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Toward More Education on Global Problems

Toward More Education on Global Problems

Next week Mason hosts a conference with representatives from universities in China, Korea, Russia, India, Turkey, Kenya and Brazil, with the goal of agreeing on some concrete programs that will improve undergraduate opportunities to explore global issues ranging from environmental change to violence to poverty and hunger. The idea, which I blogged about some time ago, is to identify courses and collaboratives that not only offer exposure on one or more problems, but that also give students the chance to grasp another society’s perspectives on those same issues — a globalization twofer, in other words.

We can’t be sure what will eventuate. At one point I had projected that each partner would develop a “minor” in this area, as Mason has done. Given the complexities of international inter-institutional collaboration, this may be too ambitious a first step, though we’d still be delighted to identify one or more partners willing to take this approach. Now we’re aiming more at some jointly taught courses (using technology to spur access to multiple perspectives), some short-term exchanges of faculty toward the same goals, and/or some opportunities for joint undergraduate research projects. We will also offer a summer program at Mason for 2013, to which we hope the partner institutions will send student representatives.

We certainly hope that, beyond expressions of mutual interest and good feeling, some specific next steps will ensue. I personally take very seriously the statement a couple of years ago from an administrator in the UK that universities are not doing enough in the global problems arena, and I believe deeply that access to different national or regional perspectives is an important part of the process as well. There’s a chance here to push the envelope. We’ll see what actually happens.