|Summer students from Bangladesh, Anahita Ahmed (left) and Tanzela Monsoor, perform in Denny Hall.
There is such a thing as The Dimwit’s Dictionary. It boasts 5,000 overused words and phrases. We’re all susceptible to them, and a few come quickly, if unpleasantly, to mind: “no pain, no gain,” “think outside the box” and, save us, “bling.”
“Global education” is a phrase that gets a lot of use at Dickinson. And if there is some danger of it falling into the buzzword abyss of empty meaning, then it’s time to haul it back from the edge.
The fact is, global education is so much a part of the air Dickinsonians breathe that it might come to seem as ordinary as oxygen. But there is significant meaning here, which, admittedly, can get lost in technicalities and academic jargon.
For example, we often hear that Dickinson’s global-education participation rate is 94.7 percent. It’s an impressive figure—one that places Dickinson in the top five of all colleges and universities in the country—but it also can be confusing.
Dickinson uses the number because it is the standard comparison figure that institutions use to define their global-education programs, but it doesn’t mean that 94.7 percent of all Dickinson students study abroad.
Instead, the figure represents the total number of study-abroad experiences in a class year, divided by the number of students in the graduating class. In that number, there are students who each went abroad two or maybe three different times. Hence the confusion.
The more clearly stated fact is this: nearly 60 percent of Dickinson students study abroad at least once. This is an outstanding achievement.
But, just as important, a significant number of students study on campus during their entire undergraduate experience—often taking advantage of field work and internship opportunities within the United States—and still enjoy an entirely global education … in Carlisle.
This may not fit with the town of your memory. Perhaps you think back to a college of relative uniformity. But an international community in Carlisle has increasingly become reality because the curriculum and programming have demanded it, the faculty and administration have made it a priority, and day-to-day student life has reaped the benefits.
Already, languages, cultures and insights from around the world are infused across the curriculum, in and out of the classroom. And Laurie Mossler, director of global education, says the initiative is expanding.
“The Carlisle campus is a destination. We’re saying, ‘Come to Dickinson, and explore the United States from here,’ ” Mossler says.
For example, the college has drastically ramped up its roster of international visitors. (See “The World and Back,” page 30.) The college hosted several U.S. State Department programs in recent years. The Young Ambassadors program brought to campus 26 students from 13 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The South Asian Student Leaders program enrolled 21 students from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Partnership for Learning Undergraduate Studies (PLUS) program brings students from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, who enroll at Dickinson to complete their undergraduate degrees. And a Fulbright scholars program has brought 18 leading economists from around the world to campus for the last two summers. All the while, undergraduate international enrollment climbs every year. (See “World Class,” page 14.)
It’s a fresh way of looking at study abroad, that is, through the eyes of others. While a U.S. student learns about France in Toulouse, a Pakistani student learns about the United States in Carlisle. Or, perhaps, it’s a scholar from North Africa or the Middle East, getting a handle on U.S. culture from the vantage point of a liberal-arts college in a Pennsylvania town.
The net result is, Dickinson is becoming famous for study abroad—in reverse.
“Through the curriculum and the presence of international scholars, we’re encouraging students to think of global education as more than study abroad,” Mossler says. “Study abroad is great, but it’s not right for everyone. A Dickinson student doesn’t have to be abroad to be globally educated.”
The success of this kind of all-encompassing global education comes down to basic foundations that make the world seem not vast and confusing but small and personal. It pivots on people getting to know each other and building common ground.
For example, the students and scholars who come from around the world to Carlisle also take a bit of Dickinson home when they leave. Mossler says that the Young Ambassadors program directly led to a globally integrated program in the United Arab Emirates, because one of the ambassadors went home to Zayed University talking about her great experience at Dickinson. This opened doors and enabled History Professor David Commins to create the course Modern History of the Gulf, which took 10 Dickinson students to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in January 2005.
Ideas for other programs and courses are being planted and grown all the time. (See “Trading Spaces,” page 29.) Dickinson has a newly formalized partner program with the Council for International Educational Exchange in São Paulo, Brazil, where all classes are taught in Portuguese. Such programs create exciting opportunities for students and may seem to emerge from thin air, but they are born of careful thought, academic need, long-nurtured connections and hard work by faculty and staff.
The Office of Global Education staff helps to make those connections. Their expertise in the field has been lauded far and wide by institutions and publications. And, recently, the Forum on Education Abroad, a global membership association for the field of study abroad, announced that Dickinson will be its new headquarters and strategic partner—with Brian Whalen, the college’s associate dean and executive director of global education, taking the helm as president.
The move solidifies Dickinson’s leadership in the field, but Mossler is quick to point out that “global education is the responsibility of every office and every department on campus. It’s up to all of us.” •