At a recent conference of international educators (AIEA – http://www.aieaworld.org/), 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.
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.
It’s hard to believe that the initial PFP Global Perspectives: Chile has come to an end.
On Friday morning, we said our good-byes and thank-yous to our wonderful hosts at the University of Austral – Chile (UACh) and boarded the plane to Santiago. With the Andes on the right and the Pacific coastline on the left, we winged our way to Santiago for a final visit to Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. A very informative visit to the Faculty of Engineering finalized the itinerary late Friday afternoon.
We departed for the U.S. on Friday night (January 13, 2012). Two different airlines (LAN/American, Delta), three arrival cities (Charlotte, NC; Roanoke, VA; Milwaukee, WI), and one transfer in Lima, Peru. By now, we have all reached our respective destinations and soon we will be back in Blacksburg and VT.
Much has been learned and more will be explored. IInitial observations have shared with more reflections to come. Our experiences will be described through photos and other visual representations of our individual and collective journey. Although the experience ended in Chile yesterday, the journey continues. Stay tuned, there’s more to come.
We were standing in line waiting for the Funicular to carry us (and many others) up the hill to see the Virgin Mary. We had enjoyed our first lunch together and traveled by foot and metro to the base of the mountain. It was a sunny and hot day and we anticipated that the view would be wonderful. It was.
I was watching those who had returned from their journey to the top. A familiar face appeared among them. No, it couldn’t be. How would it be possible that we would run into someone I knew from VT let along one who had attended the PFP Global in Switzerland a few years ago. Why would she be in Santiago? I called her name. She heard her name but reacted as if it couldn’t be possible that someone she knew would be calling her name. Linsey I called and yes, Linsey Barker and her husband Eric (Erik or Erich – I didn’t catch the spelling) had been visiting Santiago while on their honeymoon. We chatted for a while and learned that they were returning to the U.S. last evening on the same day we had arrived. It is definitely a small world. Safe travels, Global Perspectives participants.
It was dark through most of the hours after departure from Atlanta at 10:45pm on Saturday, January 7, 2012. Many on the plane slept as the screens offered movies, TV shows and flight status updates throughout the night. And then light appeared through the windows announcing the pending arrival into Santiago. John Dooley and I were on this flight and the rest of the group had arrived earlier in the morning.
The Andes were spectacular – looming large and majestic. The tallest mountain peak in the western hemisphere appeared as we flew silently through the air space and slowly descended into Santiago. Andes on the left and shorter mountains below that appeared slightly below the plane. The lines of the vineyards cut neatly along the mountain sides. And the valleys – several as we continued our descent. And finally Santiago appeared below.
We had arrived at our destination and once through customs, we transitioned to the Santiago Park Plaza Hotel. At noon-ish, the group of eight gathered and the PFP Global Perspectives: Chile came to life.