The New Face of Global Education

In opening remarks at the first faculty meeting of the 2011-12 academic year, Provost Wendy Hill focused on global education. She provided a historical perspective, outlining the College’s rich history of global interaction and communion (see “From the Provost: A Rich Tradition”). She also described current changes and initiatives associated with the celebration of the anticipated groundbreaking for the Oechsle Center for Global Education, which appear below.

We have made much progress on the global reach of our faculty and our curriculum. Over the last three years, many of the new faculty positions we have added have enabled greater coverage of the globe and with it new courses and perspectives have been developed. Our area studies have been enhanced through these new hires and study-abroad experiences.

Last year we revised our international affairs major, one of the oldest interdisciplinary majors at the College, to reflect changes in global and international studies.

Thanks to our full-time director of international and off-campus education and the members
of the Off-Campus Study Committee, we have developed specific objectives for our off-campus
interim courses that will connect experiential learning with academic knowledge through real
engagement in an off-campus environment. These cross-disciplinary courses are designed not only to develop students’ knowledge and skills as global citizens but also to foster a greater sense of interrelatedness to the rest of the world.

Our students travel abroad for an interim, semester, year, or a week to confront and engage
with global issues. Students, who represent all divisions, may be taught by a humanist, an
engineer, a social scientist, a natural scientist, or a cross-disciplinary team of professors.

Just this past year, Lafayette faculty taught our students in China, Ecuador, England, Egypt, France, Germany, Madagascar, New Zealand, North Korea, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, and Turkey. This year they will be teaching in China, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Madagascar, Peru, Russia, Spain, and Turkey. These courses and others are embraced by our students so that we have among the highest percentage of graduates who study abroad as compared to those from other institutions of higher learning. And this doesn’t even count the global experiences of our students and faculty through programs such as Alternative School Break, Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project, Engineers Without Borders, research collaborations, and more.

The ad hoc committee on global education provided wide-ranging recommendations that touch
the educational experiences of all our students; their collective vision will be reflected in the new Oechsle Center. Having the planned center for community-based learning, research, and service as a component of the Oechsle Center also helps to underscore our view that Lafayette graduates of tomorrow must not only learn about the world, but also how to engage with communities.

And, lastly, we have strengthened global education by being more intentional about the global and multicultural learning objectives in our recently revised Common Course of Study, which makes this objective explicit for all students.

Is there more to accomplish? Absolutely — and I look forward to the work that lies ahead;
but we should not ignore how far we have come.

Having Mikhail Gorbachev as the keynote speaker to denote the beginning of the Oechsle
Center for Global Education is so fitting. A towering international figure, yes, but perhaps even more than that, President Gorbachev epitomizes the changing landscape of the global international experience, and so his visit signals our changing approach to global education. It is not something that is for the benefit of the few or a particular major, but rather an integrative experience for all our students.