Kinghorn Fellowship

What Are Global Perspectives?

A Kinghorn Essay by Charles Temple, Ph.D.

Global Perspectives: Through a robust study abroad program, a campus community with strong international affiliations, and a curriculum that prizes curiosity, students form an appreciation for the vivid diversity of human cultures as they also seek connections and similarities within that diversity.

[HWS Mission Statement, 2017]

Helping students gain global perspectives has been a goal of Hobart and William Smith Colleges at least since the 1970’s, when Professor Emeritus Elena Ciletti acted on a student’s suggestion and took her (surely delighted!) art history class off to Florence, to see up close the works that had been projected on screens at Houghton House. Since that time HWS has developed one of the strongest initiatives for global education you will find in any of the colleges and universities in the US, with programs of study in fifty countries that engage almost 60% of our students. Half our faculty have taken students overseas. In 2017, HWS was ranked number one in the US for its global education programs.

Well deserved, surely. But what exactly is a “global perspective”? What are its parts, and how do you get one? We interviewed a cross section of students, faculty, and staff to hear their thoughts on the question.

What are global perspectives? What are its “parts”?

“Global perspectives” is the term chosen for the Colleges’ mission statement that headed this article. What does that term mean to the HWS family? And what are its “parts:” What attitudes, knowledge, and skills do we believe a person with a global perspective should have?

Attitudes and orientations. A global perspective is a special kind of awareness, and a set of attitudes and orientations toward other people and other cultures. That was a common theme in what we heard from faculty, staff, and present and former students who are substantially involved in global education.

Judith McKinney

Above all, a global citizen should recognize that every single human is a global citizen and is therefore entitled to basic rights, respect and a voice in what happens on the earth.
(Judith McKinney, Associate Professor of Economics).

Ashwin Manthriprada

First, a global perspective is the humble acknowledgement that one’s own perspective is but one of countless others. Second, a global perspective is the recognition of systemic oppression and privilege and acting toward a more equitable world.
(Ashwin Manthripragada, Visiting Assistant Professor of German).

Jack Harris

Having a global perspective means an awareness of the tremendous variability of human experience as constructed in other societies in their culture and their politics, their language, their art. When we don’t have these global experiences, we get tunnel vision and instead of having a sense of appreciation for the great variety and the great differences in human expression, we get afraid or suspicious.
(Jack Harris, Professor of Sociology and Kinghorn Fellow)

Caroline Travalia

The overall aim of a global citizen is to know that other peoples, other nations, have perspectives on life, social mores, politics, and values, different from the ones that were taught to him/her at home, in school, by the media, and within his or her social and educational context. And with that understanding, a global citizen can enhance his/her life by an appreciation of the variety and richness in cultures in the world. At the same time, one will both realize when changes need to be brought about and be prepared to meet the challenges arising all over the globe.
(Caroline Travalia, Associate Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies).

Nan Arens

Global citizens should have great radar for cultural stereotype, curiosity about others and an openness to others very different from ourselves… The flip side of this, of course, is tremendous compassion for those from other cultures in our midst.
(Nan Arens, Senior Dean of the Faculty)

Solomé Rose

Being a global citizen means having the ability to understand different perspectives, engage in a multicultural society, and understand one’s position within a larger global community. It means living in a world of inequities and finding one’s place in the fight for justice, love and humanity. (Solomé Rose, the Colleges’ Interim Chief Diversity Officer).

Mary Jameson

Mary Jameson (WS 2012), a who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda, reminds us that we should expect people we meet in other places are growing and evolving, just as we grow and change from our interactions with them:

To choose to be a global citizen means that you must be willing to grow, while understanding that the world will also do this. It means you must have an open yet critical eye of your own backyard and the backyard of your neighbor 6,000 miles away. A global citizen must be curious and appreciative, and most of all - able to adapt to your surroundings while remaining critical of them. This is not always an easy task, which is why it must be a continuous active choice.

Kevin Dunn

Connecting the Global and the Local. Several respondents stressed the connection between having a global perspective and being committed to action in our own community. Every individual lives at the intersection of the local and the global. We are affected in our daily lives by local and global forces in things that we do in our everyday lives—as consumers buying products, and taking all sorts of actions: [these things] have global repercussions. So to have a global perspective is to recognize where we are at that intersection between the local and the global: seeing how we are both produced by global forces, and how we have an impact out onto global forces.
(Kevin Dunn, Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies).

Professor Harris agrees: Today the way that we need to be is both global and local. We need to invest ourselves in our own community with in which we live, and we need to understand that we are also invested in global marketplace, and the world of the global arts and music and the like.

Alejandra Molina

Professor Alejandra Molina, Director of the Center for Intercultural Affairs and Kinghorn Global Fellow, observed that while HWS offers rich opportunities for both local and international engagement, the two should not be separated.

