Task force recommends broader education

Only 14 percent of undergraduate students at Grand Valley State University choose to study abroad. About 84 percent do not study abroad and are not international students.

The Internationalization Task Force is working to change this. As part of the university’s 2016-2021 strategic plan, the group recommended that global learning be implemented into all classrooms by 2021. The initiative has support from the University Curriculum Committee, the Executive Committee of the Senate, the Provost’s Office, the Board of Trustees and, most recently, the University Academic Senate.

Mark Schaub, chief international officer in the Padnos International Center, is the co-chair of the Internationalization Task Force. Schaub said he is one of 18 members of the Global GV committee who is leading this project.

“Only 14 percent of our students study abroad, so GVSU needs more global learning than other schools,” he said. “This is not going to happen in gen eds. It’s going to happen in majors.”

According to the Global GV website, global learning is defined as education that will provide students with “knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to operate effectively in an interconnected changing world of diverse ethnicities, religions, languages, institutions, and cultures.”

Schaub said this means that all students, regardless of their major, will gain awareness of other countries and “understand (their) role in the global scheme” before graduating.

“It comes out of what our students need,” Schaub said. “How are they equipped to be successful in global work environment? It doesn’t matter where you work, you have a global workplace.”

Students majoring in the mathematics or sciences may not see how this will work, but Schaub said there are ways to bring cultural education to these classrooms.

“They could create more issues courses,” he said. “Or, through COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning), they can work with faculty members in other countries and get actual experience working with another culture.”

Although global learning is part of the university’s plan, Schaub said it would not require study abroad, and they would not tell people how to implement the recommendation.

“It’s up to the individual units to do it,” he said. “The deans are in charge of making sure it gets done.”

Carol Sanchez, management professor and director International Business Programs in the Seidman College, has served as the co-chair for this project since the beginning in 2012.

She agreed with Schaub that this educational component will help students in their future careers.

“Global learning is based on the idea for students to be effective as employees,” Sanchez said. “They need to have a global perspective on the world. Employers are interested in students having cultural competence.”

Sanchez emphasized that the main goal is for every student to learn.

“We want global learning at Grand Valley because we want all students in all majors to have a significant and meaningful global learning in their curriculum,” she said. It’s up to the students to learn it, but the faculty adds it to the curriculum. We are working with every college and every department to encourage them to take this on.”

The next step is for the deans to look at how they can apply global learning to their school or college, Sanchez said. She added that the task force will also collect data, which they will measure and analyze in a couple years.

Robert Adams is one GVSU professor who already has a global focus for his students. Adams, who teaches in the School of Computing and Information Systems, incorporates an international element into his fall capstone class, CIS 467.

For the last three years, Adams’ students have worked in teams with students from Hanover, Germany. In previous years, students have collaborated with Swedish and Finnish universities.

The project is done via Skype and other online tools to share documents and discuss their ideas. At the end of the semester, the students are required to give a presentation.

“We believe our international capstone experience provides a ‘safe’ – i.e., the student won’t lose their job – introduction to being a member of a global team,” Adams said. “Many companies have a global scope and have an international workforce, and alumni may be faced with the prospect of dealing with issues of time-zone differences, cultural differences, document sharing/collaboration, etc. Using virtual international teams gives students a glimpse into what their job might entail in the future.”

For more information about global learning, visit www.gvsu.edu/global.