Acting GloballyEmil Venere
News and Information
Johns Hopkins should better coordinate its international
programs to increase the university's global presence and to
enhance educational opportunities for students, a 16-member
Committee on Global Dimensions recently recommended in a report
sent to the president and provost.
But the university could begin meeting the goals outlined in the report simply by improving communication between Hopkins faculty and administrators who already are involved in foreign programs.
For example, the schools of Arts and Sciences or Engineering might be interested in starting an undergraduate exchange program with a foreign university. At the same time, the School of Advanced International Studies might already be working with that university, having established ties that could facilitate a student exchange program. But unless faculty from both schools were communicating with each other, they might never know about their mutual interest in the same foreign institution, said Paula Burger, vice provost for academic programs.
A wider variety of international programs that enabled students to study their particular fields abroad ultimately could make graduates more competitive. And learning a foreign language might better prepare students for various careers, Burger said.
The report suggested the university experiment with innovative approaches to foreign language instruction so that language study can be linked more closely to the academic discipline a student is pursuing. In that way, more students might be encouraged to develop meaningful competency in a second language.
For example, learning German might be advantageous for engineering students who want to study in specific labs. "Others may want to develop conversational ability in Spanish, in order to support their careers in a medical or health field," Burger said.
The Committee on Global Dimensions began meeting in September 1995. French Department chairman Stephen Nichols, who chaired the committee, said it would be inaccurate to portray the goals as a blueprint for proposed changes.
Stephen G. Nichols,
Professor and chair, French Department
School of Arts and Sciences
Edward B. Baker Jr.
Robert E. Black
Sarah K. Bryant
Jan M. Corazza
Catherine D. DeAngelis
Jack C. Fisher
Robert H. Kleeb Jr.
Nitish V. Thakor
David E. Wellbery
Staff to the Committee
"I don't see this as a mandate for change," Nichols said, noting that individual schools may find the report helpful for planning.
Hopkins already is a leader in global studies, with well-established programs in Europe and Asia. "But we can do better than we are doing if we can get organized," Nichols said.
For example, he said he was amazed to learn that the School of Hygiene and Public Health has contracts with the French government for work in India. And the Mathematics Department has ties to math departments in various French institutions. Committee members specializing in other geographical regions were surprised to learn about Hopkins' connections with institutions in those areas, as well.
"Johns Hopkins has always been international in its character and mission, but the committee's report offers a large number of both promising ideas and practical steps for further enhancing the university's global nature," said Provost Steven Knapp.
The report outlined four major initiatives, covering areas "where immediate steps should be taken." They are:
To enhance the university's international curricula, it should develop a distance-learning network. With this capability, students studying in Baltimore, for example, might take courses offered at the university's Nanjing and Bologna centers, and students studying abroad would not have to miss required courses taught back in the United States.
For Hopkins' large number of premedical students, obstacles exist to participating in foreign-study programs because those students can't afford to get out of step with the sequence of required courses. Distance learning may offer a solution to that problem.
Also, "special academic programs could be developed for premedical students so that they don't lose ground," said Burger, who coordinated the committee's work for the provost's office and recently has been asked to devote the substantial portion of her time to these issues by serving as vice provost for international affairs.
One way to enhance Hopkins' international programs is to bring together faculty from various divisions who have interests in the same geographical region.
"You'd like to think that happens naturally," Burger said. "It doesn't happen as often as it should."
Go back to Previous Page