The meaning of global

At a recent conference of international educators (AIEA –, representatives from VT, University of Basel and the Swiss Embassy in Washington DC served on a panel on the topic of global graduate education.  The focus of the discussion was on the Preparing the Future Professoriate Global Perspectives program and the U.S. – Swiss partnership.  After we described the program, the use of the term “global” was questioned due to the fact that our visits were limited to selected countries within continental Europe (e.g. France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany) or Chile.

The point raised by an audience member was a good one and prompted me to reflect on the term “global”.  While it is true the VT global perspectives program includes visits to selected universities and countries only, I would argue that the program provides a first hand experience that helps us to acknowledge differences around the world and embrace a perspective beyond our own country of origin.  The discussions in GRAD 5104 Preparing the Future Professoriate and brief presentations by international students provide a glimpse into higher education in various countries around the world.  The monthly seminars of the Global Perspectives group prior to departure provide the opportunity for more intentional focus on selected universities and countries.  Interactions among the participants enrich our understandings of each other in that not all of the VT participants are U.S citizens and not all University of Basel participants are Swiss.   We learn from each other about national perspectives, language and cultural differences and much more.  While “global” might signify the world, the experiences of the Global Perspectives program can plant the seeds and open our eyes and ears to greater understanding of our shared global world.

Global Perspectives x 4

Within the last two weeks, I have had the pleasure of interacting with multiple groupings of individuals who have or will participate in the Preparing the Future Professoriate: Global Perspectives program.  The initial meeting of the 2012 Global Perspectives group was held and we began the process of preparing for our May visit.  The PFP Chile ’12 group met to debrief and reflect upon our January visit to Chile.  The weekly Global Perspectives lunch gathering was held and I was able to attend.  And most recently, I shared the draft itinerary with my colleagues who will participate in the first ever Global Perspectives program for graduate deans this July.  The pervasive sentiment across these groups is genuine excitement about learning more about the global academic world and reflecting about the significant impact upon one’s professional and personal lives.  The global perspectives program is one of the many ways through which we can and will transform graduate education.