From the Editor: Liberal Education in an Interconnected World

In today’s globally connected world, a liberal education that empowers people to deal with complexity, diversity, and change is increasingly crucial. Liberally educated students have a strong sense of social responsibility and are prepared to communicate with all kinds of people, engage with a variety of perspectives, and apply skills and knowledge to analyze and solve complex global problems. This year, in response to the need to cultivate citizens who are globally minded in all areas of their lives, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) launched a new Office of Global Citizenship for Campus, Community, and Careers, which strives to prepare students for work, life, and citizenship in an interconnected world.

This double issue of Diversity & Democracy centers around a relatively new field—undergraduate global health education—that exemplifies how a liberal education can meet these goals. Undergraduate global health programs not only prepare students for a variety of careers but also teach them to understand global systems and their own place in the world and to collaborate across disciplines and viewpoints with thoughtfulness and humility.

As undergraduate global health education programs and courses emerge and evolve, they raise important issues that the contributors to this volume of Diversity & Democracy carefully examine. Readers both within and outside the field of global health will find much here to inform their work. Our contributors explore themes that are relevant across higher education, including experiential learning, cultural humility, critical reflection, ethical engagement, social justice, constructive dialogue, curricular coherence, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

AAC&U is grateful to Allegheny College, which partnered with us to produce this volume of Diversity & Democracy and generously provided part of the funding. We would especially like to thank Caryl Waggett and Vesta Silva of Allegheny College for their leadership and guidance in serving as guest editors for this issue. They played an instrumental role in planning and executing this volume, and it was an honor and a pleasure to work with them. In addition, we want to express our thanks to Dawn Michele Whitehead, vice president of AAC&U’s Office of Global Citizenship for Campus, Community, and Careers and editorial advisor for Diversity & Democracy, for her guidance and support throughout the editorial process.

AAC&U’s work with Allegheny College on undergraduate global health education dates back to 2015, when Caryl Waggett of Allegheny College envisioned and developed a summer institute on undergraduate global health curriculum and course design, with support from Dawn Michele Whitehead and Susan Albertine of AAC&U and Kathryn Graff Low of Bates College. At that first institute, held at Allegheny College and funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, forty-four participants and facilitators from many disciplines gathered to develop new or modify existing global health courses and explore collaborations. At the next institute, held in 2017, attendance doubled. The third iteration of this institute, cosponsored by Allegheny College, AAC&U, and Child Family Health International (CFHI), will be held at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, June 16–18, 2020. In addition, AAC&U and Allegheny College work with Centro Interamericano para la Salud Global—InterAmerican Center for Global Health, the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, CFHI, the Consortium of Universities for Global Health, and GASP (the Working Group on Global Activities by Students at Pre-health Levels) to cosponsor the Integrating Experiential Learning in Global Health and Public Health Faculty Development Workshop. This workshop is held annually in Costa Rica in January. For more information on both of these opportunities, contact Caryl Waggett.

As AAC&U’s president, Lynn Pasquerella, remarked in a speech at Columbus State Community College in March,

The ability to engage and learn from experiences different from one’s own and to understand how one’s place in the world both informs and limits one’s knowledge is essential to the crucial capacity to understand the interrelationships between multiple perspectives, including personal, social, cultural, disciplinary, environmental, local, and global. This understanding is pivotal for bridging cultural divides, necessary for working collaboratively to achieve our shared objectives around solving the world’s most pressing problems—all the more reason colleges and universities need to redouble our focus on world citizenship and the interdependence of all human beings and communities as the foundation for education.

Undergraduate global health education programs provide examples of innovative ways to cultivate the skills and knowledge that global citizens need to thrive in a complex, interdependent world.

—Emily Schuster
Editor, Diversity & Democracy


Emily Schuster is the editor of Diversity & Democracy.

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