Liberal Education

"Glocalizing" the Campus to Advance Global Learning

For the past several years, I have been attending Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) conferences and institutes regularly in order to glean useful ideas for improving general education and, more recently, for infusing global learning into the undergraduate curriculum. With each conference and institute attended, I have increased my knowledge and repertoire of potential practices to be adapted to my home institution, the University of South Florida (USF). Speaking honestly, though, I have found the “adapting” part to be challenging at times, because USF is a large research university with over 40,000 students and nearly 1,800 instructional faculty. How does one advance global learning on a campus of that size?

After having worked on this issue for the past five years, I have come to realize that the challenge with global learning initiatives lies not with any institutional characteristic but with global learning itself. Definitions of global learning vary slightly, but all invoke a broad spectrum of knowledge, skills, and attitudes.1 As a result, global learning does not fall squarely within the domain of any one department—or even two or three departments. Global learning requires a concerted group effort to provide students with a variety of experiences that develop a diversity of competencies. Therein lies the challenge for institutions of any size.

In what follows, I offer suggestions for advancing global learning on campus that are derived from my experience leading the development of a university-wide global learning initiative at USF. Called the Global Citizens Project, the initiative links key areas of the curriculum and cocurriculum to develop a network of global learning experiences, a process I refer to as “glocalizing the campus.”2 The network, created through shared global learning outcomes and reinforced through new and existing structures and systems, enables students to learn and practice desired competencies in different contexts.3 While still a work in progress, the Global Citizens Project is an example of how global learning can connect different corners of a campus of any size. To set the stage for a discussion of specific aspects of the initiative, I begin by briefly describing the context in which USF’s Global Citizens Project was developed.

Global engagement at USF: Parameters and possibilities

The establishment of the Global Citizens Project marked a significant step toward accomplishing the first goal of USF’s strategic plan, which calls for the preparation of “well-educated and highly skilled global citizens through our continuing commitment to student success.”4 With its mission as “a global research university dedicated to student success,” USF values “global research, community engagement, and public service.”5 The university supports faculty and student global engagement through USF World, an administrative unit in the office of the provost that is dedicated to internationalizing the USF System.6 In short, the importance of global engagement is firmly established at the highest levels of the administration.

Activities that advance USF’s global mission are, therefore, encouraged. This is particularly important given that we serve 30,374 undergraduates, 92 percent of whom are from Florida. The typical incoming student has never left the country; many have not ventured out of the state. Our current study abroad participation rate is 3.35 percent and increasing every year. However, 40 percent of our students are Pell Grant recipients and over half are transfer students, so studying abroad is often not considered a viable option for a variety of reasons.

External pressures complicate USF’s global mission. For example, state legislation holds that once a student surpasses 110 percent of the credit hours required for the degree, he or she must be levied a surcharge for any “excess” hours. This makes it imperative that students stay focused and minimize credits that do not count toward the degree. As a result, study abroad, foreign language study, and other credit-bearing global learning opportunities are sometimes viewed as “extras.”

To address some of the perceived internal and external obstacles to global learning, USF proposed to develop an explicitly global general education curriculum as part of our application to AAC&U’s Shared Futures: General Education for a Global Century initiative in 2010. Our selection led to the pilot of what became USF’s Global Citizenship General Education Program. From 2011 to 2015, the two-year program offered participating students global general education courses and a guaranteed $2,000 study abroad scholarship. While successful with the inaugural cohort of twenty-five students (as measured in terms of completion rates and program satisfaction), the difficulties posed by the lock-step nature of the curriculum when scaling up in subsequent years taught us that a more flexible approach was needed. This proved to be a valuable lesson for the Global Citizens Project.

USF’s Global Citizens Project

The Global Citizens Project (GCP) is a five-year effort to enhance USF students’ global competencies. The goal is to graduate well-educated and highly skilled global citizens. Undertaken as part of the university’s reaffirmation of accreditation,7 the project is comprehensive and well resourced. However, my experience leads me to believe that, even in situations of limited to no funding, the “glocalizing” approach we use can be implemented incrementally. The most important step is to define a common set of global competencies that can be infused into different educational experiences, both curricular and cocurricular. The global competencies are the essential links connecting the different experiences, which are then reinforced through structural and systemic means. Below, I present the GCP competencies and our plan for achieving them.

