GPP 2012: The Basel Experience

This is the talk I gave at the Global Perspectives Conference 2012, held 15 June 2012 at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, about how the Basel group experienced the GPP 2012

“I have the pleasure to share with you the Basel experience in the GPP, the Global Perspectives Program. But maybe we should rename it and call it the Global Perspectives Process. Process, because it changed us. We are not the same persons any more than we were in March when the GPP began with the input seminar; when Karen DePauw[1] taught us what it means to be a GPP participant, what she expects us to put in the program and what we might take out of it. At this point, we became GPP participants as individuals and our diverse little bunch, when it comes to nation and research fields, started to grow together to what is the Basel GPP Group 2012.

Thus, we were ready to enter phase two of the process: meeting our friends and colleagues from Virginia Tech and Lund University in Riva San Vitale at what was called the Global Summit.[2] This was one of the most valuable experiences of the program. It was not only about meeting interesting people from abroad and having a good time together. It was about working together. It was about creating a common vision despite our diverse backgrounds. Indeed, our diversity was crucial to meet the challenge of thinking beyond what we already know and take for granted. Without diversity, we would never have been able to overcome the tyranny of common sense.[3]

Five days ago, the highlight of the program for us started: our trip to the US. And again, diversity was the keyword. We visited various kinds of higher education institutions ranging from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the New River Community College. And I can assure you: the Community College was at least as interesting as the MIT. We had the opportunity to talk to professors, deans and high-ranking administration staff as well as to graduate and undergraduate students. And through all these new insights, we started to construct our conception of the US education system. And being exposed to what is different from what we know, we started to reflect about our own educational system. And we asked questions we would never have come up with, if it were not for our new insights. Where are the leaks in the Swiss pipeline? What are our diversity issues? Is it really only gender? What about people with a migratory background? What about socio-economic status? Do we really live in the egalitarian paradise we sometimes wish we did?

So we go back to Switzerland highly inspired and with a long list of new experiences and insights and an even longer list of questions. We are incited to continue and extend the debate and get more people on board. The Global Perspectives Program will end in a few hours. The Global Perspectives Process never will.”

[1] Karen DePauw is Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education at the Virginia Tech University and the head of the GPP on the Virginia Tech side.

[2] This is something I have learned from our American colleagues: branding.

[3] Admittedly, I borrowed this expression from Sir Kenneth Robinson and his highly inspiring Ted Talk “Bring on the Learning Revolution” (at 5:25).