AAC&U News, September 2019
Perspectives

Global Citizenship for Campus, Communities, and Careers

In 2019, AAC&U formed its Office of Global Citizenship for Campus, Community, and Careers, affirming our mission “to advance the vitality and public standing of liberal education by making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education in service to democracy.” By braiding students’ experiences on campus and in the community with career preparation, this office will help member colleges and universities facilitate the development of models, strategies, and projects that fully equip students for work, life, and citizenship. 

The work of this office is situated in the context of today’s realities on our campuses, in our communities, and in our careers. Those realities are global. It has become common for institutions to embed global perspectives into their mission statements, and they are increasingly integrating global dimensions into broad student learning outcomes. At the same time, employers continue to make the case that students need to be prepared to work with people from backgrounds different from their own.

Students who may never think about an international journey are still globally connected with people and places far from their local communities through technology, commerce, social media, and many other ways. This global model, which is a departure from the traditional international model that focused on state-to-state relations, encourages (and, some would argue, requires) students to consider global perspectives as they address seemingly local problems. But many of these problems—like food insecurity, access to affordable housing, changing weather patterns, or concerns about access to clean water—are actually global challenges that affect countries and communities all over the world.

There are disciplinary, institutional, and national limitations to solving these problems in silos confined by artificial barriers to knowledge. Students must learn to draw on knowledge constructed in other parts of the country and the world to truly attempt to solve these problems. To engage with the global challenges of today and tomorrow, and to be active members of their communities, students must have multiple opportunities to attain and apply broad skills and knowledge. The principles embedded in AAC&U’s Global Learning VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) Rubric provide guidance for the experiences students must have and the skills they must acquire before they leave campus. These principles position students to engage in problem solving, draw on diverse sources/perspectives, evaluate solutions, and examine issues of equity in a global context, which could be a student’s home community, a community in the state capital, or a community outside the home country’s borders.

According to the VALUE rubric, students should have “meaningful opportunities to analyze and explore complex global challenges” in their curricular and cocurricular activities regardless of degree program or major. These types of meaningful experiences allow students to engage with real issues they or their communities may face—including in their future professions—and prepare them to explore the big questions of our time with support from campus and community educators.

However, a meaningful experience alone isn’t enough. Students must also “apply learning to take responsible action in contemporary global contexts, and evaluate the goals, methods, and consequences of that action.” Following a methodical process allows students to learn to problem solve, consider the implications of potential decisions, and develop a plan for action. Students should have opportunities to consider how their actions, such as when voting or working with communities to make decisions, may affect others.

Students’ personal and professional development should also enhance their “sense of identity, community, ethics, and perspective-taking.” Students need to develop self-awareness as they engage with the broader campus, local, regional, national, global, and international communities, and as they gain an understanding of what their roles and responsibilities are to those communities. During this time, students must also have opportunities to explore diverse perspectives, which will help them understand why community members bring different ideas to similar problems. This will prepare them to be active, engaged community members able to engage with difference in a productive, civil manner. They will not falter when they encounter ideas that are different from their own.

Finally, students must learn that “the world is a collection of interdependent yet inequitable systems and that higher education has a vital role in expanding knowledge of human and natural systems, privilege and stratification, and sustainability and development to foster individuals’ ability to advance equity and justice at home and abroad.” It is not enough to advance equity at home, or to advance equity abroad; students must understand and be concerned with the advancement of equity wherever they are. This is a step that some students miss; they see it locally, or they see it in a new community, but they need to see it in multiple contexts and make connections among them. Global citizenship pushes students to think beyond borders and boundaries to consider how we are all affected by certain themes and issues.

As we look forward, this office is excited to engage with AAC&U members to advance the work of campus, communities, and careers in a global context.

About AAC&U News

AAC&U News is written and edited by Ben Dedman. If you have questions or comments about the newsletter's contents, please e-mail dedman@aacu.org.

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