AliReda Jeafar enjoyed his class on ancient philosophy—with particular focus on the ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. He learned about the birth of democracy and the history of the country. But what made his education real was traveling to Greece on a study abroad experience.
“I had information, but I really didn’t know Greece until going there. The history is not only the buildings, but also about the Greek society that led to the construction of the famous monuments that are world renowned,” said Jeafar, a history and philosophy senior who went on the 30-day trip last summer. “I got to live in that culture and learn about how resilient and proud the Greek people are. It was really inspiring. Even with cultural differences, I saw so many similarities.
“I am more resolved than ever to have an open mind and open heart about the world.”
Associate Provost Ilir Miteza said transformative experiences that come from global learning opportunities—like what Jeafar experienced—are essential.
And to help focus on giving all students on campus cultural experience opportunities, University of Michigan-Dearborn has officially listed global citizenship as a priority in the Vision 2020 goals.
Vision 2020 Priority 9 reads, “Diversity, Inclusion and Global Citizenship: Establish a national reputation as a campus community that prepares students to thrive in a diverse world, able to appreciate, navigate and cross boundaries.”
Miteza said a couple years ago he noticed that, despite the rich diversity on campus, some of UM-Dearborn’s cross cultural experience opportunities, like study abroad, lagged behind other universities.
“When looking at campuses that had a healthy and vibrant study aboard program, we saw that they also had a healthy global learning tree with many different options—study abroad was only one branch. Healthy trees have healthy branches,” he said. “That’s when I realized that we needed to make a far bigger investment to global learning as a whole.”
Miteza, along with Special Counsel to the Chancellor for Inclusion and Strategic Projects Ann Lampkin-Williams, created the Global Learning Advisory Council (GLAC), a group comprised of faculty and staff with experience and passion for global education. Members include Martha Adler, Jorge Gonzales del Pozo, Fred Hoffman, Anna Muller, Scott Riggs, Chirs Samfilippo, Armen Zakarian, and a student representative, Quintin Solano.
Lampkin-Williams said the GLAC focused on global citizenship by researching the best ways to connect, provide resources to, and promote additional closer-to-home opportunities—like Alternative Spring Break, Talent Gateway opportunities, student organization volunteer work, global-focused courses and learning from fellow students—for the campus community.
“There are many different ways to gain a global learning experience. Yes, Study abroad is one. But you can also get them on this campus every day. The great thing about our region is that it is so diverse, so you don’t have to travel far,” Lampkin-Williams said. “But we need to better promote how to gain these experiences and make them easily accessible to our students.”
Making “global citizenship” a priority has already yielded results, Miteza said.
To advance the goals of global learning the Office of the Provost has recruited Scott Riggs, UM-Dearborn’s English Language Proficiency program coordinator, as a part-time coordinator for global learning initiatives on campus—which is a newly created position. He will actively work to connect students to global learning opportunities, many of which already exist on campus.
And study abroad numbers are also increasing. In 2015, fewer than 50 students took part in an international educational trip. In 2016, 71 did. Miteza expects the upward trend to continue.
Miteza said he’s glad to see global citizenship added to the priorities. And he’s thankful for the faculty who paved the way for it to happen.
“Faculty members have been very passionate about global learning for years and really are the engineers behind the initiative,” he said. “The high-impact transformational learning experiences they have created for our students are essential for growth in a global society. The university recognizes the importance of these efforts.”