As someone who witnessed the second plane hit the World Trade Center in 2001, Dana Mortenson also saw up-close the insular response of many Americans.

In the aftermath of 9/11, many across the country argued for more focus on America and less on understanding the rest of the world - including the suggestion to teach only U.S. history.

This "contracting inward" - the looming narrative of fear in a city and country that she loved - worried Mortenson. "It was the opposite of what was necessary," she says. "Even if the intention was to protect, the idea that so many wanted to understand less, not more, was a turning point for me."

At the time, she was a graduate student in international affairs at Columbia University. She became friends with Madiha Murshed, who was born in Bangladesh, lived in Bahrain, and attended high school in Singapore. Mortenson admired her classmate's ability to move seemingly effortlessly between cultures and countries. Murshed had an ability to connect current events with global historical context thanks to her upbringing and background.

Murshed is Muslim. After 9/11, she was spit on and kicked. Her reaction was empathy, recognizing that the perpetrators were acting out of fear.

The two friends believed in education as a leveler and a way to create systemic change. Mortenson's father was a teacher, and Murshed's mother started one of the first schools in Bangladesh after its independence. After the two friends graduated in 2002, they co-founded World Savvy, an education nonprofit, where Mortenson serves as executive director. (Murshed now works in education in Bangladesh.)

Since then, World Savvy has worked with over 3,000 teachers and more than 450,000 students. The nonprofit helps to bring global competence learning into K-12 classrooms, so students are prepared to meet the challenges of 21st century citizenship.

The overarching goal of World Savvy is to embrace the collaborative benefits of the world we live in - to enable communication across cultures, value multiple perspectives, and understand cultural and religious differences.

This "contracting inward" - the looming narrative of fear in a city and country that she loved - worried Mortenson. "It was the opposite of what was necessary," she says. "Even if the intention was to protect, the idea that so many wanted to understand less, not more, was a turning point for me."

At the time, she was a graduate student in international affairs at Columbia University. She became friends with Madiha Murshed, who was born in Bangladesh, lived in Bahrain, and attended high school in Singapore. Mortenson admired her classmate's ability to move seemingly effortlessly between cultures and countries. Murshed had an ability to connect current events with global historical context thanks to her upbringing and background.

Murshed is Muslim. After 9/11, she was spit on and kicked. Her reaction was empathy, recognizing that the perpetrators were acting out of fear.

The two friends believed in education as a leveler and a way to create systemic change. Mortenson's father was a teacher, and Murshed's mother started one of the first schools in Bangladesh after its independence. After the two friends graduated in 2002, they co-founded World Savvy, an education nonprofit, where Mortenson serves as executive director. (Murshed now works in education in Bangladesh.)


Since then, World Savvy has worked with over 3,000 teachers and more than 450,000 students. The nonprofit helps to bring global competence learning into K-12 classrooms, so students are prepared to meet the challenges of 21st century citizenship.

The overarching goal of World Savvy is to embrace the collaborative benefits of the world we live in - to enable communication across cultures, value multiple perspectives, and understand cultural and religious differences.

The organization expanded from its New York and San Francisco locations to a Northeast Minneapolis