An early train from Capolago-Riva San Vitale through the Swiss Alps to Zurich.  Mostly quiet enjoying the views and lost in my thoughts about the 2012 Global Perspectives program.  A special experience which none of us wanted to end.

It was great to share time with colleagues from UniBasel and Lund at CESA exploring access and higher education.  The conversations will continue and not just in Blacksburg and at the Swiss Embassy.   Let’s continue the dialogue and make global higher education our shared reality. Thanks to all!

Week one complete

A week ago today, we gathered in Zurich to begin our journey.  Since then, we have visited 7 universities varying in mission and size; one more to go.  We met with Presidents (Rectors) of three universities (University of Basel, University of Strasbourg, and University of Lugano).  We heard many presentations about the academic programs, toured labs and facilities, talked with students and administrators.  We traveled by train mostly, a few buses and walked for many kilometers on a daily basis.  We have enjoyed finely prepared meals paired with outstanding wines.  We have visited cultural sites and explored the local scenery and customs.

Last Wednesday, we arrived in Riva San Vitale – our home for the next week.  The VT Faculty Development program participants were already in residence in Riva.  Our itineraries overlapped and thus were able to share travels and conversations.

Today is a holiday in Switzerland and the Santa Croce Church will open tomorrow for the first time in 2+ years.  We will visit the opening and witness a celebration of cultural heritage.  Another rich experience among many of the trip.  Still more to come.



On the eve of departure

On May 8th, the last of our monthly meetings of the 2012 VT Future Professoriate: Global Perspectives program was held prior to our individual departures to Switzerland.  Although our departure dates vary, the official start of our collective experience begins at 3pm on May 20th in the lobby of Hotel St. Josef in Zurich Switzerland.

A couple of days later, I ran into Lucy Ferrari (co founder of CESA) in President Steger’s office on the eve of her return home to Switzerland.  She expressed excitement and pleasure that yet another Global Perspectives group would join her for dinner at her favorite restaurant overlooking Lugano and Italy – Ristorante San Grato.

As the days to departure decrease, the ability to focus on the global perspectives trip increases.  Commencement(s) are done.  The Honorable Michelle Obama and Senator Mark Warner spoke at VT commencement.  The speeches were inspiring and intensity (security) great.  The students are on their way – some are traveling in Italy, some in Switzerland and others to countries beyond.  I’ll be the last to fly – and then we will meet in Zurich.

During the previous Global Perspectives programs (this is the 7th year), I have encouraged participants to “look” and “see” the world around them.  I have especially encouraged the observations of doors and windows which I find provide wonderful views into the culture of the places we visit.  Yes, the “doors and windows” are obvious cultural markers and can easily serve as an initial focus for viewing the world.  And yet, observations should extend well beyond simply the doors and windows as physical objects to “doors and windows” as metaphor for “seeing” to understand and appreciate the culture.  During our individual and collective global perspective experience, our lives can be enriched by opening the doors and the views provided through the windows.  Let the journey begin.

Access to and within higher education

The theme of the 2012 Global Graduate Education Summit is “access to and within higher education”.  [The summit is a culminating event for Virginia Tech’s Future Professoriate Global Perspectives program held in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland in partnership with University of Basel in Switzerland and University of Lund, Sweden].  What follows is a preview of my musings in preparation for the opening presentation of the summit on May 29, 2012.

“Access to” and “access within” means many different things and we will explore the various meanings and global trends during the Summit.  At least initially, “access to” seems to make reference those who do, those who do not and those who should be able to seek admission into a college or university.  Historically specific groupings of individuals have not been able to access higher education but there seems to be emphasis on increasing access to colleges and universities in various parts of the world.  And with the advances in technology and the digital evolution the question must be raised about access to colleges and universities in a more traditional sense of higher education vs access to higher education in the sense of advanced knowledge and understanding not necessarily housed within colleges and universities.

“Access within” refers to those within the academy and how they access knowledge and understanding through teaching and learning, research/scholarship and engagement within higher education.  How information is taught.  How knowledge is acquired.  How learners learn. How one accesses information within and across disciplines or not.  How research questions are developed and shared or not.  The ways in which learning, discovery and engagement are or could be connected. These are just some of the topics that will be explored in the Summit.

“Access” also refers to access to the scholarship and information discovered (or uncovered) within the university.  Questions here could include who has access to the scholarship currently and how the public could access the information.  Open Access? Scholarship as private good or public good?  Education as private good or public good?  And there’s more.

Issues of access are intriguing and complicated – exciting conversations to follow.