The Global Citizens Project defines a global citizen as someone who engages meaningfully and effectively with diverse people, places, events, challenges, and opportunities. The definition is based on a core set of global skills, attitudes, and behaviors, which we have incorporated into a working developmental model of global citizenship (see fig. 1). At the heart of our model lie three primary competencies: global awareness, global responsibility, and global participation.8 For each of these competencies, we recognize both affective/conative and cognitive dimensions and have defined six accompanying learning outcomes: self-awareness, willingness, and practice within the affective/conative domain; and knowledge, analysis, and synthesis within the cognitive domain. These six learning outcomes are the core of USF’s Global Citizens Project; all GCP activities are directed at enhancing student learning relative to the outcomes.

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To achieve our learning goals, we have developed three interconnected strategies, which together create multiple, scaffolded opportunities for students to engage in different global learning experiences. The first strategy is to infuse the GCP learning outcomes into the general education curriculum. Specifically, all courses that fulfill general education requirements in the social and behavioral sciences, humanities, fine arts, and an area we call “human and cultural diversity in a global context” must address two of the cognitive GCP learning outcomes and incorporate supporting course content, activities, and assignments. The objective is to introduce students to global learning in the first two years of study.

To implement this strategy, new review criteria have been incorporated into the regular recertification process all general education courses must undergo every five years. The review criteria build on and strengthen existing global dimensions of the general education curriculum and, therefore, do not represent something entirely new. Course revisions necessary to meet the new global criteria are being completed by faculty gradually, based on the five-year recertification schedule. The university’s general education council, a standing committee of our faculty senate, reviews these recertification proposals as part of their regular review process.

The second strategy targets the majors. Here we are encouraging departments to infuse the learning outcomes of the Global Citizens Project into the coursework of the majors and to develop supporting high-impact practices (e.g., service learning, study abroad/away, and undergraduate research) and cocurricular experiences, thereby turning the major into a Global Pathway. The objective is to provide students with opportunities to practice and apply global competencies within their disciplines of study. In this manner, students also gain an understanding of the enhanced value that a global perspective brings to the disciplines.

To advance the Global Pathways strategy, a new certification process has been developed that enables academic departments to demonstrate the various ways in which their programs align with the Global Citizens Project and, thus, market their programs as Global Pathways. Departments are offered incentives and support to engage in this work. In addition to course releases and faculty stipends, participating departments receive priority for funding to develop global undergraduate research and service-learning courses as well as priority consideration for leading study abroad programs in preferred locations.

Our third strategy encourages and rewards students’ participation in global learning experiences through a new undergraduate award program. USF’s Global Citizen Award can be earned through a combination of curricular and/or cocurricular experiences addressing the GCP learning outcomes. Students choose two experiences in which they wish to participate from a list of options that includes globally certified coursework, foreign language study, study abroad/away, undergraduate research, service learning, internships, and community service. Attendance at eight on-campus global events is also required. Upon earning the award, students are identified as global citizens on their transcripts and become eligible to apply for a $2,500 study abroad scholarship, among other incentives. The objective of the award is to provide students with opportunities to reinforce their global competencies.

The award requirements parallel the Global Pathways structure so that students can earn the award as they complete requirements for the major. Faculty are therefore offered incentives to certify major and elective coursework as Global Citizens courses, which students can use toward award requirements. The university’s undergraduate council, which is a standing committee of our faculty senate, is responsible for certifying these undergraduate courses and has developed a certification process and criteria mirroring those used by the university’s general education council for general education courses. Campus partners, such as the offices for community engagement, undergraduate research, and career services, help vet and approve the global nature of other award activities using established criteria.

