Women in Academia: EUA webinar and more

On March 1, 2022, the EUA hosted a webinar entitled Women in academia: breaking the glass ceiling or rebuilding the house?  In the U.S., we have often talked about the glass ceiling(s) and thus, I was intrigued by the notion of ‘rebuilding the house” which I believe is the path to follow.  Although ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ is still important, I would encourage efforts that take on the system (the house) and rebuild it to be more inclusive, welcoming, and affirming.

Prior to the webinar, the EUA published a report in November 2019 which provided an overview of inclusion and diversity at 159 higher education institutions in 36 European systems and provided the foundation for university leadership to develop and implement strategies to build more inclusive higher education. The webinar presentations and discussion were mostly about women in academia including those in leadership positions in Europe. The panelists provided an update on demographic data and interactive website, and strove to address the following questions: Is gender parity now a reality in academia? Are more women from all backgrounds taking on leadership positions in academia? How can academia benefit from this cultural change?

The panelists shared detailed information about women in European higher education, offered their reflections on women in academia and their journey to leadership, and shared some strategies for change. The panelists and links to their presentations included:

  • Annick Castiaux, Rector, University of Namur, Belgium (narrative about her journey into academic leadership – see YouTube recording)
  • Mina Stareva, Head of Sector – Gender, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission
  • Ella Ghosh, Senior Advisor at the Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (KIF), Norway
  • Kathrin Müller, project manager, U-Multirank, Germany
  • Kamila Kozirog, Policy & Project Officer, EUA
  • Thomas Jørgensen, Senior Policy Coordinator, EUA

The webinar and the handouts are available on the EUA website and YouTube Channel. On this topic and others (open science, inclusion, teaching/learning), the EUA has made tremendous progress over the past 20+ years of its existence and nations around the world, including the U.S., should take note and learn from their experiences.

Although the focus of the webinar was about women in academia, there was also some mention of others who tend to be marginalized from and within academia. From my perspective, inclusion of this kind will need rebuilding of the system and will require systemic change.

Toward the end of the webinar, the issue of work-life balance arose and was quickly identified primarily as for women (and men) around child care. The notion of work-life balance also applied to elder care. In the U.S., we have had these discussions and have expanded these work-life balance efforts however they are so named but they are still mostly situated from the gender perspective. Work-life initiatives should be expanded beyond the notion of work life balance routinely beyond gender and family responsibilities to include others experiencing work-life disruption due to personal crisis and individual challenges such as disability, mental and physical health, and even social injustices.  At the Virginia Tech Graduate School, the work-life assistance program also started with female graduate students for birth and adoption and expanded to include male graduate students within a couple of years.  More recently, the program was expanded to include what we called significant life events (e.g., elder care, family or personal crisis, death).

Shall we break the glass ceiling or rebuild the house? We must change the system and rebuild the house.

Horizon Europe and #SticktoScience

In 2018, the European Commission (EC) began the process of developing a funding program for research and innovation for the European Union (EU) that would continue funding beyond Horizon 2020. The efforts resulted in Horizon Europe, EU Research and Innovation program 2021-2027, with a budget of €95.5 billion. The focus of Horizon Europe is to facilitate collaboration and strengthen the impact of research and innovation in tackling global challenges (e.g.,climate change, UN’s Sustainable Development goals) and increase EU competitiveness through an enhanced European Research Area.

Included in Horizon Europe program is the establishment of a European Innovation Council, identification of five main mission areas, a commitment to open access and open science policy, and the development of new partnerships with industry in support of EU policies.

Horizon Europe is an ambitious program with established timeframe for implementation.The Open Science principles are already articulated in the Factsheet: Open science in Horizon Europe. And the five missions include the following:

  1. Adaptation to climate change, including societal transformation
  2. Cancer
  3. Healthy oceans and water
  4. Climate-neutral and smart cities
  5. Soil deal for Europe (healthy soils, food)

Through Horizon Europe, the European Commission has demonstrated a strong commitment to research and innovation in Europe but only EU members can apply and receive funding.  That excludes Switzerland and the United Kingdom who are not members of the EU.  According to Jan Palmowski (2022), Secretary-General at The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, the importance of Swiss and UK Association to HorizonEurope has been strongly articulated by researchers, science organisations and university rectors across Europe and has resulted in the #SticktoScience campaign trending in Twitter and social media at the moment.

