Global education COD students become better citizens

By Ann Rondeau
Inside COD
Posted11/1/2017 12:11 PM

As we prepare to celebrate Veterans Day and honor those who have served in the United States military, it is important to remember the role we as citizens play in their military involvement.

In our country, there is civilian control of the military. Our votes -- for the people we elect and by our elected officials -- send the military into harm's way to protect the values and freedom we treasure.

I believe it is critical that all citizens in a democracy have a global education. Learning about the world can provide an understanding of leaders and political situations, inform decisions, and advance effective communications with neighbors and colleagues who come from different countries and cultures.

A balanced and well-rounded global education is good for democracy. It is also increasingly important on a resume and makes us more individually competitive in the workforce.

In October, the Institute of International Education released a report showing the direct impact of studying abroad on skills valued by employers for career success. Based on survey responses and in-depth interviews from more than 4,500 college and university alumni across the country, the institute report shows how studying abroad has become a key indicator of engaged learning and contributes to the development of transferable skills.

Global education is an important educational component at College of DuPage. According to the institute's Open Doors Report, College of DuPage has consistently been among the top five community colleges in the country offering credit for studying abroad, currently sending approximately 200 students abroad each year.

A balanced global education that spans west and east, north and south, keeps College of DuPage current and relevant in the worlds of ideas and practice.

The Field and Experiential Learning, Study Abroad and Global Education faculty and staff believe that the world is our classroom. The college has offered a vast array of successful international trips since 1970, taking students to more than 80 countries spanning all seven continents.

Culinary students can learn from master chefs in France, biology students can study ecosystems on the Galápagos Islands, and humanities students can travel to Asia and immerse themselves in Japanese culture.

Actually, global learning happens in many ways. Just stepping through our doors can start the educational process. Our students represent communities from across the world.

To honor their journeys while making them feel comfortable, we are developing International Hall, which highlights the diversity of College of DuPage and features a display of flags representing our students and their countries of origin. Once completed, this unique space will be used for events and other activities to showcase the culture of the college.

College of DuPage is one of the consortium partners in the Community College Initiative program, made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of State.

Through the program this academic year, COD welcomes 16 students from a broad range of nations, including Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey.

They are pursuing one-year certificate programs in workforce development fields and participating in service learning and community engagement activities. These students then return home with new skills and a deeper understanding of U.S. culture.

The college also welcomes guest lecturers, professors and delegations from across the world, as well as encourages our faculty and staff to participate in global education opportunities.

For example, Dejang Liu, professor of computer information systems, became a U.S. Fulbright Scholar to teach database and mobile app development at the University of Information Technology in Yangon, Myanmar. He is one of eight current faculty members at College of DuPage who are Fulbright Scholars.

Trisha Sowatzke, coordinator of hazardous material, and Jennifer Butler, liberal arts discipline support specialist, recently spent two weeks in Europe as part of the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs Professional Exchange.

Sowatzke and Butler blogged during their two-week stay and reported on similarities and differences in educational systems.

Faculty and staff can use experiences like these to start meaningful conversations that lead to greater understanding. We also host special events on campus, such as our upcoming Global Education Week starting Monday, Nov. 13.

All of these opportunities -- in the classroom, out of the classroom, and through interaction with peers, faculty and staff -- provide knowledge that broadens awareness of global cultures and issues.

Through this education, our students are developing an understanding that will help them with careers in a global marketplace while expanding their world views as community members and citizens of this great country.

As we celebrate Veterans Day and a month of reflecting on service above self, I ask that you think about the role of our military, what challenges our men and women face as they serve in places around the globe, and how our ability to grasp the complex issues and questions surrounding this involvement informs each one of us.

Even if you don't travel abroad, global education plays a key role in navigating unfamiliar concepts and contributes toward greater understanding.

For the United States military, global education of our citizens and leaders is essential toward informed decisions in the deployment of our men and women who so nobly answer the call of their country.

• Ann Rondeau is president of the College of DuPage. During the school year, her column appears monthly in Neighbor.

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