Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) officials will recognize its new Global Studies Institute (GSI) at a reception this Wednesday (April 10) at 4:30 p.m. in the campus’ Karl Anatol Center.
Founded last September by Richard R. Marcus, director of the CSULB’s International Studies Program, with the inspiration and energy of Elaine Haglund, professor emerita of educational psychology, administration and counseling, the institute has a goal of making “international” integral to what it means to be educated.
“The idea of the Global Studies Institute is to serve as an all-university conduit to help link international education efforts around the campus and to facilitate college and department internationalization initiatives,” explained Marcus, the GSI director. “The Global Studies Institute is not primarily a mechanism for studying abroad. The major focus is the campus, complementing the efforts of the Center for International Education and the Academic Senate’s International Education Committee.
“For instance, how might the campus optimally assist returning study abroad students to integrate what they’ve experienced overseas into their curriculum choices and career aspirations? he asked. “Too, how can faculty enrich their courses by adding global perspectives or engaging our international students in the class interaction or connecting our students with overseas faculty and students?”
The GSI has a goal of involving the entire campus community in the institute’s planning and implementation process, explained Haglund, whose career at CSULB began in 1972.
Haglund and Marcus are part of a cadre of CSULB scholars who have spent their careers furthering international education on campus and around the world.
Marcus explained that CSULB has a long history of effort of incentivizing faculty development of internationally related courses and especially coursework that is interdisciplinary in content and innovative in instructional methods. For example, faculty members are to be rewarded for courses that digitally connect students with their counterparts outside the United States and through academically focused software that allows for direct interaction, joint projects and personal international relationships.
The mission of the GSI was born out of decades of effort and experimentation. However, the underlying principles of the GSI were given considerable impetus by a 2010-11 task force from the CSULB provost’s office that identified areas that could benefit from significantly increased international effort.
“International education is important no matter what major you’re in,” Marcus pointed out. “The initial funding for the GSI comes in perpetuity from the Dr. Elaine Haglund Global Endowment. Along with future multidisciplinary funds that it hopes to raise, the GSI intends to build on the successes of the past while providing an institutional mechanism that protects advances in international education against the vicissitudes of state funding and changes in faculty and personnel.”
Haglund added, “The 99 percent of the CSULB community who are not likely to study or intern abroad are those we most need to reach,” she explained. “We live in an interdependent and globalized world where political, economic and social interactions across borders are increasing at an exponential rate. As such it is vital that, first, university students are sensitized and exposed to global issues, and, second, that they have a heightened sense of consciousness regarding other peoples and cultures, and that, where possible, students gain a toolbox of international and global skills.”
The key to linking international experience to CSULB curriculum is sound academic and career advisement. According to Marcus, one of the things highlighted in the provost’s task force report was the current process involved for CSULB students preparing to study abroad. The task force identified the situation as an advising challenge, especially since only a small handful of departments send the majority of students abroad.
Study abroad opportunities are intended to be integral parts of a student’s academic plan. Academic and career advising may be strong, study abroad advising may be strong, but there remains a disconnect, Marcus noted. As such, there are barriers students face when bringing courses back into their majors, inconsistencies in what courses are signed-off on, and a difficult integration of material learned overseas with campus coursework, all of which are significant challenges to advisors at a time when advising time is scant.
In part, there is a money issue for students looking for study opportunities abroad, but Marcus argued for the relative affordability of foreign travel. “Most places in which CSULB students wish to study are cheaper to live in than the United States,” he said. “It is cheaper to study almost anywhere else without a job than in California with a job at Starbucks. The problem is to help students get past the sticker shock of $20,000 for a year’s study overseas. What would it cost to live in Long Beach for that same year? Dealing with the mechanisms of international education may not be sexy but they are necessary. It would be hard to find someone who denies the value of international education. The challenge is to change that endorsement into action.”
Marcus said he believes faculty members and students should participate in the GSI, especially with a number of today’s employers looking for workers with global experience. “It is not enough to be an engineer. You need to be an engineer with language and intercultural skills. Today’s employers want people who can work outside the United States.”
For instance, Marcus noted that in a recent survey of employers sponsored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, more than two-thirds wanted new graduates to have the ability to understand the global context of situations and decisions, and even more want students to have a firm knowledge of global issues and developments and their implications for the future. This doesn’t just apply only to international studies or language majors.
The GSI is designed to help today’s students meet the modern challenges of overseas study.
“We live in a new world in the 21st century and we need to train our students to understand that international education is important. As we move forward as a university, it is more and more necessary to discover what skill sets employers are looking for,” Marcus said. “Today’s employees need to be able to pick up the phone and call Indonesia. Intercultural and language skills are not important just in a few courses but in all courses. When we modify or create a new course, we must ask ourselves what global competencies are called for? The GSI is here to help bring together efforts from across campus to find the answers.”
Both Marcus and Haglund expressed appreciation for the support of Provost Don Para, Associate Vice President for International Education Jeet Joshee and Liberal Arts Dean David Wallace, among others in making the institute a reality.