#SticktoScience calls for an open and inclusive European Research Area urges The EU, the UK and Switzerland to rapidly reach association agreements so that the two countries can contribute scientifically and financially to the strength of Horizon Europe. This is a very important topic and hopefully will be resolved soon.

 

Higher Education 2020 and beyond

My two+ year hiatus from blogging coincided (accidentally) with the disruptions to higher education with the onset of COVID 19 as well as the recent (and ongoing) social, racial injustices, economic disparities and immigration challenges. 2020 marked a critical year for higher education around the world and pushed colleges and universities to pivot, adapt and adjust and to do so quickly.  Universities and colleges had to change immediately, something institutions of higher education have not done well in the past. IHEs are noted for slow change, if any.  And 2020 demanded something else.  Perhaps the confluence of pandemic, political upheaval, and racial social injustices will force colleges and universities to make the changes permanent.  To do things differently.

Although a critique might be appropriate, my focus here will be on the progress made toward the modern global university for today’s society and tomorrow’s future. James Duderstadt in his book entitled University for the 21st Century began the conversation in 2000 in the United States and it must, and it does, continue. The future of higher education has also been a conversation in Europe, led by the European University Association (EUA) which is celebrating 20 years of European collaboration since its founding – brief history is shown here.   What the EUA has accomplished in 20 years is truly amazing and very informative and relevant for higher education in the U.S.

Since 2000, the EUA has published many informative reports, conducted valuable surveys, hosted annual conferences and topic focused webinars (most recently virtually), and established organizational units to assist in achieving its goals. The EUA has advanced initiatives such as teaching/learning, diversity and inclusion, interdisciplinarity, open science, doctoral education, quality assurance and more. Although these are focused on the European context, their contents are valuable to U.S. institutions of higher education. Some of these I have discussed in previous blog posts (and tweets) and others I will elaborate in the upcoming weeks.

The most recent EUA initiative focuses on the future of higher education in Europe and strategies for success.  In 2021, the EUA published Universities without Walls: A vision for 2030.  In publising this report, EUA stated that

“Europe and the world are at a crossroad. We are facing immense challenges; finding a sustainable equilibrium between ecological, economic and social concerns, the digital transition and major political developments will be some of the main drivers of change for the new decade.

Education, research, innovation and culture are key to addressing these challenges. Europe’s universities uniquely unite these in their missions. They are keen to contribute to shaping a positive future for our continent with their academic values and missions. To be able to do this, universities need academic freedom and institutional autonomy, adequate public funding and enabling regulatory frameworks. It is in Europe’s keen interest to support them. Europe needs universities and universities need Europe.”

Earlier this year, the European Commission issued a challenge and opportunity to European higher education institutions through the documents entitled European Strategy for Universities and a Commission proposal for a Council recommendation on transnational higher education cooperation.  These documents serve as an impetus for bringing together the European Research area and the Higher Education area and EUA has already assumed a leadership in effecting change.  There’s more to come in the near future.

“Higher Education in 2030” is the theme of the Global Perspectives Program this year (GPP’22). This year, we will actually be able to travel to Switzerland, Italy and France and explore the future of higher education with university colleagues and EUA leaders. I’ve had the great fortunate to be engaged with EUA for the pasts 20 years and witnessed first-hand the developments and changes in Europe.  As future faculty members, the GPP participants have also benefitted from these efforts.  This year, we will learn directly from our colleagues how 2020 and its challenges have changed the universities.

written by Karen P. DePauw

Evolving PhD education: Trends in Europe and United States

in 2010, I was invited to speak at the European University Association – Council on Doctoral Education (EUA-CDE) conference in Berlin on a panel on doctoral education in U.S. and Europe. The 2010 report which included the update to the original Salzburg principles (2005) had just been released and these guided my comments comparing U.S. and European doctoral education.  The ten Salzburg principles included the following:

  • The core component of doctoral training is the advancement of knowledge through original research. At the same time it is recognized that doctoral training must increasingly meet the needs of an employment market that is wider than academia.
  • Embedding in institutional strategies and policies:universities as institutions need to assume responsibility for ensuring that the doctoral programmes and research training they offer are designed to meet new challenges and include appropriate professional career development opportunities.
  • The importance of diversity: the rich diversity of doctoral programmes in Europe – including joint doctorates – is a strength which has to be underpinned by quality and sound practice.
  • Doctoral candidates as early stage researchers: should be recognized as professionals – with commensurate rights – who make a key contribution to the creation of new knowledge.
  • The crucial role of supervision and assessment: in respect of individual doctoral candidates, arrangements for supervision and assessment should be based on a transparent contractual framework of shared responsibilities between doctoral candidates, supervisors and the institution (and where appropriate including other partners).
  • Achieving critical mass: Doctoral programmes should seek to achieve critical mass and should draw on different types of innovative practice being introduced in universities across Europe, bearing in mind that different solutions may be appropriate to different contexts and in particular across larger and smaller European countries. These range from graduate schools in major universities to international, national and regional collaboration between universities.
  • Duration: doctoral programmes should operate within an appropriate time duration (three to four years full- time as a rule).
  • The promotion of innovative structures: to meet the challenge of interdisciplinary training and the development of transferable skills.
  • Increasing mobility: Doctoral programmes should seek to offer geographical as well as interdisciplinary and intersectoral mobility and international collaboration within an integrated framework of cooperation between universities and other partners.
  • Ensuring appropriate funding: the development of quality doctoral programmes and the successful completion by doctoral candidates requires appropriate and sustainable funding

In identifying the Salzburg principles, the European University Association (EUA) signaled specific focus on doctoral education across the European universities and its critical components. The topics addressed in these principles are quite similar to components of doctoral education in the United States and issues for doctoral education needed for the 21st century. One of the significant results of the Salzburg principles was the development of Doctoral Colleges and the concept of graduate campuses at European Universities. Graduate Schools have long existed in the U.S., doctoral schools/colleges is a new concept but one that has helped facilitate change in doctoral education in Europe.

Conversations about doctoral education and doctoral education reform in Europe and U.S. have continued in the last 10 years.  Today there are more commonalities and convergence about doctoral education than throughout history. In 2018, the publication of two significant reports has provided a lens into the evolving PhD education: Graduate STEM education in the 21st century (NASEM, 2018) and Doctoral Education in Europe Today (EUA, 2019).

The report entitled Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century (2018) was published by the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM). The report included the identification of core competences for the Master’s and PhD degrees and recommendations for 21st century universities.  Although the report focuses on STEM programs, the competencies and recommendations apply more broadly to graduate education beyond STEM.  The core competencies for the ideal PhD degree fall into the following two broad categories: (a) Develop Scientific and Technological Literacy and Conduct Original Research and (b) Develop Leadership, Communication, and Professional Competencies

Recommendations for implementing quality graduate education in the 21st includes the following:

  • Rewarding Effective Teaching and Mentoring
  • National and Institutional Data on Students and Graduates
  • Ensuring Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Environments
  • Career Exploration and Preparation for Graduate Students
  • Structure of Doctoral Research Activities
  • Funding for Research on Graduate STEM Education
  • Stronger Support for Graduate Student Mental Health Services

“Importantly, this report also calls for a shift from the current system that focuses primarily on the needs of institutions of higher education and those of the research enterprise itself to one that is student centered, placing greater emphasis and focus on graduate students as individuals with diverse needs and challenges.” (2018, p.3)

During this same time period, the EUA-CDE conducted a survey of European universities about doctoral education throughout Europe.  The survey of doctoral education was based upon the Salzburg principles and designed to collect data in the following areas:

  • Organizational structures
  • Training and activities
  • Career development
  • Funding
  • Mobility
  • Time to completion
  • Supervision
  • Application and admission
  • Decision-making processes
  • Completion rate

The EUA-CDE doctoral education report includes data on the topics above and resulted in the identification of strategic priorities for European doctoral education moving forward.  The strategic priorities included the following:

  • Funding for doctoral students
  • Ethics and scholarly integrity
  • Attracting students from abroad
  • Career development
  • Gender equality
  • Open access/open science
  • Health/wellbeing of doctoral candidates
  • Increasing number of doctoral candidates
  • University-business cooperation
  • Societal engagement of doctoral candidates

As shown in the figure above, the top three strategic priorities for universities in Europe were funding for doctoral students, ethics and attracting students from abroad.  For more information about the findings, recommendations and suggested actions, see the report.

