Global citizens

In a recent article entitled “Global citizenship: What are we talking about and why does it matter?”, Madeleine F. Green offered her reflections about global citizenship.   The electronic version of the article traveling rapidly throughout the international education communities and beyond.  There are many within community and outside international education that are wrestling with terms such as internationalization, global education and global citizenship.  The conversation has been ongoing for many years so that topic is not new but embracing a global perspective seems to be ever more critical in today’s world.

For many, you know that I would definitely be seen as an advocate for enabling individuals to become global citizens.  Obviously this would be most apparent in the Graduate School’s commitment to global higher education through the Transformative Graduate Education initiative and more specifically through the future professoriate global perspectives program.  The Global Perspectives blog stands as a visible representation of the growing interest in “understanding global”.

I hope that most of the broader university community would be in agreement with Green’s statement that the world would be a better place if colleges and universities could “produce graduates with knowledge and the disposition to be global citizens”.  From my perspective, “producing graduates” would apply not just to the undergraduate experience but to graduate students as an integral component of their preparation as the future leaders, scientists, scholars, artists, and educators.  Further, it is my firm belief that university administrators should engage and encourage the faculty and staff at our colleges and universities to become more engaged with a global understanding of the world.  Although the most frequent example of global engagement is study abroad, not everyone can have this experience.  And therefore, establishing global understanding among all of the university constituencies would require that global awareness and understanding come not only from experiences abroad but also from authentic global experiences “at home”.   This would be a challenge but should be among the goals of a 21st century university.

In the quest toward “producing” global citizens, colleges and universities will need to envision and develop programs and opportunities (abroad and at home) that are meaningful and relevant, incorporate active participation and individual engagement, and designed intentionally toward reaching the goal of global understanding.  These programs and opportunities are critical but perhaps most important is the realization that the journey towards becoming a global citizen must begin with introspection, a greater understanding of one’s own cultural context(s) and how these influence every day life to inform ourselves as global citizens.

The VT Future Professoriate Program stands as an example through which the study abroad (global perspectives program) and study-at-home (GRAD 5104) portions help prepare future faculty as global citizens.  The partnership with UniBasel provides a similar experience starting in Basel and then a visit to selected universities in the US.  This year, participants from the University of Lund will join us at CESA in Riva San Vitale for a global graduate education seminar.  Although as participants in the 2012 Future Professoriate global perspectives program our individual journeys began from our unique place, the journeys have begun to converge and become enriched by the shared space and common experiences on the path to greater global understanding and becoming an informed citizen of our global society.