid (later acquired by Mercy Corps), she designed and launched a flagship initiative to engage U.S. high school students in the fight to end global poverty. A recognized expert on social innovation and the changing landscape of education, Falik has been featured in Forbes, NPR, The Washington Post and The New York Times. In 2016, Fast Company named her one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business, and for her achievements as a social entrepreneur, she has been recognized as an Ashoka Fellow, a MindTrust Fellow and a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur. She currently serves on the advisory boards of World Learning, Teach for All and the Harvard Business School. She received a B.A. in international relations and an M.A. in international comparative education from Stanford University. She received her MBA from Harvard Business School.