In addition to these specific doctoral education topics and priorities, universities in Europe and the U.S. continue to explore evolving issues facing the 21st century university.  Among these are focus on teaching/learning, diversity and equity, open access, innovation and entrepreneurship, technology, academic freedom and accessibility.  Changes in doctoral education are critical for the 21st century university and doctoral colleges/graduate schools can help lead the path forward.

References.

Doctoral education in Europe today: Approaches and institutional structures (2019).  European University Association

Graduate STEM education for the 21st century (2019).  National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM).

Salzburg Principles II Recommendations (2010).  European University Association (EUA).

University mission statements

Some background before discussing mission statements….

Transformative Graduate Education (TGE) is a university-wide initiative offered by the Graduate School at Virginia Tech. Through the implementation of unique programs and opportunities, TGE pushes the boundaries of traditional disciplinary academic education and aims to significantly change how graduate students prepare to become the next generation of scientists, educators, scholars, engineers, artists, and career professionals.  One of these programs is the Future Professoriate graduate certificate.

Every semester for the past 15+ years, I’ve taught a graduate course entitled Preparing the Future Professoriate which is one of the required courses to earn the certificate. The purpose of the class is to provide graduate students the opportunity to learn about universities and especially the roles and responsibilities of faculty members.  Each semester 55+ master’s and doctoral students from our 8 different colleges (e.g., Engineering, Science, Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Business, Architecture and Urban Studies, Natural Resources and Environment, Agriculture and Life Sciences) enroll in the class.

One of the early assignments for the class is to find, share and blog about mission statements from two college or universities, U.S. or international. Over the years, I have found this assignment and the discussion that follows to be important in raising awareness about the various types of colleges and universities around the world and their different and yet sometimes similar mission statements. As a result, I have continued to reflect upon the purposes for mission statements, similarity in the words included in the mission statements, the audiences for mission statements, and changes that have occurred over time.  And in the past few years, I have used digital polling software (e.g. Mentimeter for interactive presentations) to share the results with the class for discussion.

The first question I ask for each to share three to four words that they found in the mission statements.  And the second question was for them to identify the type of institution they selected.  I was curious about the words contained in the mission statements and I wanted to learn how they would characterize the university they selected.

Below I’ve included word clouds from the mission statements as shared by the graduate students in the class for the past three semesters. (Please note that this is not intended as a scientific analysis but more of an observation). As you can see, there are some words like research, community, knowledge, service and more that seem to be found in many of the mission statements. Teaching (learning), diversity (access), and global also appear in many mission statements. None of these words are surprising.  But what is surprising is that the word “student” (students) doesn’t appear as often as one would think.  Student or learner (and teaching/learning) seems to be implied rather than directly mentioned. In the figures below, private universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges were in the mix.  If we were to sort by higher education institution type (e.g.private universities, liberal arts colleges, HBCUs, and community colleges) the key words in the mission statements would reflect more about the specific mission of the institution.

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the word clouds for the mission statements, the second question was about the type of college or university selected by these students.  Two examples of the word clouds are shown below.  As you can see, public research universities were common among the universities selected – not surprising because VT is a public research university and perhaps is the most familiar and of interest to the graduate students.   I found it interesting that “PWI” was used as a popular description for many of the entries but likely this was related to the recent in class conversation about PWI (predominately white institution), HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and MSI (Minority serving institutions) institutions.

 

 

 

In January 2018, I was pleased to read a blog by Julian David Cortes-Sanchez entitled “What do universities want to be? A content analysis of mission and vision statements worldwide”.  Although this isn’t the only analysis completed on mission statements, I found his findings pertinent to the mission statement assignment for my graduate course.  Cortes-Sanchez did an analysis of mission and vision statements and found that the most frequently used terms were research, university, world, knowledge and education. These are very similar to the words identified through the class assignment; not surprisingly.  The terms of global or world seem to be newer addition to mission statements as universities strive for a more global presence.

Although there are some very similar words used in mission statements, close attention to the words used can provide a greater understanding of the unique mission of the institutions of higher education.

 

Eve of departure: Global Perspectives Program 2018

For nearly two decades now I have been actively engaged with higher education around the world (which provided the impetus for the establishment of the Global Perspectives Program).  I have watched with great interest the emergence of the  Bologna Process in Europe in 1999 and now the extension of the Bologna process for another 10 years.  Universities around the world have been and are challenged to become 21st century universities and this requires change.  There is no need to abandon the rich history of many universities, but change requires colleges and universities to rethink the who, how, where, when and even the why of higher education.

