Toward Global Citizenship

Enhancing USF’s expanding global focus was at the center of the university’s first Global Citizenship Conference.



By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 31, 2012) – There’s global education as an idea – getting students to see that their education is incomplete without taking the world into account and getting faculty to bring a global perspective to every course offering. 


Then there’s global education in practice – students actually gaining knowledge and experiences that prepare them to be global citizens and faculty members who are using what the world has to offer to their teaching.  Meanwhile, none of this happens without the support of administrators with the vision and the wherewithal to create the environment and the vehicles.


At the University of South Florida’s first Global Citizenship Conference last week, participants filled the School of Music Conference Center to get the big picture of USF’s commitment to global education.  It is one that is taking shape through the interaction of dedicated and creative administrators and faculty, ambitious programs and enthusiastic students.    


Members of the audience from all corners of the university found themselves sharing information and experiences with experts on – and champions of – global education.  They also met students who are going through the process of being prepared to be global citizens and the faculty and staff who are preparing them. 


Between the panel of students who exhibited the hoped-for effects – poise, an expanded world view and an appreciation for what they were learning – and the panel of the people who taught them, theory came to life as evidence.  They and the rest of the program dealt with the underlying values as well as the challenges involved and what is being done to meet them. Overall, a strong case was made for the profound value of global education.


A guiding presence throughout the day was a leader in the push for global education, physicist Indira Nair, chair of the Global Learning Leadership Council of the  Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).  She was the keynote speaker in the morning and afternoon, first focusing on global learning in higher education in general and then bringing global citizenship into the majors. 


The organizers of the conference, Karla Davis-Salazar, director of the Global Citizenship Program and Janet Moore, associate dean of Undergraduate Studies welcomed guests, joined by the new College of The Arts Dean James Moy.


Moore pointed out that global education has been gaining attention at USF since 2000 when it was first included in the university’s overall plans and that Dean W. Robert Sullins has been working behind the scenes to propel the university forward for many years. 


Before introducing Nair, Vice Provost Graham Tobin got the discussion started by explaining the importance of USF’s global emphasis.  He said that the first goal of USF’s latest Strategic Plan, which will be unveiled in January, is “to produce global citizens” and that this notion is “an overriding theme.” Noting USF’s ongoing commitment he said, “We want you to know that everything we’re doing is grounded in USF’s future.”


To produce global citizens, “course offerings need to provide students with significant opportunities to learn, practice, and apply global skills and knowledge across the curriculum,” says Davis-Salazar. “This requires a sustained, integrated effort from general education through the majors and more opportunities for study abroad.”


Nair talked about the changes in the discourse dating back to the Peace Corps and the Fulbright-Hays Act. The term “international” evolved into “global” and there began a shift from “developed” nations providing aid for “the other” – the less fortunate nations – to mutual understanding and learning between various nations.  She explained how fully grasping the world’s economic interdependencies and shared problems is “vital to continuing our way of life and life on the planet. Global education is a way toward shared understanding of one another.”


One of the best ways for global learning to take hold is to repeat the message throughout a student’s four years in college, according to Nair. 


Noting USF’s involvement with writing the AAC&U’s Global Learning Rubric, now under construction, Moore discussed the challenges of developing courses that fit into the Foundations of Knowledge and Learning (FKL) core curriculum requirements that have been cut from 36 hours to 30. 


Davis-Salazar is overseeing USF’s pilot Global Citizenship program that includes 25 current students and 75 incoming students.  Its ambitious learning outcomes, derived from the Carnegie Mellon Global Learning Outcomes Nair authored and used with her permission, touch on global systems and process, human and cultural diversity, ethics, research and information literacy and the ability to communicate, interact with and adapt to diverse people and contexts. 


Ultimately the goal is for global citizens to be able to “engage in actions and behaviors that demonstrate a sense of global responsibility,” according to the list of outcomes.


The first cohort of 25 students is well on its way. 


After freshman year, Joshua Barber, Emilia Ericksson, Kris-An Hinds, Whynter Morgan and Jack West are part of a tight-knit group.  Whether it was learning “how to order food at the Jerk Hut,” as West explained, or being inspired to research the ways economic theories apply to India versus the United States, for Barber, the effects of global learning touched their lives in ways large and small. 


“You learn a lot about yourself,” said Morgan, who is looking forward to studying in Spain at some point.  “You learn that the differences make you similar.”


And Hinds added, “You learn that maybe we’re not so different.  Maybe we just have different approaches.”


And Eriksson, an international student from Sweden gained greater confidence from the small classes and the close relationships with her fellow students.  “You’re not afraid to talk or express your opinions,” she said.  For her the program “opened up my eyes in a lot of ways.”


They all valued the small class sizes and the courses that they agreed enriched their freshman experience and put them further ahead. 


Associate Professors Antoinette Jackson (anthropology) and Brook Sadler (philosophy) taught them about research and ethics, respectively and Academic Services Librarian Lily Todorinova taught them how to maximize their use of the library.


“It’s easy when you actually know how to do it,” Hinds remarked.


Three new cohorts – 75 students – are beginning this fall in the Colleges of Business and Engineering and Honors College and will benefit from what the program has accomplished with the first cohort. 


Nair cautioned that while students like these seek out global education, the message that global learning is for all students and that the supports are in place to make it affordable must be spread far and wide.


With students, she said, “My objective was to leave them with more questions than they came into my class.”


One of her greatest hopes is for students to become critical thinkers who will frame and “ask the global questions” and that they become “ambassadors of the global view.”  She also hopes to see more faculty members seek out grants to support teaching that incorporates global perspectives, especially those that cross disciplines.


Three of USF’s top program administrators presented information about their respective areas.


Biology Professor and Associate Dean Rick Pollenz, director of the Office of Undergraduate research described the CREATE (Creating Research and Activities for Teaching Enhancement) Scholars Program he leads. He encouraged the inclusion of global components to research across the board and pledged support wherever it is merited. 


Anthropology Professor Linda Whiteford, who serves as associate director of the USF Citizenship Initiative, stood in for the program’s director, David Jacobson. Together they are tackling the issue of what citizenship means in an increasingly globalized world.  They are also identifying the hallmarks of civil society, looking for ways to foster “non-kinetic communication” (a phrase Whiteford used to describe the opposite of armed physical conflict) and to develop and enhance civic culture among disparate peoples.


“There will be a lecture series, data is being gathered to create empirically-based indices to assess levels of citizenship, tribalism, and as a part of a U.N. collaboration, a reconciliation index. This fall the website and portal will be available,” Whiteford said. “In addition, we’re producing a forum for creative traveling conversations, open discussions about problematic issues, a safe place for scholars, politicians, faculty, students and citizens of all identities to explore universal themes, none of which are possible without a global perspective.”


Associate Vice President for Global Academic Programs Roger Brindley shared an overview of USF World. The myriad components displayed in various charts graphically depicted the breadth of USF’s global efforts and the complex relationships being cultivated to make them successful.  USF World’s primary role is bridging the various initiatives and the research components.


For more information about USF’ Global Citizenship Program, call Undergraduate Studies at (813)974-4051.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.