Sometimes I think we’re too enamored with the idea that we go abroad, we learn—which is great (I came from abroad at some point!); but it’s always a concern that we are not connecting the dots… so as an institution that does great work in civic engagement and community service—for us it is important to be able to connect the global and the local constantly. …Right now I think we have two paths: you are a global citizen, and you are a local engaged citizen. And I think that we cannot separate those two.

How do you gain a global perspective?

Some of this is homework, things you can do right on this campus, say our informants.

A global citizen should be familiar with the history and current events of as many countries as possible but at the very least with one area of the world one is particularly interested in. A global citizen should be cognizant of how policies and practices adopted in the United States affect citizens of other countries, where policies are not likely to follow those of the U.S. (Professor Travalia)

Dignauris Garcia

HWS students can get a global perspective and a global education by reaching out not only to faculty but to other students as well, having those conversations, attending all the resources that are out there… taking language courses…
(Dignauris Garcia, William Smith College ’17)

Kely Amejecor

Do something you’ve never done before. Find someone random you don’t know. Ask to have lunch with them. Ask them what their story is. Try to let them tell it. That would be a good way to learn from other students and get a global perspective.
(Kely Amejecor, Hobart College '18).

Alan Frishman

It’s important to know about everywhere in the world, especially outside the United States; to know about other people and their beliefs, what motivates them. It enriches your life and makes you more understanding of other folks and more tolerant.
(Alan Frishman, Emeritus Professor of Economics)

Take classes about the outside world beyond North America. Not just in terms of content, right, in terms of studying say the Middle East or studying Africa. But the material, if you’re in a course on religious studies or you’re in a course on sociology, be reading works that are being produced by people outside of North America, people who are not like yourself. (Professor Dunn)

Professor Harris urges students to keep informed about the world by other means, as well:

Young people, for all the Internet that we have, are stunningly uninterested in the news, and are often ignorant about ways in which global activities affect them, affect their families, affect their communities, might affect their nation. So I would say to Hobart and William Smith students, get up on local events, get up on global events, read the news. Okay? And be curious.

We do need to get a scholarly view of the people with whom we share the world: knowing all we can of their histories, cultures, philosophies, economies, social systems, and politics. The opportunities for such study here at HWS are rich. Courses in history, anthropology, political science, area studies, and economics show how societies around the world came to be and how they work. Courses in philosophy and religious studies help students understand what other people consider worthwhile, even holy. Many courses cultivate an insider’s view of life in other places. Courses on feminist geography in Women’s Studies examine the daily lived experiences of people in far-flung communities--many under duress. Courses in Environmental Studies show issues in local ecologies, as well as the impact environmental decisions made in one part of the world have on everyone else. Courses in film studies in the English and Media and Society departments show how people from different cultures portray themselves. Literature courses in the foreign language departments and programs use the power of print and visual narrative to get inside the heads of people from many cultures. The Colleges’ curriculum is globalized. You can learn a great deal about the world right on this campus.

But many would argue that we need the face-to-face experience, too: the deep conversations with new--and eventually old--friends across café tables; the hundreds of stories heard and told; and the sights, sounds and smells of bustling sidewalks, crowded market places, modest shops, intimate or awe-inspiring houses of worship, family dwellings in all their varieties, pigeon-flecked monuments and grand or eccentric museums, cordial town plazas, proud city parks, and boisterous public beaches. Followed by visits and revisits to each other’s families, and frequent contact by email and Skype. These expand our knowledge of other people and their places, and help us appreciate their own perspectives.

What is some other advice for gaining a global perspective?

Learn a foreign language.

It’s important to learn another language, because that gives you another perspective on the world and how other people express themselves and how they think about things. (Professor Frishman)

Studying a foreign language won’t allow deep conversations with others unless you get proficient at it, but at least your effort signals to others that you are willing to try to know them on their own terms. Nelson Mandela reportedly said something along those lines: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” (Surely he meant women, too). Years ago, the linguistic anthropologist Benjamin Lee Whorf argued that each language has its own way of noticing and naming the things of everyday life; learning a foreign language is learning to see the world in new ways, as others do.

Work for social justice.

It means living in a world of inequities and finding one’s place in the fight for justice, love and humanity. (Solomé Rose, the Colleges’ Interim Chief Diversity Officer).

