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Globally speaking, ONU engages students

When students participate in study-abroad and other cross-cultural experiences, they bring new understandings and new questions to campus life. The resulting challenges for ONU are to assist students in making sense of these experiences, facilitate additional opportunities for exchange, and encourage life-long exploration across cultures. In other words, the challenge is to increase global competence among all members of the campus community. William Hunter and colleagues define global competence as “having an open mind while actively seeking to understand cultural norms and expectations of others, and leveraging this gained knowledge to interact, communicate and work effectively in diverse environments.” (2006)[1]

My own experiences as a college-aged student living in the Mexican/Mexican-American West Side of San Antonio, Texas, studying abroad in China, as a faculty member leading a South Texas/Mexico borderlands course, teaching for Semester at Sea while circumnavigating the world, and living in France have profoundly enriched my life. I have become committed to the idea of an experiential, immersed education that builds global competence by encouraging students to step out of the boundaries of local community and into the global world.

In September, I began working at ONU and find many opportunities for increasing global competence here on campus. Current international students join ONU from countries as disparate as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Finland, Japan, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea – and many places in between. Students who completed study-abroad terms in China, South Korea and Malta shared their experiences in a recent Phi Beta Delta International Forum.

A new initiative is a living learning community, named Global Village. ONU students, both international and domestic, choose to live in a residence hall where every day their lives intersect and cultures meet. Accompanying the residence life experience is an academic course for all Global Village participants, taught this year by Dr. Christine North. For more information about Global Village, please contact Melanie Vincent in the Office of Admissions.

While there are opportunities at ONU, much more can be accomplished. Released on Nov. 11, data from the Open Doors 2013[2] census of international students in the U.S. and U.S. students studying abroad shows a 3.4 percent increase in U.S. students studying abroad from the prior year. The total number of 283,332 is still far short of the goal of 1 million students studying abroad annually by 2015, a goal set by the bi-partisan Lincoln Commission in 2005[3]. This latest Open Doors report also ranks Ohio eighth among U.S. states for the number of international students hosted.

Setting education in an international frame invites a rethinking of assumptions. Such rethinking needs to be translated into action that further develops capacity and leverages new knowledge. For me, this is a reminder that there is a larger vocation – namely that of understanding, of constructively critiquing, and of communicating, living and working with others in a globalized world – that transcends all occupations and should be basic to whatever career one chooses. I welcome conversations with any of you about ideas to build global competence and thank ONU for the opportunity to engage the questions.

[1] Hunter, B., White, G, Godbey, G. (2006). What Does it Mean to Be Globally Competent? Journal of Studies in International Education, 10 (3), 267-285.

[2] The Open Doors Report is conducted by the Institute for International Education (IIE) with support of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State.

[3] Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program. (2005). Global competence and national needs: One million Americans studying abroad. Washington, D.C.