President's Update - October 7, 2004

What is Global Education?


Dear Colleagues,

Over the summer, I had time to review and reflect upon the self-study work of the ACE Internationalization Lab Team. The findings and recommendations of the team and external review group provided a penetrating look at our progress and challenges.

This summer was also an important time for me personally — it marked the end of my fifth year as FDU’s president and the transition into my sixth. The anniversary naturally invited some reflection on where we have traveled and where we are going.

As I thought of the accomplishments and challenges of the past 60 months, I went back to the original positioning statement, released in January 2000, that was the foundation for the development of our mission. You may also recall this document, “Toward Global Education: A White Paper.” (I’m happy to provide copies for those who wish to review it.) I remain indebted to those pioneers who worked so thoughtfully to provide us direction. They were:

•    Martin Donoff
•    James Hutton
•    I.R. Isquith
•    Elise Salem
•    Peter Woolley

During those early months, many faculty and staff asked that I define what they should do to implement the mission. As a young assistant professor at the State University of New York at Oswego, I developed a strong faith in the power, creativity and reliability of the faculty. I learned that faculty and other professionals are the best judges of how they should respond to a changing world. So rather than issue directives, I have tried to offer guidance when appropriate. For instance, in response to questions about clarifying the meaning of a global education, I distributed a study published in the American Educational Research Journal titled, “Educating World Citizens: Toward Multinational Curriculum Development.” I suggested and still believe these findings should be guiding elements for a 21st century education. (If you would like a copy of this article, please contact me.)

There is value, though, in providing a framework from which individuals might translate the mission into each course, class and activity. So, building on my recent reflections, I thought it now important to provide the FDU community with a formal response to the question, “What is Global Education?” It is my hope that this modest attempt to describe global education will help us to better translate our mission in concert with the ACE Internationalization Lab Team’s recommendations.

The FDU White Paper on global education concluded,

It is as a final recommendation and, ultimately, the purpose of this document that the authors wish to invite and encourage widespread discussion and participation in these issues. For it is altogether fitting that a global vision be globally considered.

In that same spirit, I offer the following thoughts to encourage your further contributions to our continuing dialogue.

What Is Global Education?
During my inaugural address in September 2000, I laid out the case for global education — a case built upon the promise and perils of globalization. In a world increasingly marked by interconnectedness and interdependence among countries, cultures and commerce, we enjoy instant connection to new ideas and diverse peoples and the rapid spread of the benefits of human progress. At the same time, we are concerned that the fruits of this progress are not shared by all. We also have greater reason to worry about the proliferation of threats that can race beyond borders, ranging from environmental degradation to contagious diseases to terrorism.

But while globalization and especially global commerce have brought many of us closer together, we still don’t know a great deal about each other. Responding to globalization requires a global education.

In those inaugural comments, I made a first attempt to outline what global education is. I said, “A global education is much more than studying abroad or developing exchange programs. It is an education that ensures that students will be able to succeed in a world marked by interdependence, diversity and rapid change. A global education is one that provides knowledge and understanding of cultures, languages, geography and global perspectives. Most importantly, a global education is one that enables students to understand their roles in a global community and teaches them how their actions can affect citizens throughout the world.” I also might add that it demonstrates how events around the world can affect students in their own lives and therefore cannot be ignored.

I still believe this is a valuable starting point, but I’d like to add more. It seems to me that a global education (and perhaps also a global citizen) is characterized by:

1.    Knowledge of the world;

2.    Knowledge of the self and the individual’s place in the world; and

3.    The ability to connect the dots in an ever-changing, increasingly complex world.

Global education can be summarized by connections and perspectives. It’s about understanding the nature of the connections that link people from all corners of the globe, and it’s about expanding those connections for the betterment of all. It means considering the world as a whole, with a rich (and sometimes unpleasant) interplay of nations and cultures. And it’s about introducing ourselves and our students to multiple viewpoints, so we might develop the ability to understand the world through the eyes of others and to work alongside others from different backgrounds. I’m convinced such understanding is essential to reducing conflicts and forging solutions to the most pressing global challenges.

Many have considered the meaning of global education and global citizenship. I am particularly attracted to the work of Robert Hanvey, who, three decades ago, wrote An Attainable Global Perspective. His ingredients of a global education included:

1.    Perspective Consciousness
Students need to understand their views are not shared universally and must develop the ability to see the world through the perspective of others.

2.    “State of the World” Awareness
Students have to learn basic information about the world and the issues facing human beings today, including an understanding of the causes of events and their effects on different nations and peoples.

3.    Cross-Cultural Awareness
Students should become familiar with other cultures and must be able to relate to people from other backgrounds, while appreciating the many varieties of cultures.

4.    Conceiving and Thinking of the World as a Global System
Students must be able to comprehend the nature of systems and how societies are linked together.

5.    Awareness of Human Choice and Opportunities for Action
Students need to understand their responsibilities, realize the choices facing individuals and nations and learn how to act as global citizens.

Global educators must regularly confront stereotypes, break down disciplinary barriers, encourage alternative interpretations and global dialogues, nurture tolerance and civility, link the particular to the general and vice versa, and provide opportunities for cross-cultural experiences and immersion. Global educators must help students appreciate what is universal while understanding what is unique to specific peoples.

Certainly, as educators, we have long been expanding horizons, introducing the unfamiliar and helping students connect the dots. Now, we need to increase the scale of programs and broaden the pervasiveness of the approach. Rather than disparate components of a curriculum or ancillary parts of the educational experience, global issues and global lessons must be integrated throughout our endeavors.

Over the last five years, we have taken more important steps than most other universities, and a strong foundation is in place. But now we must build upon this.

It’s important to keep in mind that global education is not a static concept that we can define readily and arrange neatly in a drawer. It is a living, evolving and sometimes messy process. If the heart of global education is the interaction between teacher and learner, the lifeline of global education flows with the vast collection of our diverse and multiple efforts. Each of us brings a different perspective to the mission. And each of us can use our unique talents in our varying roles and fields to further our mission and serve our students.

Global education can mean many things, but ultimately for our students it is defined by what we do to prepare them for a world in transition. Just as we all have an opportunity and a responsibility to make an imprint upon the world, we have a chance to contribute to the distinction of our institution and prepare our students well for success and leadership in a global age.

Thank you,
Michael Adams