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Task force planning for global education

by Karen A. Grava - March 27, 2006

Few of today’s students will settle in their hometown, interacting only with people they’ve known all their lives, working at a job that has only local affiliations, and restricting their shopping to U.S. products.

Instead, they will be global citizens. But how does a research university prepare them for that?

“The world has changed. It is no longer, in many ways, confined by national boundaries. The media and the Internet have exposed students to the world,” says Veronica Makowsky, vice provost for undergraduate education and regional campus administration.

“So teaching our students to be global citizens has to be part of the strategic plan for undergraduate education.”

Makowsky is head of a task force on global education appointed by Provost Peter J. Nicholls, who identified three main goals for undergraduate students: individualized experiences; engaged learning; and developing as global citizens.

The global citizens task force, whose report is due in May, is looking at four ways to globalize education:

  • increase the number of foreign undergraduates in the freshman class from 18 to 100 per year;
  • increase from 12 percent to 30 percent the number of undergraduates who study abroad;
  • create living-learning communities where students can immerse themselves in a language and other international experiences, such as preparing for or debriefing from studying aboard;
  • and offer students opportunities to cluster both general education classes and other courses into what Makowsky calls a “path through the curriculum” into the study of another culture.

“The whole point is that we are a large research university,” she says, “and that means that we can offer our undergraduates more, not less.”

Makowsky says the idea of global citizenship already has excited deans and faculty, many of whom are anxious to work with the committee to accomplish its goals.

Some already have core courses offered in a foreign language, courses about other cultures, or courses that focus on international topics.

Some, like the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, are expanding their offerings. This fall, courses in Arabic and Chinese will be part of the regular curriculum, for example.

The committee is also inventorying existing courses that might be linked through one-credit courses to form a body of knowledge.

“We will not be reinventing things,” Makowsky says, “but rather building on best practices of other universities and linking together courses we are already offering.”

One thing the committee will not do is focus on language requirements. Most students will be able to meet language requirements in high school, although they may want to use that language in new ways in college.

Members of the committee are: Norma Bouchard, assistant professor and head of modern and classical languages; Diane Burgess, professor of pharmacy; Eleni Coundouriotis, associate professor of English; Anne D’Alleva, associate dean of fine arts; Francoise Dussart, associate professor and director of anthropology; Hedley Freake, professor of nutritional science; Lynne Goldstein, associate vice provost; Eric Haas, assistant professor of educational leadership; Betty Hanson, professor of   political science; Kathryn Hegedus, associate professor of nursing; and Ross Lewin, executive director of the study abroad program.

Also, Barbara Lindsey, director of the multimedia language center; Cathleen Love, associate vice provost of multicultural affairs; Elizabeth Mahan, associate executive director of international affairs; Ramesh Malla, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; Muhammad (Munir) Islam, professor of physics; Amii Omara-Otunnu, associate professor of history and UNESCO Chair in Comparative Human Rights; Morty Ortega, assistant professor of natural resources management; Jeff Rummel, associate professor and associate dean of the School of Business; and Alexander Vias, associate professor of geography.

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