Realizing More Meaningful Global Engagement Opportunities in Higher Ed

With the launch of the first U.S. study abroad program nearly 100 years ago, there’s nothing novel about academic foreign exchange itself. Notable in recent years however, is the value that these programs have the potential to provide students in the increasingly dynamic global environment we now live in. Once prized for their capacity to improve student foreign language skills, enhance confidence and contribute to an unquantified sense of “personal growth,” today’s programs can surpass existing benchmarks of high level cross-cultural understanding and personal development. At their best, they can cultivate students’ aptitude for understanding highly nuanced and complex issues, and ultimately change the world.

Take for example the complex issue of global immigration today, which features not only unique cultural considerations, but also political policies rooted within multiple cultures and the distinct perspectives of professional disciplines within those cultural and political environments.  Too narrowly applying a one-dimensional perspective to this issue can have grave consequences. When an oversimplified, singular focus is placed on incoming refugees’ need to find employment, that one-dimensional perspective can easily lead to vulnerable and underserved populations that fail to assimilate into new societies. Because narrow thinking along this line is obsolete in today’s increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, a monumental opportunity exists to develop a broader global perspective within students through higher ed programming.

The TCS Global Engagement team has seized this opportunity with the launch of our first-ever, system-wide course scheduled this Fall in Berlin, Germany. The program is designed to bring students from our nursing, law, psychology, education and humanistic studies colleges together for a collaborative and in-depth examination of the issue of immigration.  A rare opportunity that will allow all our participating students to examine the issue from a foreign city at the epicenter of immigration, this course will also provide visibility into the psychological, social, educational, legal, healthcare and intercultural perspectives of individuals, families, communities and providers directly impacted by the issue. The ultimate aspiration of this kind of programming is to nurture and grow global change agents with the discerning, and comprehensive perspective needed to drive positive outcomes for complex global issues.

Not only does the design and launch of collaborative programs like this create value for employers in the form of seasoned, problem solving graduates that are capable of creating comprehensive solutions to complex problems – they also create global change agents in the process. In an age of unprecedented global interdependence, they’re programs we can’t afford to be without.