May 21, 2015

Symposium explores broadening Cornell's global curriculum

Susan Fussell
Jason Koski/University Photography
Susan Fussell, left, associate professor of communication and information science, discusses an upcoming project on virtual teams during a faculty panel at a May 13 symposium on internationalizing the curriculum.

Integrating a global perspective into every aspect of campus life was the subject of a recent daylong symposium, “Integration of International Experience into the Curriculum,” with Cornell community members and guest keynote speakers relating recent successes, case studies and challenges.

Internationalization does not only mean sending students abroad, “but the things we do right here in Ithaca for them, in terms of language training; [and in] the curriculum, whatever their major,” said Fredrik Logevall, outgoing vice provost for international affairs and director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. “It means, we hope, a new major called Global Affairs; [and] working to support our internationally engaged faculty,” as well as engaging international students on campus and enhancing Cornell’s global presence in cities around the world.

In a panel on strategies and models to integrate international experiences, faculty members described five upcoming projects, all supported by Internationalizing the Cornell Curriculum grants; 25 grants were awarded this year to worldwide project proposals from eight Cornell colleges and schools.

James Lassoie (natural resources) described a 
gateway course on engaged international experiences for undergraduates majoring in agriculture and rural development, “Worldly Explorations,” to be offered to freshmen over the next two spring semesters.

“We want to introduce international opportunities that they have ahead of them as juniors and seniors,” he said. The course will include units on community-engaged learning and on international senior research theses and internships; upperclassmen will present their real-world experiences from courses on campus, those with field components and Cornell Abroad.

Julie Nucci (materials science and engineering) said that after an exchange project ended, involving Cornell doctoral students and high school teachers from Ithaca and India, she queried the director of a rural tribal school north of Mumbai about their energy needs. The director said they could “make better use of our compost, our garden waste and our farm waste.”

“We crafted a project that would run through a chemical engineering and designing sustainable energy systems course,” Nucci said. “A group of M.Eng. students and seniors will design a biodigester over the course of the fall semester; we will select teams and over the winter they will go over and build it.”

John Forester (city and regional planning) outlined a project to develop teaching materials to enable students to interview professional urban practitioners in any country, whose first-person stories and expertise would also benefit the classroom. Southeast Asia Program director Kaja McGowan (history of art, archaeology) described a proposal to internationalize the education minor, including professional development for key faculty, Burmese language instruction and a pilot program exploring education in Asia, beginning next spring in Myanmar. Susan Fussell (communication, information science) discussed a project on computer-mediated communication for virtual teams at Cornell and in Taiwan.

In a keynote, Harvey Charles, Northern Arizona University vice provost of international initiatives, said the turnout for the symposium in G10 Biotech “reflects the commitment to internationalization on this campus. … Why does internationalization matter? The greatest challenges are global. This is one of the ways we can work to improve the human condition and prepare the next generation.”

Cornell is “doing this work in intelligent ways,” he said, and will serve “as a model to others around the world.”

The symposium also featured a student panel on global learning experiences and outcomes, a faculty panel with case studies from recent international programs, a panel on institutional opportunities and challenges, keynotes by Cultural and Educational Programs Abroad academic director Lynn Anderson and Hilary Landorf of Florida International University, and a celebration of 30 years of Cornell Abroad.

“We’ve been asked to think about shaping a successful international agenda, [which] really is about strategic planning,” said Laura Spitz, interim vice provost (and Law School associate dean) for international affairs.

In his closing comments, Logevall said: “We have a challenge from our president to get to 50 percent of Cornell students having a meaningful international experience. I am totally on board, but I’ve also said it shouldn’t be 50 percent, it should be 100 percent – and it can be, in terms of curriculum [and] having a global component to their education.”

The event was sponsored and organized by the Einaudi Center, in cooperation with Cornell Abroad, Engaged Learning + Research, the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives and the Center for Teaching Excellence. Among the speakers from the cosponsoring units was Hirokazu Miyazaki, named the next Einaudi Center director effective July 1.