To spearhead and oversee implementation of all three strategies, the Global Citizens Project office was created and is staffed by a director, an assistant director, two professional development specialists, an assessment specialist, an administrative support specialist, and five graduate assistants. The assistant director manages the Global Citizen Award using USF’s learning management system. Working with USF’s teaching center, the professional development specialists assist staff and faculty with global programming and course design. The assessment specialist works with USF’s institutional effectiveness office to refine our model of global citizenship and develop a comprehensive assessment plan to measure student learning.

Development of the Global Citizens Project

The Global Citizens Project infuses global learning outcomes into different campus activities and links those activities through new structures (Global Pathways and the award) and existing requirements (general education and the majors). We developed this approach slowly over two years, as the various committees involved navigated the internal and external challenges of our institutional context. Directly addressing those challenges ultimately strengthened the plan.

Development of the Global Citizens Project began in summer 2013 under the direction of a thirty-one-member steering committee appointed by the provost and composed of administrators, faculty, staff, students, and alumni representing all facets of the university community. Subcommittees worked on specific aspects of the project from 2014 to 2015. A faculty team dedicated to curricular development and a student affairs team dedicated to cocurricular development proposed the three strategies to enhance students’ global learning. Three implementation teams—also composed of key stakeholders, including academic advisors and student government representatives—drafted plans for carrying out the strategies proposed by the development teams.

Importantly, as the development teams began their work, it became apparent that a set of guidelines was needed in order to avoid the potential pitfalls involved with brainstorming strategies (e.g., excess credit hours). First and foremost, we agreed that we must keep undergraduate student learning at the forefront of our efforts. We found that many related activities were worthy of attention, but if they were not directly tied to enhancing students’ global competencies, then they were deemed to be outside the scope of the project.

Another important guideline was that no new requirements or other activities that could lead to excess credit hours would be instituted. For this reason, we decided against a credit-bearing certificate program and instead created a flexible award so that any student, regardless of major or year, can participate without acquiring excess credit hours. In the end, these two guidelines reinforced each other, because we found that when our discussions slipped into a focus on strategies (and not learning), we tended to brainstorm new requirements or fall back on study abroad. By keeping the emphasis on student learning, we found creative ways to work within existing requirements and systems.

The emphasis on student learning meant that it was important to craft measurable learning outcomes that were specific to USF and our institutional mission and values. So while the steering committee conducted reviews of the literature on global competencies, ultimately we turned to existing global dimensions of our general education curriculum in order to draft an initial set of learning outcomes, which faculty focus groups then refined. Faculty, staff, and student surveys regarding the qualities of a global citizen also informed this work, as did AAC&U’s Global Learning VALUE Rubric.9

In the process of drafting the learning outcomes, it also became clear that our learning outcomes should be meaningful to all, but specific to none. In other words, the outcomes needed to be defined in such a way that all disciplines and departments could have a role in the Global Citizens Project without relegating any one aspect of learning to the domain of a particular unit. In this way, developing students’ global competencies is everyone’s responsibility and opportunity. For this reason, foreign language skills and intercultural competency, for example, are not singled out as separate learning outcomes; rather, they are woven throughout the outcomes.

Finally, there was a strong sense on campus that we were already “doing global.” It was therefore imperative to recognize these accomplishments and find ways to build upon this foundation. As a result, the affective/conative learning outcomes of the Global Citizens Project derive from existing learning outcomes defined by our residential life unit as part of the residential curriculum. For this reason, too, the requirements for the Global Citizen Award incorporate the many global activities already occurring on campus. In the end, our steady focus on student learning and direct acknowledgement of the challenges posed by our institutional context led us to draw on our strengths and connect existing resources in new ways.