Many of our informants emphasized social justice. When it comes to developing a global perspective, Americans, especially if we happen to be middle class, English-speaking Americans, are disadvantaged by privilege. Learning a foreign language is not a survival issue for most of us because English is spoken everywhere. Our credit cards work anywhere because the world trades in US dollars. American news, music, and movies are known around the world, and other people in the world know much more about our country (real or distorted) than we know about theirs. American passports can get us visas to all but a few countries, but most people we meet abroad, especially in places other than Western Europe, will not easily be able to visit the United States. America exerts enormous economic, military, and political influence over the globe--we meet people abroad who wish they could vote in American elections, because our politics can have as much effect on their lives as politics in their own country. Since they can’t vote here, as citizens of the United States it is our obligation to remember the interests and needs of people in other parts of the world, especially in the most vulnerable parts, in the choices we make as voters, activists, citizens, and consumers.

We Americans must work especially hard to break out of our bubbles of privilege and ignorance and supposed cultural and political celebrity, get to know other people honestly, and remember their interests and their needs. This takes work, and much practice. But if we don’t do that work, as President Greg Vincent would say, we might be jerks.

Study Abroad. To meet the goal of a global perspective, everyone we interviewed advised students to go abroad.

Getting a global perspective is best accomplished through direct work or study experience abroad, for the duration of preferably at least three months. That means a total immersion in the host country’s culture and its people, both in learning/working situations and at play, avoiding the temptation of American enclaves. (Professor Travalia)

German Veras

German Veras was animated in his statement:

Go abroad! Go abroad! I could say that 100 times! Hong Kong, every day was a new adventure! On the other side of the world! Figure out how you are going to get food on your plate and get through the day! It will teach you about yourself. Just that simple interaction with people in another part of the world… in their home town, … in their comfort zone, is … opening your mind. Study abroad!
(German Veras, Hobart College '17).

Go abroad. There is no substitute for being at a site that is foreign to the student. There is no substitute for trying other people’s food, living in other people’s spaces, learning about other people’s manners and mannerism. (Professor Harris).

Emeritus Professor Alan Frishman raises the bar a bit:

From my perspective, live in a place more different than, say, Europe, because that expands your horizons even more. Living in Africa, Asia, Latin America is a more eye-opening, broadening experience.

Susanne McNally

Professor Susanne McNally, who has led HWS programs in China and Russia, offers a shorthand version of the same advice:

When my students ask which overseas program to apply for, I tell them to go some place where you can’t drink the water or read the street signs.

Professor Harris, too, urges students to seek out less familiar places.

A global perspective means a willingness to encounter something that’s completely unfamiliar. And to have to learn to navigate around spaces that are differently organized and symboligies and iconographies and food that really are different from what we’re used to, and to realize that human beings have lots of different ways in which they have learned to be human.

Tom D’Agostino

Whether students go to Europe, Africa, Latin America, or Down Under, Tom D’Agostino, Director of the Center for Global Education and Kinghorn Global Fellow, works hard to ensure that students will receive an intensive and broadening experience when they go abroad:

One of the interesting things in our field of off-campus studies is the way we develop and structure our off-campus study opportunities. Of course, it’s not enough just to get students to another place and assume that by virtue of having traveled on a plane to another location that they will magically develop a “global perspective” or achieve “global citizenship”, whatever is meant by that term. In fact, it takes a great deal of thought and effort to create opportunities for students to engage other peoples and communities and to gain real insight into a host culture. This can come through homestays, language partners programs, community service projects, teacher placements, or internships, for example.

But it can also come about through efforts by individual students to join clubs or organizations at a host university; students can look to join with local sports clubs or teams, theater/music/dance societies, or other groups that will provide an “in” with the local community.

To this point, helping students before they ever leave campus to develop the mindset that it is important to pursue these opportunities is critical. We’ve discovered over the years that even the most well-intentioned students … know generally that they want to experience another part of the world, but there is considerable variation in what “experience” means to them – and so it is up to us to not only provide the structure for them to engage host communities and cultures in meaningful ways, but perhaps most importantly – we have to work hard to promote among the students the mindset that this is what they should be striving for and what they should want. Why go abroad if all you want to do is hang out with Americans at American places?

Act locally. In my generation, we used to call it the “Hemingway Syndrome.” We huddled around coffee tables with people just like ourselves and dreamed of going abroad to meet people who were different--oblivious to the people from different social classes, races, and creeds who lived close by. As the sociologist Robert Putnam recently showed in Our Kids: The American Dream at Risk, the United States has been dramatically segregating into communities of people of different races and income status, so it’s likely that few students who come to HWS have had daily experiences with people very different from themselves. The HWS campus has welcomed an increasingly diverse student body; and the HWS Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning finds volunteer opportunities so that students may not only serve others, but get to know people in all their rich diversity who share our Geneva community. Students don’t need to wait to go abroad to get to know the perspectives of people who grew up differently from themselves, and those who cultivate relations with diverse others will be open to getting to know people they meet abroad as fellow human beings, potential companions, and, who knows?, maybe life-mates.

Volunteering locally is likely to give you experiences and talents you can put to good use overseas. And that leads to the next point.

