Preparing Students and Faculty to Succeed as ‘Citizens of a Challenging World’
Diversity, a long-cherished principle at Buffalo State College, is beginning to be regarded as a broader concept in theory and practice. Many on campus are working to strengthen a campus culture that broadens awareness, learning, and experiences to prepare students for the global workforce.
Last June, Dolores Battle, senior adviser to the president for equity and campus diversity, Lee Ann Grace, assistant dean of international and exchange programs, and Rosalyn Lindner, associate vice president for curriculum and assessment, attended an American Council on Education symposium in Washington, D.C., titled, “Bridging the Gap: Cultivating Collaboration between Internationalization and Multicultural Education.”
Upon their return, they convened a Globalization Task Force by combining select members from the International Advisory Board and the President’s Council on Equity and Campus Diversity. The task force meets at least once each month to brainstorm ways of bringing the world into the classroom and helping students and faculty expand their participation in the world beyond the classroom.
Task force members are Battle; Grace; Lindner; Timothy Ecklund, associate vice president for campus life; Ricky Fleming, associate professor of music; Diane McFarland, associate professor of business; Raul Neira, associate professor of modern and classical languages; Wendy Paterson, professor and chair of elementary education and reading; Elaine Polvinen, professor of technology; Deborah Renzi, coordinator of field education for social work; and Raquel Schmidt, associate professor of exceptional education. They have met with deans and are beginning to share ideas across academic departments.
Grace considers the concept of “multiculturalism and internationalism being under one umbrella” as a relatively new way of thinking. She knows that infusing globalization in the curriculum will be a gradual task, but she is buoyed by recent success in Australian universities. One of their many systematic strategies, she said, was to create international graduation outcomes for all students.
“I don’t think we should incorporate wholesale changes in what we do at Buffalo State as we try to make globalization a graduation outcome,” Grace said. “We should look at what we already do well and go from there.”
Ben Christy, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, agrees. He has witnessed much in the way of globalization during his short tenure at Buffalo State, throughout the campus and within his school. He noted the college’s spirited participation in the SUNY China 150 Program, budding relationships with universities overseas, and the recent hiring of two new arts and humanities faculty members through the SUNY Faculty Diversity Program.
Battle, Christy, and Grace also said that some of Buffalo State’s best globalization efforts are already under way “right at our doorstep,” such as service-learning classes that help local organizations such as Journey’s End Refugee Services and the French language immersion suite in North Wing.
“The increasing diversity in the world and at home in New York provides many challenges and opportunities for our students,” Battle said. “The diversity is not just across the pond—it is across the street. Any student educated in the twenty-first century must have an understanding of the connectedness of all peoples around the world, regardless of where they call home.”
The Globalization Task Force hopes the concept will be part of Strategic Direction 4—Academic and Institutional Distinctiveness—of Strategic Plan 2009–2013. Action steps may be culled from another plan that Grace is currently revising—the International and Exchange Programs Strategic Plan. By 2013, she would like to see Buffalo State move into the top 50 percent of NSSE data for colleges with students who participate in international experiences. She also hopes to double the number of students who engage in study-abroad opportunities—those who attend colleges overseas as well as students who come to study at Buffalo State.
Foreign exchange of both students and faculty is a key component of educating workers for the global marketplace. Currently, just 1 percent of those enrolled in all higher education institutions in the United States study abroad, according to Victor Johnson, senior adviser for public policy with NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
The task force believes that institutionalizing efforts within strategic plans provides the impetus for strengthening a culture of globalization throughout campus. “More and more accrediting bodies are evaluating multicultural efforts,” Grace said. “There’s a real sense of legitimacy if it’s in the Strategic Plan.”
“Diversity is a hallmark at Buffalo State,” Christy said, “and a plan can add validity to globalization efforts.”
Paterson and her department’s faculty members have moved beyond planning to action. They devoted a retreat in January to understanding globalization and brainstorming ways to infuse it both in and out of the classroom.
Participants discussed ideas such as having junior-year students attend a panel discussion to learn about study-abroad experiences, and increasing offerings for English language learning within their curriculum. The department is planning a follow-up retreat in May.
“We have many faculty members who are versed in multiculturalism, so I thought it made sense for us to be part of the early charge,” Paterson said. “Naturally, the challenge of educating tomorrow’s world citizenry has always fallen on the shoulders of teachers.”
Christy hopes that all faculty will continue to take advantage of multicultural opportunities and make them part of their classes. “It’s so important that our students learn to see world situations from others’ points of view before graduating,” he said.
“Having flexibility of thought is what true education is all about,” Grace added. “It is important to consider what a person of the twenty-first century needs to be successful in her life and how she can take global perspectives into account when making decisions. As faculty members, we ought to be thinking about what we need to do to ‘create’ these people.”