Global Initiatives Honored
By Erica Plouffe Lazure
East Carolina University’s efforts to globalize student education have been recognized by the Institute of International Education.
ECU’s Global Academic Initiatives project received honorable mention in the 2008 IIE Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education. ECU will be among eight American universities honored March 13 at the United Nations in New York City.
Launched in 2003, the global classroom in the Science and Technology building has enabled more than 600 ECU students to become exposed to their academic counterparts in countries that include Angola, Turkey, Venezuela and China. In the past five years, the Internet-based course has expanded to 21 partners in 18 countries, using Web technology to provide a relatively inexpensive way for students – and faculty members – to go global. ECU’s Rosina Chia, assistant vice chancellor for global academic initiatives, and Elmer Poe, associate vice chancellor for academic outreach, created the program in response to a need for ECU students to have more opportunities for international exposure.
“Using technology, we came up with a low-cost but effective strategy to do it,” Poe said. “We can bring researchers, students and faculty together.”
Partnering institutions need only an Internet connection and a Web camera in order to make a connection, although setting up programs that match both their technological capabilities and their academic aims does take some assistance and coordination.
Because it is not feasible for many ECU students to travel abroad – the percentage of those that do each year is still in the single digits, but climbing – Chia said the global classroom setting can serve as a ‘bridge’ to bring together students of different backgrounds and perspectives; it enables them to convene as classmates and friends.
“If we can get students exposed to their peers from different cultures – American, Pakistani, Chinese – they may realize we dress differently, we eat differently, our religions might be different. But they learn that they also want stability, they want to be more educated; they want better lives for themselves and their children,” she said. “They can talk to each other about that. The connection helps to overcome that initial apprehension.”
The number of sections taught each semester has grown from one to six, with ECU Anthropology professor Jami Leibowitz coordinating three other faculty members. Poe and Chia have traveled to India and Malaysia, Moldova and Angola, gaining partners for ECU’s Global Understanding courses and for research and lecture alliances among faculty members. They have also worked with more than a dozen American universities to develop their own global outreach programs.
ECU’s Global Academic Initiative also enables faculty members to “guest” lecture for partnering institutions, as well as collaborate on research endeavors. Poe and Chia hope the recognition from the IIE will provide even more opportunities for people to learn about the project, and that it will bolster interest in the Global Partners in Education meeting ECU will host May 19-22.
The Heiskell awards were established in 2001 to promote the most outstanding initiatives being conducted in international higher education.