Suggestions for “glocalizing” your campus

While our approach to advancing global learning on campus was borne out of our specific institutional context, the process of linking local resources to create a network of global learning experiences is broadly adaptable. The advantage is that the process allows you to work within existing parameters, while compelling you to seek new possibilities. Whether or not you adopt this approach, there are generalizable lessons that can be applied to your home campus:

  • Keep student learning at the forefront of your efforts. Losing sight of your purpose will divert your attention from what matters most—your students. Also, having a good sense of what you want your students to learn will free you to be creative with the kinds of opportunities you might develop.
  • Form partnerships across campus that benefit all parties. Global learning is not possible without collaboration. Involve representatives from many different stakeholder groups during all phases of planning, development, and implementation. Learn what is important to them, and integrate their priorities into the overall plan.
  • Define a shared set of global learning outcomes. Learning outcomes that are meaningful to different constituencies offer a common goal toward which all can work and a common ground upon which to build critical partnerships. Refer to your institution’s mission statement or strategic plan for guidance. By aligning your global learning outcomes with institutional values, you will be able to demonstrate how global learning and associated activities benefit your institution. At USF, research and engagement to “improve lives and strengthen communities” is part of our mission. As a result, there is a strong practice and application dimension to our global learning outcomes. In fact, we use the term global citizen to emphasize responsibility and action.
  • Develop collective strategies that bridge disconnected units. Strategies that connect unlikely partners encourage creative thinking about existing structures, systems, and activities. Moreover, collaborators will appreciate the new level of visibility afforded their programming. For example, our student affairs’ successful iBuddy program, which connects domestic and international students for friendship and cultural awareness, is gaining more recognition among faculty as a result of its inclusion in the Global Citizen Award. This cocurricular program, and others like it, will become increasingly connected to courses and curricula as departments globalize their majors.
  • Capitalize on institutional strategic priorities to infuse global learning where it does not yet exist. These areas are likely to have resources and activities into which global learning can be integrated. For example, USF’s offices for community engagement and undergraduate research now reserve stipends for faculty willing to create globally focused service-learning and research opportunities.
  • Forge new paths to connect existing sites of global learning. In this way, it becomes possible to acknowledge what is already happening on campus, while creating something new and exciting. USF’s Global Citizen Award grew out of such an endeavor and is bringing together academic affairs and student affairs in unprecedented ways.

The list of recommendations above suggests that advancing global learning on campus entails demonstrating the same skills and attitudes that we aim to develop in our students: a readiness to engage with diverse groups, an openness to new ideas and different perspectives, the ability to see connections and establish new ones, and the willingness to collaborate for mutual benefit. Global learning initiatives offer us the opportunity to model for our students essential competencies in this increasingly interconnected world. Creating an interconnected campus has the potential to advance our global learning efforts even further.


1. See, for example, Dawn Michele Whitehead, “Global Learning: Key to Making Excellence Inclusive,” Liberal Education 101, no. 3 (2015): 6–13; Kevin Hovland, Global Learning: Defining, Designing, and Demonstrating (Washington, DC: NAFSA and Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2014); Christa L. Olson, Madeleine F. Green, and Barbara A. Hill, A Handbook for Advancing Comprehensive Internationalization: What Institutions Can Do and What Students Should Learn (Washington, DC: American Council on Education, 2006).

2. While similar in concept to internationalization at home, I use “glocalize” to emphasize the goal of global learning, as defined by Whitehead and Hovland.

3. In this respect, glocalizing the campus is similar to an across-the-curriculum approach, but all campus activities and areas are considered potential sites of global learning, which are explicitly linked through various means.

4. A Global Research University Dedicated to Student Success: 2013–2018 Strategic Plan (Tampa, FL: University of South Florida, 2013), 1.

5. Ibid., 8.

6. USF is part of the University of South Florida System, which is composed of three separately accredited institutions. USF serves as the main campus and is located in Tampa, Florida.

7. The Global Citizens Project is USF’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). A QEP is a requirement for reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

8. The three core global competencies of the Global Citizens Project are based on Hans Schattle, The Practices of Global Citizenship (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008).

9. For information about the VALUE rubrics, or to download individual rubrics, see

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Karla L. Davis-Salazar is associate dean of undergraduate studies, associate professor of anthropology, and director of the Global Citizens Project at the University of South Florida.

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