Workshop Explores ‘Global View’ for Campus

June 11, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Nearly 40 Illinois Wesleyan faculty and staff gathered last week for Globalizing the IWU Campus, a three-day, on-campus workshop aimed at further integrating a global view into the campus culture.

“When you talk about a ‘global view,’ you are talking about internationalization, which means infusing into the life of the University community the knowledge, attitudes and actions necessary for living in our complex and evolving world,” said the workshop’s keynote speaker, Uliana Gabara, dean of international education at the University of Richmond. “It’s more than simply sending students to study abroad. It’s developing a culture that aims to see study abroad as an extension of what they are seeing and learning on campus.”

Workshop participants discussed how the University should continue to evolve as a global campus, and attended sessions exploring what students need in facing today’s world. “It says right in our Mission Statement that the University ‘affords the greatest possibilities for realizing individual potential while preparing students for democratic citizenship and life in a global society, but the idea of internationalization permeates every part of our mission, from having a ‘spirit of inquiry’ to ‘fostering creativity,’ and it engages everyone in the campus community,’” said Associate Professor of Political Science William Munro, director of the Illinois Wesleyan International Studies Program and member of the workshop organizing committee.

The workshop came at a time when students across the United States are working to learn more about the world they will inherit.  The number of U.S. students studying abroad is rising, said Illinois Wesleyan International Office Director Stacey Shimizu, who added that the University is following this trend, recently ranking in the top 40 of the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Open Doors report. “Most students find they want and need to understand emerging cultures to compete,” said Shimizu.

More than a chance for students to learn about other cultures, global awareness and intercultural skills can be viewed as a necessity for the United States to flourish in a post-September 11th world.  “Many in Congress believe we need to establish study abroad as a national goal for our students,” said Sara Froelich a 2001 Illinois Wesleyan alumna who addressed the workshop. Nelson works for U.S. Sen. Richard J.  Durbin, co-sponsor of the Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act, which is attempting to set a goal of sending 1 million U.S. students to study abroad over the next 10 years. “The act was a direct response to 9-11, when we realized we need to know more about the world around us,” said Froelich, who noted the bill is named after Durbin’s mentor and friend, the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon. “It was Simon who said, ‘the future depends upon globally literate students,’” she added.

Another aspect of study abroad, the challenges students face as they leave or return campus, was discussed as well at the workshop. Senior Rachel Hodel spoke about readjusting to campus life after studying abroad in Ecuador. “There were so many things I missed when I was away, like being able to go into Wal-Mart and grab my favorite tube of toothpaste,” said Hodel, who returned several weeks ago. “In Ecuador, life is set up for interaction with other people. You take the bus to the store where all the goods are behind a counter, and you have to ask a salesperson for them. It guarantees conversation will happen. When I was there, I found it a little nerve-wracking, but when I got home, I felt a little lonely for that interaction, which was hard to explain.”

The workshop does not mark the end of globalization efforts on campus. “This will be a good beginning of an important goal, not only to send our students into the world, but to bring the world to our campus through our curriculum, events, speakers, and programs,” said Munro. In the coming weeks, workshop participants will propose individual and group projects to help further internationalize the learning environment on campus.

Contact: Rachel Hatch, (309) 556-3960