Letter to the Editor: Globalization means more than study abroad

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February 7, 2011

11:20 PM

I am honored that the editors of The Flat Hat deemed my remarks on “Globalizing William & Mary” worthy of an editorial response (“World-weary words,” Feb. 3). The immediate purpose of my comments was to contribute to the College of William and Mary’s ongoing discussion about what it means to be a “leading liberal arts university” of “global relevance.” If I have done that, then the talk was a success.

The editors misinterpreted my statement as a plea for more requirements. That was not my position; instead, I asserted that everyone — including faculty — should have an international experience, in order to be better prepared for life in an interconnected world. I also said that if the College could develop a method or “module” for preparing people who were well-prepared to live and work overseas — and I provided examples of cultural missteps taken by the U.S. government and by American firms in the international space — then it might have something it could roll-out to a broader audience.

My more significant point was that the College must globalize if it is to remain a “leading liberal arts university.” The editors claim that “the College has larger internal issues to face before it tries to codify a curriculum of global citizenship. Any available resources would be better spent trying to attract first-rate professors and paying them competitive salaries.”

But where are the sources of those “resources” likely to be found? The editors are silent on this question, but the answer is that funds will increasingly be cultivated overseas. It is the Chinese who will support Confucius Institutes and Arab elites who will support Islamic Studies. If the College fails to connect the dots between curricular and program design, fund-raising, alumni affairs and the composition of the student body, it will find it challenging to deliver the education that its students demand.

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