Global Leadership for African-American Collegians: A 21st Century Imperative: Study and Travel Abroad Enhance Leadership Skills

Article excerpt

Increasing numbers of African-American collegians are honing their leadership skills in the global classroom. The internationalization of the American economy is driving undergraduate students to acquire an international perspective. African-American collegians who study abroad are enhancing their resumes and acquiring competitive edges for employment opportunities in the global marketplace.

The literature abounds with information on study abroad, international internships, volunteer and work experience. Internationalizing the campus and the curriculum are the new buzzwords in higher education. Often multiculturalism and diversity are included in the international goals of the university. New campus based programs and linkage agreements with foreign universities are providing affordable opportunities for students to travel and participate in a variety of academic exchange programs. Both study abroad and work through volunteer services or international internship programs are effective approaches to prepare college students for leadership and work in a global economy.

Several national initiatives have been implemented to encourage greater participation of African-American college students in international careers. At the core of these new initiatives is study abroad. In 1995, the United Negro College Fund created the Institute of Public Policy (IIPP) to identify, recruit, and train students for careers in international affairs. Through a partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACUs) and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, students were identified and recruited to participate in several major components of the IIPP model.

More recently, the Academy for Educational Development, a nonprofit agency based in Washington, D.C., created the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellowship Program. Graduate fellowships support master's degrees in public policy and international affairs in over 35 U.S. graduate schools. To prepare highly qualified students for graduate school, a Junior Institute is held during the summer on the campus of five schools of public policy and international affairs. Participants engage in intensive course work designed to improve their communication skills and enable them to analyze public policy and understand international issues.

United States Representative Donald M. Payne (D-N.J.) has a plan that would increase the presence of African Americans in global affairs. He thinks that more students of color should pursue careers in international affairs. His plan is in effect another piece of a big picture, which is to include the opportunity for more students to participate in study abroad at the undergraduate level regardless of major or career choice.

Professor Victor Jones thinks that his mission is to give something back to the African-American community. This past summer, he didn't hesitate to accompany a group of students to Europe. It was a chance for him to return to Paris, where he spent 10 years working as a professional architect, and London, a city that afforded him invaluable experience as an adventurous Harvard student looking for practical experience in his field. Today, he teaches in the southeast at Clemson University and commutes once a month to his hometown, Los Angeles, to run a studio program for domestic exchange students who want to study architecture on the west coast. In 1994, Victor Jones was a recipient of the J. William Fulbright Foreign scholarship confirming his commitment to the importance of international experiences.

Professor Jones states, "I have always been grateful to those individuals who helped me broaden my horizons. Opening the doors to historic cultures is a clear path to exchange and learning. Acquiring the skills to speak a foreign language has been particularly meaningful. This is especially important for young African Americans who more often feel limited by their immediate surroundings. …