Universities around the world are grappling with a number of issues, many of which are local or national.  These often differ by country, institutional structure, political climate, financial constraints and more.  Recently, I have noticed that many European universities with the encouragement of the European University Association (EUA) are embracing some of the timely topics which are also lively topics within the United States.  And these will inform the discussion of the participants during our journey known as #GPPVT18.

This is year 13 for the VT Graduate School Future Professoriate: Global Perspectives program (GPP) in Switzerland. Thirteen years and it seems like yesterday when I flew to Zurich to initiate the program.  It is truly amazing how time passes so quickly and how much the program has evolved.

Although we visit the same countries (Switzerland, France, Italy) and the same universities in those countries, the same hotels and even some of the same restaurants, the experiences are different due to the GPP participants and the new places and people within the universities we visit. This year there are 13 graduate students traveling plus the GPP Graduate Assistant Abram and me. Abram was a participant last year and has switched roles for #GPPVT18. The participants come from 13 different degree programs located in five different colleges (4 from Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, 3 from Agriculture and Life Sciences, 3 from Engineering, 2 from Science).  The diversity of academic disciplines, lived experiences, social identities and perspectives is rich and serves to enhance the experience.  I look forward to meeting up with the group at Hotel St. Josef on Sunday, May 27th at 15.00 (3 pm).

Each year we identify a theme which focuses our attention on trends, challenges and issues facing higher education in Europe especially Switzerland.  This year’s theme is “Evolving European and U.S. higher education”.  The GPP’18 participants will explore four timely topic areas (teaching/learning, open access, inclusion/diversity and doctoral education) during the university visits, engage in group dialogue at the GPP summit in Riva San Vitale, and ultimately at the global seminar at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington D.C. in June.  The exploration of these topics will be invigorating and the dialogue rich.

Check out the website (futureprof.global), read our blogs, and follow up on twitter (#gppvt18).

 

Citizen Science: Engaging citizens in research

The 2018 Annual Conference of the European University Association was held in Zurich, Switzerland April 5-6, 2018 using the theme of “engaged and responsible universities shaping Europe”.  Topics included social responsibility, lifelong learning, sustainable Europe, social inclusiveness and diversity, open science, scientific integrity and ethics, and more.  The sessions included lively discussions and live tweeting (#EUA2018Zurich).  It was informative to hear about the EUA perspectives on these topics and to reflect on these same topics as discussed (or not) among higher education leaders in the U.S.  The presentations can be found on the EUA website.

A fascinating presentation on Citizen Science closed the conference and is the focus of my comments here.  In the U.S., we have frequently referred to the social responsibility of the university and public engagement as part of the university mission especially land grant universities.  We have used terms including ‘citizen scholars’ (eg., VT Graduate School Citizen Scholar program), ‘scholar citizens’, ‘scholar activists’ and to some extent citizen science.  The programs and opportunities vary across universities but highlight the connections between the university and society.  Citizen Science in the U.S. seems to be a relatively new entity (first conference in Oregon in 2012), books authored recently (e.g., C. Cooper, Citizen Science: How ordinary people are changing the face of discovery, 2016) and often associated with the environment issues (e.g., Citizen Science Association).

In his introductory comments at the EUA Hot Topic session and overview, Daniel Wyler (University of Zurich) identified Citizen Science as an element of open science and described Citizen Science as able to “enlarge the scope of research in all fields of science and able to enhance public education and the understanding of science”.  He argued that “many scientific and societal issues need citizen science” in areas such as the environment, aging, and energy” and could be helpful in providing the foundation for long-term policy decisions.  He shared guidelines for universities and policy makers and introduced the Citizen Science Center Zurich which is jointed operated by the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. The goal of the Center is to enable “researchers and citizens to create and conduct research collaborations that produce excellent science” in support of the UN 2030 Agenda 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Examples of citizen science in the European context were shared by Kevin Schawinski (ETH Zurich), Sabine Stoll (University of Zurich) and Julia Altenbuchner (University College London).  The three shared distinct examples of science conducted at universities that actively engaged citizens in the research.  As part of the process, citizens could become actively engaged in the design of research projects, data collection and analysis, developing recommendations, and shaping research agendas and public policy.

Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) is one example and can be described as “a situated, bottom-up practice that takes into account local needs, practices and culture and works with broad networks of people to design and build new devices and knowledge creation processes that can transform the world.”  Current projects include: Doing it Together Science (DITOs), Extreme Citizen Science: Analysis and Visualisation (ECSAnVis), WeGovNow, and Challenging RISK (Resilience by Integrating Societal and Technical Knowledge).  Check out these exciting projects and see how citizens are helping with research.  And there’s a free new online course entitled “Introduction to Citizen Science and Scientific Crowdsourcing”.

Another example comes from Kevin Schawinski who engaged citizens in his research on galaxy and black hole astrophysics.  He and his colleagues initiated a project entitled Galaxy Zoo which can be found with Zooniverse.  Zooniverse is the “world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research.”  Zooniverse provides many opportunities for citizens to engage in meaningful research with professors and currently lists 84 very diverse projects on their website.  These range from arts to literature to medicine to space and demonstrate the real projects and publications as a result of Citizen Science. Very impressive.

Universities have a responsibility to society and a Citizen Science approach provides the opportunity to reframe science through ‘people-powered-research’, to challenge our existing paradigm of research, to redefine “expertise”, and to empower genuine public engagement.

International context for higher education: Opposing realities

Although I frequently travel internationally, regularly engage with international students and colleagues and ponder global issues, a recent flurry of international experiences and in contrast, some vivid examples of opposing realities in higher education has prompted me to reflect once again about the importance of global engagement.  Higher education’s global engagement is more critical now and higher education must assume responsibility and leadership for engaging the public about the importance and value of developing a global perspective.

The series of international experiences this spring began with a trip to selected Chilean universities to help promote graduate education at Virginia Tech and to confirm a partnership with CONICYT (National scholarship organization in Chile) to recruit highly talented individuals into graduate degrees at VT.  We visited the University of Concepcion and the Austral University of Chile (long standing partnership) and engaged with their faculty and academic leadership.  In Santiago, we met with Sharapiya Krakinova from CONICYT, who is facilitating the program for graduate education and research exchanges.  We also connected with VT graduate alumni and representatives from other universities (UTEM, U DE VALPO, U De TALCA , U Católica del Norte) interested in developing more formal relationships with VT.  And yes, the earthquakes were real.

On May 21st, the Future Professoriate Global Perspectives program (GPP’17) trip started in Zurich for visits to eight universities (Switzerland, France, Italy) plus a global summit and ended in Riva San Vitale on June 1, 2017. The Virginia Tech group traveled to Switzerland (and beyond) and returned to the U.S. in June. Two participants of GPP’17 from University of Zurich visited Blacksburg and VT before joining the participants from University of Basel in Boston. The Global Seminar at the Swiss Embassy in Washington DC was held on June 23rd with Dr. Mary Sue Coleman (President, Association of American Universities) as the plenary speaker and presentations from the GPP’17 groups.  Lively discussions on “Higher Education as Public Good” ensued along with a hosted by Swiss Ambassador Martin Dahinden.

 

Between the GPP’17 travels and the Swiss Embassy seminar, VT was host to the second one week visit of faculty from USFQ as part of the 21st century faculty program entitled SHIFT.

During this same time frame, administrators from Shandong University in Tinan and Qingdao China arrived in Blacksburg for a brief visit about the VT-SDU partnership.

And then, I traveled to Daegu, South Korea for sport science professional meeting and a day trip to PyeongChang and the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games.

Many countries, many people, many perspectives.  Enhanced global understanding and engagement!

So easy to travel internationally (except some irritating flight delays, cancellations and missing then damaged luggage) and to engage with individuals around the world.  Yes for me and others like me but it isn’t the reality for many others, especially now.  The value of international experiences in higher education (e.g., study abroad, exchanges, Global Perspectives program) are well documented and many possibilities exist.  For years, international students enrolling in U.S. higher education institutions have provided the opportunity for greater global awareness and understanding.  But things have changed recently and opposing realities have become clear and increasingly more visible in 2017.

Since the “travel ban” and its various iterations, uncertainty and a “chilly climate” have loomed large. The impact is seen not only in the United States but from abroad.  There remains great uncertainty and angst among the international communities.  The Chronicle of Higher Education has published recent articles about the impact upon international students currently and the concerns that they face. University World News also continues to report on the outlook for international students in the U.S.  As a consequence to recent actions, applications from international students have decreased (especially from the six countries) and Fall enrollments remain uncertain at this time.

