Going Global 101

July 16, 2007


"Global" is the buzzword on campuses throughout the country. With greater recognition of the threads connecting countries and cultures, educators are increasingly scrambling to integrate global lessons. But how can we properly prepare students to succeed in the global economy and to face challenges that cross borders? How can we prepare world citizens who can collaborate across cultures and countries and make a difference anywhere in the world?

There is no single path to creating a global university or a global curriculum. In fact, what you do is actually less important than how you view what you are doing. In other words, if you believe it is vital to prepare the next generation as world citizens, your methods will spring from that fundamental mindset. Innovations will arise from the imperative. And innovators are building tremendous programs throughout the country that spread knowledge of other countries and cultures, convey appreciation for the rich diversity and interconnected nature of our world, and instill intercultural competencies.

But many others are having trouble figuring out this global game, have limited access to resources and are surrounded by naysayers. At Fairleigh Dickinson, where in 2000 we introduced a mission to prepare world citizens through global education, we have worked hard to develop creative ways to integrate global lessons throughout our programs and activities. To those devoted toward the same end, we offer these 10 free tips and simple suggestions that can help internationalize your campus, globalize your classroom and turn your students into world citizens. Perhaps the best thing about these thoughts is that they can be translated into classroom activities or used as the base for larger programs and campus events.

1. Welcome Global Experts. Guest lecturers and speakers roam the planet looking for audiences and venues to introduce their ideas and insights. Invite them, make them feel at home and provide them opportunities to offer international perspectives on global subjects. Be sure to also seize the benefits of technology. Use videoconferencing to broadcast global scholars and use the Web for virtual presentations. At Fairleigh Dickinson, we have created Global Virtual Faculty, scholars and professionals from around the globe who contribute to the classroom via the Internet (see http://www.globaleducation.edu).

2. Connect to the United Nations. Regardless of its flaws, the United Nations represents the dominant international organization of our times, and it features a wide range of viewpoints and a rich arsenal of resources on global issues. FDU’s U.N. Pathways Program regularly brings students to U.N. headquarters for briefings and brings ambassadors to campus. But even if you are not located close to New York City, you can take advantage of features like U.N. Webcasts and videoconferences, the CyberSchoolBus (for teachers and young people) and, of course, the Model U.N.

3. Make It Current. In addition to the fact that students need to be connected to current events, today’s news items remind us constantly of global connections, diverse cultures and common destinies. But news itself is subject to different frames and viewpoints, providing interesting lessons in how perceptions vary. To keep current and to shed light on views from abroad, we recommend comparing news coverage of similar events from different countries. Check out the Internet Public Library for links to newspapers from around the world.

4. Give Students the Keys. Students have many areas of interest and concern that inevitably have global links and impact. In projects and programs, let them research these areas, and share their findings. In the undergraduate course we developed and introduced this spring semester, Globalization and World Citizenship, students create a Weblog that explores a global issue of personal interest. Students not only supply background information on the site, but also guides to action. In the process, they became not just scholars of the subject but activists capable of spreading information and understanding how to translate values into action. (To review the course outlines, assignments and resources, see http://webcampus.fdu.edu and use “fdu” as the username and password.)

5. Enter the Obvious Global Gateways. Too often we search long and far for global resources when we have a rich, international melting pot under our roof. We may not all have visiting scholars from exotic locales, but we all -- students and faculty alike -- have backgrounds that transcend borders. One example: International students at University of the Pacific, in California, hold an informal “international film festival” every two weeks, screening movies from their home countries. The event serves to build conversation and understanding on campus. Find ways for faculty and students on your campus to share personal backgrounds, insights and traditions that open new windows to other cultures. You’ll not only provide valuable learning opportunities, but you’ll bring community and classroom members closer together.

6. Whet the Appetite. Sometimes the way to global understanding goes though the stomach. The foods we relish and the menus at our favorite restaurants nicely illustrate the process of globalization and shed light on important cultural traditions. One easy exercise is to sample some menus (see http://www.usmenuguide.com) and trace the origin of foods and their contributions to different countries and cultures.

7. Move to the Beat. One surefire way to engage students is to fire up the iPod and tune into the tunes that travel the globe. From reggae to rock and rap, country to classic, the origins and influences of our favorite music read like a jet pilot’s itinerary. A fascinating exercise for students is to compare the various MTV channels and their respective Web sites around the globe. The differences and similarities highlight the promise and peril of cultural globalization.

8. Count the Change. Sooner or later, you’ll need to stop having so much fun with cultural lessons and get into dollars and yens. From the clothes they wear to the careers they will pursue, students’ lives are tightly interwoven with the global production process. Certainly read people like Thomas Friedman and Joseph Stiglitz, but don’t forget to make it personal. Ask students to compare wages in different countries, to trace the production of their favorite products, or to examine the economic clout of familiar corporations.

9. Put the Powerful on Trial. Political, economic and cultural issues are often revealed best by looking through the eyes of the opposition. Consider how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) react to the major political and economic institutions. For example, compare major companies’ Web sites with anti-corporate sites like wakeupwalmart.com or killercoke.org. Study the claims and contentions, offer rebuttals, and then referee the debates.

10. Become Bridge Builders. What better way to convey the interconnections that dominate than to make your own connections. Partner with institutions and programs abroad and, especially, link to classrooms and help students collaborate with students abroad. Have students engage in dialogues and activities with international students that consider big questions and involve contemplation and deliberation. While learning about issues, students inevitably will learn about the other and learn how to cooperate and act with the other.

There are some conspicuous areas -- such as foreign language study and study abroad -- that we have left off the list. This is not because we feel that these are not important. On the contrary, they are fundamental, but they also are obvious pieces of the puzzle that most campuses are already pursuing.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no one path that is right for everyone and every institution. There are so many avenues available. The richness of our different approaches can redefine American higher education.


J. Michael Adams is president of Fairleigh Dickinson University, in New Jersey, where Angelo Carfagna is director of communications. They are co-authors of the book Coming of Age in a Globalized World: The Next Generation(Kumarian Press Inc., 2006) and co-developers of the undergraduate course “Globalization and World Citizenship” at Fairleigh Dickinson. (To explore that link, use “fdu” as the username and password).

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