11 April 2007

NAFSA Webinar on Global Competence

Today a few colleagues and I had an opportunity to participate in the first session of the 2007 Professional Development Webinar Series hosted by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. As stated by the presenters representing three institutions, the objective of today's webinar was two-fold: (1) "to list and describe the salient characteristics of three aspects of global competence" and (2) to "describe at least two strategies other than traditional study abroad for achieving global competence."

I found the webinar's opening observations about global competence very interesting. The presenters stressed the importance of developing and combining three kinds of global competence in our students: knowledge, attitude, and skills. Not only should our student gain facts and understanding of global issues, but they should also develop the ability to see global issues positively, from a perspective that is different from their own, and then be able to demonstrate their knowledge through foreign language skills, interpersonal skills, and task performance.

However, many of the practical applications mentioned by the presenters from Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Illinois, and Purdue University were, honestly, not very practical to much smaller two-year community and technical colleges like our institution, Lake Superior College. All of these institutions have large international education departments, with adequate funds and staff to initiate and support large-scale internship and research opportunities for their students and, in case of Georgia Institute of Technology, an institutional International Plan that requires and supports each department to integrate a degree-long international education plan. Yet, in small dozes, some of the ideas could work on smaller campuses, such as providing increased opportunities for language study. I could see great possibilities for offering more language courses online. Also, short-term internships might be possible for students in certain programs.

I am particularly curious about granting qualified students some type of global competence certification, with a designator on their diploma. At this point, I am not sure how much importance such designators actually carry. I suspect that a global competence certification would not have a great influence on a student's ability to gain employment, but what impact would it have on an individual student's self-awareness as a global citizen? And how would providing global competence certifications impact the institution's culture as a whole?

Obviously, each institution must select global education approaches that fit the institution's culture. As a common challenge, the presenters called for democratizing cross-cultural learning by encouraging us to seek ways to provide global education opportunities to all students, also those who "stay behind." In short, we must integrate global perspectives and issues to our curriculum plans not only through a greater variety of learning abroad experiences but also the rest of the curriculum.

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