It’s a tough environment for international students studying or wanting to study in the U.S. Two specific examples come to mind that are “close to home”.  A VT graduate student went home to Iran and couldn’t return to the U.S. for the spring semester due to travel restrictions.  She was finally able to return but it took an entire semester to do so.

Although all of the other GPP’17 participants were able to come to the U.S. for the program, one individual from Sudan was not.  His visa application submitted early in spring semester is likely still pending although the visit has long been over.  It wasn’t denied because it is possible for individuals from Sudan to come to the U.S. but it wasn’t acted upon in time.  Unfortunately he was unable to participate in the GPP’17 group presentations at the Swiss Embassy.

Upon reflection, I suggest that these represent but one example of a disconnect between higher education and broader societal interests and values in understanding of the meaningfulness of global experiences and global engagement.  Mary Sue Coleman stated emphatically that higher education is a public good.  Agreed and this must include a global perspective.  I believe that it is the responsibility of higher education to communicate with citizens unfamiliar with our academic world about the value of international students to higher education and the value of global understanding to the workforce and global citizenry.  We must find ways to encourage society to embrace culturally different views and communicate clearly the value of international students.  Clearly, we need more ‘global perspectives’ not fewer.

On the eve of departure for GPP’17: 12 + 4

Once again I’m on the eve of departure for another VT Graduate School’s Global Perspectives Program (GPP) experience.  This year marks the 12th year of the Future Professoriate: Switzerland (GPP’17) program. It is hard to believe that 12 years have passed since we started the program in 2005.  Many miles have been traveled, universities visited, meals consumed and most importantly, many wonderful memories and connections have been made that have changed lives and will last a life time.

The program in Switzerland (with visits to nearby Italy, France and Germany) has continued to evolve over the years.  New university visit were added and new partnerships were developed (University of Basel, University of Zurich).  The global higher education seminar at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington DC has become an annual event. Although each year has similar elements as well as new additions, the dynamics of the group make each experience unique.

The success of the Switzerland program led me to develop some additional opportunities and the +4 refers to these programs. Two additional programs were offered in 2012 – Future Professoriate Program in Chile (GPP Chile)  and the Global Perspectives: Graduate Deans program.  In 2015, we developed and offered a modified version of GPP offered in partnership with University San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador which has been held for the last two years.  While each of the GPP programs serves a difference purpose, the foundation for all 12 + 4 was the development of a program through which participants could expand and enhance their understanding of higher education in a global context.

I remember the first “eve of departure” in 2005 and recall a sense of uncertainty and unknown along with the excitement about the initial program. Thankfully the program was a success and was the inauguration of programs to come.  The positive experiences and the change each of us felt only fueled my commitment to global higher education and continuation of the program.  Having personally known the value and importance of international travel and benefited from a “study abroad” program  (attending the University of Copenhagen during my sophomore year), I could only hope that I could develop and lead a program that offered others a life-changing experience as mine had been.

Each program brings excitement and yet some uncertainty as well.  And most of the uncertainty is around the group dynamics and interpersonal relationships.  And there’s the intention that each participant will grow professionally and personally.  Although others might view international experiences more along the lines of “vacation” and fun, GPP is anything but a vacation.  Yes, having fun and enjoying the experiences are goals but more importantly are the knowledge and understanding of global higher education, cultural experiences, group dynamic and formation of community, and personal development.

The details and logistics of the trip are set and will guide us from place to place.  So on this eve of departure, I once again wonder more about and ponder the journey that each of us will travel.  I’m looking forward to this 12th year of GPP.

GPP’17 will meet at Hotel St. Josef in Zurich, Switzerland at 15.00 (3pm) on May 21, 2017.  Follow us to learn about our individual and collective journeys (blogs, twitter @gppvt, #gppch17, tripvis, and more.

Higher education as public good from a global perspective

International students and higher education around the world are definitely on my mind given the most recent Executive Order issued on March 6, 2017 by the Trump administration (“Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the U.S.”) (more information, see FAQs) and dealing with the impact of such actions at Virginia Tech.  On a national level, the news and social media are filled with stories of those impacted and in response universities create ways to communicate clearly and directly with the various constituencies. As one example, Virginia Tech created a website and specific email address to share updated information and invite correspondence and assistance on an individualized basis.

