FDU opened its doors at the start of World War II with an innovative and ambitious goal: to provide its students with an education “of and for the world.” Today, as an independent comprehensive institution of 10,000 students (1,000 of whom are international students) on two main northern New Jersey campuses, our University considers its founding mission more relevant and urgent than ever before. Our recently reaffirmed mission statement is to be “a center of academic excellence dedicated to the preparation of world citizens through global education. We strive to provide students with the multidisciplinary, intercultural, and ethical understandings necessary to participate, lead, and prosper in the global marketplace of ideas, commerce, and culture.”
At FDU, we believe that global education is much more than having international campuses or exchange programs. It is also a curriculum that ensures that all of our 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 culture, language, geography and global perspectives. Most importantly, a global education is one that enables all students, both domestic and international, to understand the world through the eyes of others and teaches them how their actions can affect, and be affected by people throughout the world.
Transforming global education from a mission statement into a sense of mission has been a multifaceted and challenging process. While study abroad and cultural immersion remain of paramount importance in any institution dedicated to global education, the national statistics suggest that less than 5% of US students complete a semester abroad. Faced with this reality, we have decided that, while reinforcing our efforts to forge partnerships with colleges and universities abroad, we would also actively explore ways of bringing the world to our students. We believe that transforming young minds on campus through global learning that permeates both the curriculum and co-curriculum will stimulate a desire to explore the world.
Among the initiatives we have been engaged in are:
- Becoming an NGO associated with the Department of Public Information at the United Nations
- Forming a partnership with the Ambassador’s Club at the UN, whereby each semester approximately 10 ambassadors and diplomats interact with FDU faculty and students through two-way video conferences, on-campus lectures, and privately scheduled briefings at the UN headquarters in New York
- Becoming a member of the American Council on Education’s Internationalization Collaborative and being a founding participant in its Internationalization Laboratory (institutional self-study assessing comprehensive internationalization on campus)
- Systematically reexamining curricula within all academic departments for the degree and quality of inclusion of global themes
- Stressing student diversity on campus, including our 1,000 international students
- Creating a freshmen-level course, “The Global Challenge,” that provides a common-global-issues curriculum to all entering students at the university
- Sending students to study at our own international campus in Wroxton, England (the first overseas campus owned by an American university)
- Negotiating partnerships and study-abroad opportunities with institutions in such countries as Cyprus, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Turkey
- Creating Global Scholars residence programs, living/learning environments on both New Jersey campuses, that include both domestic and international students
- Developing the Global Issues Gateway (gig.org) Web site, soon to be publicly launched, and intended to become an international resource for information and exchange on global issues that cross boundaries, whether geographic, ethnic, environmental, or economic.
In addition to all these productive initiatives, one that powerfully affects all of our students’ education is our Global Virtual Faculty (GVF) program. In this program, practitioners and scholars from around the world partner with our on-campus faculty in the delivery of online courses. Imagine, for example, a philosophy student examining how basic moral concepts are applied to forensic investigations with a former head homicide investigator from Scotland Yard, or a Contemporary World Literature student having an opportunity to interact with two faculty experts on postcolonial literature from two different continents, each with their own unique colonial and postcolonial developmental histories. Such interactions are becoming routine at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where our students are traveling on an educational odyssey throughout the globe without leaving their computers. Our Global Virtual Faculty Program opens our students’ eyes to how others in the world may approach issues in ways very different from theirs, or even from those of their US-based faculty.
Creating the opportunity for all of our students to interact with and learn from global faculty is made possible through another of Fairleigh Dickinson’s recent major initiatives, our distance learning requirement. Effective with the fall 2001 semester, FDU became the first university in the country to require that all undergraduate students take one on-line course per 32 credits of study. Students’ distance learning experience begins with the freshman interdisciplinary course, The Global Challenge, which probes a variety of global issues within the context of cultural, economic, moral/ethical and scientific dimensions. Sophomores choose from on-line offerings within their respective colleges, and juniors and seniors pick from a variety of more discipline-specific courses. While many universities view distance learning largely as a tool for recruiting non-traditional students and expanding their market share, Fairleigh Dickinson’s main motivation, as part of our mission to prepare global citizens, is to use distance learning to bring the world to our students. This approach has led us to develop what we believe to be a new paradigm for distance learning and its benefits, and a new paradigm for offering a global education.