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Press Release

CONTACT: Debra Humphreys
(202) 387-3760 (ext. 422)

New Initiative Takes on the Challenge of Preparing College Students for Global Citizenship and Educating Them in the Arts of Democracy

Washington DC—September 21, 2001—Our recent national tragedy has made clearer than ever that we are one global community, for good or for ill. It has also underscored higher education's essential role in increasing our collective understanding of the world's peoples and problems and in advancing democracy and justice everywhere. "Liberal Education and Global Citizenship: The Arts of Democracy," a new national initiative of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), will mobilize colleges and universities nationally to take leadership at this difficult moment. Its goal is to prepare future college graduates to become more informed, socially responsible, and engaged citizens of the nation and the world. Funded by the Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE), the initiative will assist colleges and universities in providing students with a sophisticated understanding of their increasingly interconnected but unequal world, still plagued by violent conflicts, economic deprivation, and brutal inequities at home and abroad.

With a heightened sense of urgency, "Liberal Education and Global Citizenship" will work with administrators, faculty members, and student affairs professionals to develop new levels of intercultural competencies as part of the core educational goal of undergraduate college majors. After a national call for proposals, AAC&U will select an initial group of 10 colleges and universities committed to designing new components within the undergraduate major that teach students about issues of globalization, involvement in community struggles for justice, and essential skills in the arts of inclusive democracy.

At this moment of profound reflection, the time has come for this agenda to move to the center of higher education reform efforts. The project is part of a wider set of AAC&U-sponsored initiatives that address diversity, equality, and social responsibility domestically and globally. As project director and AAC&U Vice President Caryn McTighe Musil put it, "We hope the project will be one small way of beginning to work toward another kind of global community than the fractured, violence-ridden one represented by the kind of heinous acts committed September 11. We believe our students can become part of a wider positive force committed to working in community with others across cultural, religious, and national borders to create socially responsible, peaceful, and equitable societies."

"Liberal Education and Global Citizenship" has four main objectives: to analyze the impact global studies is currently having on undergraduate majors; to spur greater civic engagement and global awareness in students; to promote active knowledge and debate about contemporary democracy; and to teach students to be adept at respectfully traversing cultural borders and to promote awareness of the interdependence of cultures.

"The world is plagued by violence and injustice as well as a host of complex problems that need sophisticated, collective solutions. Higher education is clearly one of the places to address these problems by educating students in ways that promote active engagement and a sense of shared obligation to humanity as a whole, regardless of national boundaries," says Musil.

The three-year project will support faculty teams in their curriculum development work through a four-day faculty institute, an on-line global seminar, grant funds to support campus-based faculty development activities, an advisory board of scholars acting as campus consultants, and working forums at AAC&U's regional and annual meetings.

This project builds on previous AAC&U initiatives addressing higher education's responsibilities in a diverse democracy and interconnected world. Other projects have included "Engaging Cultural Legacies," "American Commitments: Diversity, Democracy and Liberal Learning," and "The Tri-National Seminar on Diversity, Democracy, and Higher Education" held in India, South Africa, and the United States.

FIPSE is providing a grant of $609,497 to support this project. This represents 62 percent of the total cost of the project with the remaining 38 percent funded by AAC&U.

Updates and information about the project can be found at AAC&U's Web site ( A national call for proposals will be issued in October 2001. To receive a copy of the call for proposals, contact Michelle Cooper, AAC&U Office of Diversity, Equity, and Global Initiatives (202/387-3760).

AAC&U is the leading national association devoted to advancing and strengthening liberal learning for all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Since its founding in 1915, AAC&U's membership has grown to more than 730 accredited public and private colleges and universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education at both the national and local levels and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.