Also in response, universities as well as national educational organizations/agencies and international associations are taking a stance and issuing their statements broadly.  among those with such statements are the Council of Graduate Schools, APLU, American Council on Education, Association of American Universities, European Universities Association, and more.  These are very helpful in disseminating the important message of the value of international students and the significant upon higher education.  Arguments in support of the value and reports about the economic impact of international students are being shared including a recent one from the UK available through the University World News.

Although not always the case, higher education seems to have been quick to respond to this growing challenge to internationalization (e.g., immigration, globalization) and to express concerns about the negative impact upon higher education. There remains much work to do to reverse the course of action (beyond what might come through the legal system) but the responses described above and more to come do provide examples for how higher education is accepting the challenges and taking the opportunity for addressing the recent populist movement (e.g., post-2016 U.S. election, Brexit).  Perhaps this will be the impetus that encourages higher education to truly engage in a revolution.

In an essay published in University World News entitled “Revolutionising the global society” (March 6, 2017), Blessinger wrote that “higher education systems around the world are currently undergoing an academic revolution that is primarily the result of globalisation, democratisation and lifelong learning as a human right. As we move further into the 21st century, these factors will continue to play an important role in revolutionising the global knowledge society.”

As I wrote in a previous blog – “higher education has the responsibility to be ‘creative’ and innovative in these ‘interesting times’ and to embrace the unknown and act so we can ‘influence the outcomes’.”  With this responsibility, universities must not only understand and embrace higher education as a public good but to do so in a global context.  Earning a post-secondary degree (bachelors and graduate degrees) is often considered a private good (for individual and personal benefit) but in the United States and elsewhere it has also been viewed and must continue to be viewed as a public good; that is, the education of individuals to become well informed and productive global citizens for the betterment of society.

For the first time in the United States, the Times Higher Education (THE) World Academic Summit was held at University of California Berkeley in September 2016.  The theme and speakers were focused on “world-class universities and the public good”.  Academic thought leaders and leaders from government, policymaking and industry around the world attended to learn from each other, to  share best practices, to debate the value of higher education and the costs, and challenge ourselves to forge paths forward in “making the world a better place” (Baty, 2016).  As a participant, it was enlightening to hear from academic leaders, government officials and policy-makers about the importance of higher education around the world and its impact locally, regionally and globally.  As anticipated, the conversations transcended nations and cultural boundaries. The results are captured in a podcast available on the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit website which includes additional information about other summits and meetings around the world.

Building upon the 2016 Academic Summit’s theme of ‘world-class universities and the public good’, the theme for the 2017 Global Perspectives Program (GPP’17) was formulated – “Higher Education as Public Good – the Global Landscape.”  It seemed logically to bring the conversation of current academic leaders from the world stage to the future academic leaders participating in the diverse and international global perspectives program. The focus of GPP’17 will be to examine higher education as public good and to explore the issues and challenges from a global perspectives.  Although the topics will likely continue to evolve in response to ongoing events and actions in the U.S. and the around the world, the initial focus will focus three: (a) massification of higher education: smart solutions for open global higher education, (b) global higher education in the post truth era: importance of fact finding and critical thinking skills, and (c) communicating science in global higher education.

After attending the 2016 Summit, realizing the post-2016 election impact on higher education, reading extensively from the Chronicle of Higher Education, InsideHIgherEd, World University News and more, it became apparent rather quickly that higher education needs to be engaged in and assume leadership for the dialogue around the roles and responsibilities of higher education and the public good especially in the global context.  This was reinforced by the questions, comments and concerns raised by the students in my current GRAD 5104 Preparing the Future Professoriate class (Virginia Tech) and in discussions with colleagues and students in the Transferable Skills course offered spring 2017 through the University of Basel.  Even though the students who enrolled in the class came from the University of Basel, University of Zurich, and University of Strasbourg in France, they also came many countries including Sudan, China, Korea, Germany, Switzerland, France, United States, India and more. Their perspective on higher education shaped by their lived experiences created wonderful opportunities for learning and sharing across nations and cultures and the beginnings of the conversation about global higher education as a public good. Those enrolled in this course also included many who will also participate in the 2017 Global Perspectives Program from the University of Basel and the University of Zurich and will join with the GPP’17 group from Virginia Tech.  The conversation has begun and will only get better and richer.