International Education Today to Prepare the Leaders of Tomorrow: Universities Can No Longer Afford to Allow Students to Graduate without an Understanding of the Global Community

By Jenkins, Karen | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, April 14, 2011 | Go to article overview

International Education Today to Prepare the Leaders of Tomorrow: Universities Can No Longer Afford to Allow Students to Graduate without an Understanding of the Global Community


Jenkins, Karen, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


Given the current headlines--piracy off the coast of Somalia, Ireland's unexpected financial difficulties and civil unrest in North Africa and the Middle East--America can no longer ignore the need for our students to acquire a deeper understanding of the world.

The greatest challenge of higher education is to prepare students to be global citizens--to be able to cross national boundaries, speak other languages and seek solutions to transnational issues. Meeting the challenge will require an unprecedented focus of talent and resources to ensure that every American college or university imparts an international perspective to its students. This focus must extend from the faculty to the administration and must be deeply embedded in the field of study of every student.

The students sitting in classrooms today will be the leaders of tomorrow. How will they solve tomorrow's complex international problems if they don't receive effective and comprehensive multicultural training and exposure now? Unless all are included in an education that teaches understanding about the world, the solutions will be left in the hands of an underinformed few.

The most visible sign of international activity on a campus is often the number of students that study abroad. In the 2008-09 academic year, 260,327 students from the United States studied abroad, according to the Institute of International Education's "Open Doors 2010" study. That number represents barely 1 percent of all U.S. college students that year and is a 0.8 percent dip from the previous year. If such a small percentage of students travel, live and study abroad, can academia truly say it is adequately preparing all students to understand--not to mention operate in--an increasingly global community? The numbers are particularly dismaying for minority students. Blacks represented just 4.2 percent of U.S. students studying abroad in 2008-09, while Asian Americans and Hispanics made up 7.3 percent and 6 percent, respectively. American Indian students barely registered, at 0.5 percent. …

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