Academic journal article Peer Review

Universal Global Learning, Inclusive Excellence, and Higher Education's Greater Purposes

Academic journal article Peer Review

Universal Global Learning, Inclusive Excellence, and Higher Education's Greater Purposes

Article excerpt

During the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) 2017 Global Engagement and Social Responsibility conference, AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella and Don W. Harward, founding director of Bringing Theory to Practice, posed an essential question for attendees to consider in that geopolitical moment: "Are higher education's efforts to advance global engagement, and global citizenship, un-American?" Their joint response was unequivocal: "No"

Citizens can possess both local and global identities that motivate them to advance the interconnected common good of their own communities and other communities worldwide. Harward (2017) asserted that higher education plays a critical role in nurturing these intersecting identities and responsibilities in all students and preparing them to act. "The challenging work for each campus to be a global community is in it becoming a context and a learning culture where the emancipation of a student as a global citizen is anticipated-even expected-that 'global citizenry' is realized as a dimension of each student's identity," Harward said.

In theory, preparing students for global civic engagement is compatible with higher education's longtime mission to foster local and national engagement, but what does this mean in practice? Harward wondered if campuses can prepare students for global citizenship in "authentic and clearly confirmable ways." How can students without a passport "gain empathetic understanding" and experience "authentic encountering" of diverse others while remaining embedded within their home classroom and community? More broadly, how does an institution's "commitment to being global" relate to the greater purposes of higher education-the promotion of well-being, learning and discovery, civic purpose, and meaningful life choices? The process of global learning, which involves diverse people collaboratively analyzing and addressing complex problems that transcend borders (Landorf and Doscher 2015), can provide answers to Harward's questions-but only if it involves all students. Global learning enables participants to discern the interconnectedness of local and global well-being. Universal global learning propels inclusive excellence. It makes diversity essential to the achievement of higher greater purposes-all students' growth and engagement as people, learners, community members, and citizens of the world.


The term global learning originated with the founding of the Global Learning Division of the United Nations University (UNU) in 1982. The division's mission was to develop educational practices that would enable people to understand and address persistent transnational challenges such as hunger, poverty, conflict, energy insecurity, and ethical dilemmas arising from advances in science and technology. Its name was a deliberate double entendre "meant to convey both the sense of learning as a global process that must include all levels of society, and the sense of learning to think globally, in the recognition that the world is a finite, closely interconnected, global system" (Soedjatmoko and Newland 1987).

Fast-forward twenty-four years to the publication of Shared Futures: Global Learning and Liberal Education, in which Kevin Hovland (2006) described global learning as the means by which students are prepared for citizenship in a diverse and interconnected world. Shared Futures echoed global learning's original purpose, but it didn't define its nature as an educational process. Global learning was explicitly differentiated from curriculum internationalization, which is traditionally achieved by increasing the availability of language, area studies, and study abroad programs or the amount of international student recruitment and exchange. Institutions internationalize for many reasons-to connect with the world's knowledge production and learning network, improve career preparation, heighten profile and rankings, or augment tuition revenue. …

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