Bring yourself. If you go to some foreign place to hear other people’s stories and learn their culture, it is only fair to bring your own stories and share them, too. Maria Kovacs, a Hungarian-Romanian teacher who hosted HWS students in Central Europe, warned them against being “anthropological tourists,” people who hold back from engaging as they study others. If you’re an English major, bring along your favorite poems. If you’re an athlete, bring a ball. If you’re a musician, bring your favorite songs. If you’re an America Reads tutor, be prepared to teach.

When it comes to developing a global perspective, our students at HWS from abroad and from minority communities in the United States have a head start on the rest of us. As German Veras put it, they already had an outsider’s perspective when they came here; but what he didn’t say is that they took leap of faith and showed courage and openness when they left their homes to devote four years of their lives among people who grew up differently from themselves. They take full advantage of the offerings of an education at HWS in and out of the classroom, just as other students from HWS seek to do when they go abroad. They are curious, sensitive, and bold adventurers and diplomats. We can all learn from their words and from their good examples.

The term “global perspective” has many meanings—and it just added a dozen little ones in the time it has taken to write this sentence. Reduced to its essentials, a global perspective faces in two directions: we look with informed curiosity and appreciation at the globe and the people who share it with us, and we take on the perspectives of others who inhabit the globe as they view the people around them, including you and me.

“Perspective taking” is a term that psychologists use for our capacity to understand how other people see things. Its first cousin is empathy: our ability to feel or at least imagine what other people are feeling. The opposites of both are not enviable conditions. The inability or unwillingness to take others’ perspectives and to empathize is a psychological shortcoming at best, and at worst it can make us a danger to others around us. Our society being a global one, having a global perspective in both senses—looking out appreciably at the world and sharing the world’s perspectives--is a necessary part of being a psychologically healthy human being and a good citizen. Getting a global perspective is essential for living a healthy and moral life in the world now.

And it brings rewards. Having a global perspective is a healthy way—maybe the healthiest way--of expanding ourselves and making ourselves richer. As Alan Frishman said, we become more substantial people by stretching our awareness as we experience the world through the eyes, minds, and hearts of other people, especially people who are socially and geographically different from ourselves, and take those perspectives into our own.

HWS is not alone in our concern for developing students’ global perspectives. International agencies such as UNESCO and Oxfam prefer the term global citizenship to our goal of a global perspective, but the qualities they seek overlap substantially with the HWS community’s global goals. Oxfam defines a Global Citizen as someone who:

  • is aware of the wider world and has a sense of their own role as a world citizen;
  • respects and values diversity;
  • has an understanding of how the world works economically, politically, socially, culturally, technologically and environmentally;
  • is outraged by social injustice;
  • participates in and contributes to the community at a range of levels from local to global;
  • is willing to act to make the world a more sustainable place;
  • takes responsibility for their actions.

(Oxfam 1997: https://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/who-we-are)

At HWS we are better at helping our students develop global perspectives than other schools. But we do not want to be unique in our success. Developing a global perspective should be an essential part of everyone’s education, because the sustainability of our shared world depends on it.



Charles Temple

Charles Temple, Ph.D., a Kinghorn Global Fellow, teaches comparative and international education, literacy, children’s literature, and storytelling in the Colleges’ Education Department. He led HWS study terms in Spain, the Dominican Republic, and Central Europe (Romania, Hungary, and Germany), and served as a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Portugal and Romania. He co-founded the Open Society Institute’s Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking Project, which since 1996 has trained 200,000 teachers in 44 countries to use critical thinking methods in schools at all levels. Between semesters, Temple helps produce local children’s books and train teachers in Sierra Leone (for CODE-Canada and the World Bank) and in Tajikistan (for USAID). His wife Codruta and two of their five children are from Romania. The Temples replenish their global perspectives every Sunday with telephoned reports on village life in Transylvania from his mother-in-law.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Many thanks to students, staff, and faculty who participated in this informal survey. Special thanks to Professor Alejandra Molina for coordinating the interviews, and to Dignauris Garcia and German Veras for conducting them. The long-term support of the Kinghorn endowment is greatly appreciated.


ABOUT THE KINGHORN FELLOWSHIP

The John R. and Florence B. Kinghorn Global Fellowship was established in 1970 and generously endowed by Dr. William J. and Joan P. Reckmeyer in honor of his great uncle and great aunt, John Readie and Florence Bainbridge Kinghorn.

The fellowship is intended to honor outstanding HWS faculty, staff and administrators who have exemplified global citizenship on a sustained basis at the Colleges. This excellence can be demonstrated through research and writing, mentoring independent studies or Honors projects, leading international study programs with an emphasis on citizenship, working with third-party organizations and/or encouraging global enrichment programs on campus.

Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.