Building a Global Community

Statements of most universities’ vision and mission for higher education today are abuzz with the need to help students cultivate the sense of global citizenship as well as achieve the goals of liberal arts education. This desire is a necessary response to the paradigm shifts in geopolitical power dynamics in the world, increasing economic and career challenges faced by universities and their students respectively, and radical advancements in information technologies that are transforming higher education. However, it is not easy to see what specific approaches and strategies that the universities are using for producing global citizens in the sense of well-rounded and productive graduates who are professionally competitive in the local and global markets (and not the cultivation of global citizenship as an intellectual ideal). As an international scholar who is passionate about learning and contributing ideas about how universities can achieve the goal of producing productive global citizens in response to the crises that higher education is facing around the word, I believe that students affairs are best positioned to take the lead in helping universities achieve this goal. The goal can be achieved by adopting a three-pronged approach that is frankly but surprisingly simpler than it may appear. In the rest of this short essay, I describe what that approach would look like focusing on how student affairs can take help universities fulfill this mission.

Redefine and Re-Sell the Mission of Global Citizenship

The idea of global citizenship as an educational goal was a part of the larger mission of liberal arts education in the United States, so it is by no means a new idea. What is new is that this mission has changed from being an intellectual ideal into a pragmatic necessity. Because of the globalization of trade, industry, and the service sector–and additionally because this globalization is radically intensified by globalized communication and information technologies–our students will practically need the skills for communicating and working with globally interconnected academic and professional markets. As a result, student affairs that take the leadership in promoting this education goal will no longer be promoting an ideal but educating and demonstrating to the university community practical benefits of developing in our students the sense of–and skills for–surviving and thriving in global professional market.

Provide Leadership, Promote the Mission

Universities already strive to achieve the goal of cultivating global citizenship among their students, but they normally do so through individual departments, initiatives, and programs. Student affairs are in the best position to provide leadership and promote the mission on university-wide scales. Also, universities spend tremendous amounts of resource in traditional programs like study abroad programs and international missions when in fact they already have global communities of international students and faculty right on campus, often from as many as a hundred different countries. If the ideas, experiences, expertise, and indeed outlooks of these members of the university are tapped into, student affairs can create “global education exchange” programs right on campus. However, this does not mean that they should replace the world with people who are “already here.”

Develop Global Learning Networks

As much as there are challenges, there are  opportunities in any field. It is possible to network to the learning or professional community literally across the world. For example, a physics student needs to understand the field of physics on a global level  because he/she will be working and indeed competing with a global community of physics scholars and professionals in the future. And then it’s possible to create personal learning networks as well as professional organizations and networks of the best minds in the field. Today, even while one is a student, students with leadership potentials can also start developing their own networks and leadership roles in their field on an international scope. This is not only doable because of the technology at our hands, it is becoming eminently practically necessary because of the challenges that every academic field is facing today.
In conclusion, as an international scholar who worked as a teacher and leader in secondary and postsecondary education in a developing country, who is involved in professionalization of the field in both at home and the United States, and as a scholar of student affairs who has a passion for leading in educational projects that have global scopes and missions, I strongly believe that scholars, researchers, and administrators in this field have an extremely important role to fulfill in the face of increasing challenges brought about by the internationalization of higher education. What can we do to turn these challenges as exciting opportunities? While examining the net effects of college scholars consistently suggest that college is the best time to develop globally minded and educated citizens because it is the time when students increase their civic and community involvement and become more open to diversity.

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