Education With a Global Perspective

As the world has gotten smaller, education at USF has broadened to include a global perspective that both informs and enhances the student experience. But it’s not just traveling abroad that has added to the educational adventure. USF students benefit from the presence and perspectives of students and faculty who’ve made the journey to the USF campus.

Written by Edward Carpenter
Education with a global perspective

Cass Krughoff, a University of San Francisco sophomore from Colorado majoring in international studies and minoring in Chinese, has an ongoing debate with a friend. For Krughoff, there is no right or wrong way to eat with chopsticks.

His friend, Zinan (Kyle) Guo, a marketing major from Beijing, couldn’t disagree more.

“I told Kyle how frustrating it is to use chopsticks and hold them in the proper way,” said Krughoff. “But, he assured me that it pays off in the end, because how you hold your chopsticks is a reflection of your understanding of China among Chinese.”

It’s an insight that “blew” Krughoff’s mind. It’s also one that he could have only picked up outside of class while dining and probably only while dining with someone Chinese. While Krughoff insists he hasn’t given up the debate, he now makes it a point to eat at least one meal a day using chopsticks to practice his technique.

Drawn to Chinese culture and planning to study abroad in Beijing, Krughoff has befriended many native Chinese at USF—a group that has grown dramatically to 424 from just 41 in 2005. He regularly compares notes with Guo and other friends on topics from American versus Chinese study habits to the Chinese government’s censorship of the media.

Multiply Krughoff and Guo’s relationship by hundreds and the global knowledge inherent to USF begins to come into focus. Whether it’s conflict resolution and the Israeli-Palestinian war, the roots of El Salvador’s civil war, or chopsticks lessons, fostering connections like Krughoff and Guo’s is a cornerstone of the university’s moves in recent years to extend its mission to educate students with a global perspective by promoting a diverse campus.

“International students are essential to providing the global perspective USF strives for in its vision statement,” said Stanley Nel, vice president of international relations. Nel, who has an office in Bangkok and recently opened a second in Beijing, has been the driving force behind Chinese students becoming USF’s largest international group.

But, Chinese students are hardly alone in their attraction to USF, which hosts sizeable student populations from Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and Canada, among other countries. In fall 2010, USF welcomed 1,137 international students from 75 countries, comprising almost 11 percent of the student body.

A New Mission

USF’s international student culture isn’t a surprise to anyone who has lingered on the Lone Mountain stairs between classes to enjoy the views of San Francisco. Snippets of conversations, whether on cell phones or between classmates, can be overheard in Arabic, Japanese, Spanish, and French.

“It gives you a tangible sense of the variety of peoples, cultures, and identities that shape the international culture on campus,” said Lisa Kosiewicz, director of USF’s International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), noting that USF is succeeding in its mission to educate leaders with a global perspective.

Another sign of USF’s success is the announcement last spring that the university was one of five institutions nationwide to win the Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization for 2010, recognizing outstanding and innovative efforts in campus internationalization.

But, recruiting foreign students is just one aspect of the university’s approach to providing a global education. Each year, USF sends more than 400 students abroad— whether under the umbrella of semester-long study abroad programs at top foreign universities or shorter international immersions with faculty and/or staff, exploring a country or specific topic. USF students see nations through the eyes of local politicians, corporate executives, factory laborers, activists, foreign faculty, and fellow students. Many enroll in one of about 50 accredited study abroad programs in cities such as Rome, Tokyo, Budapest, and Cordoba, Argentina. Others work as volunteers in schools or medical clinics, choosing from among 30 immersion options. Overall, USF offers students programs in more than 30 countries.

It wasn’t always so. The majority of USF’s study abroad and short-term immersion programs are less than 10 years old. In 2000, USF adopted a new mission and vision, making educating students with a global perspective a prime objective.

“This has meant more study abroad programs, more short-term travel tours, more international social justice immersions, and more ways of helping students go abroad,” said Gerardo Marín, who, as USF vice provost of academic affairs, oversees the university’s study abroad and international student and scholar programs.

Marín, who brings his own international insight to USF as one of the university’s many foreign-born faculty, having immigrated with his parents to the U.S. from his native Colombia, earned a doctorate in experimental psychology from DePaul University, and became a U.S. citizen. Educating students with a global perspective not only prepares them for today’s global economy but challenges them to stretch their thinking, navigate cultural differences, and negotiate conflict from more than one perspective, Marín said.

The Ghost of History Past

For Rachel Sandor Stone ’06, a media studies graduate, “perspective” barely describes the two semesters she spent in Budapest. Her grandparents, Hungarian Jews, survived the Holocaust—her grandfather by working in a forced labor camp and her grandmother by escaping from a train that was carrying her to the same fate.

In Budapest, Stone strolled the same street where her great-grandfather had once owned a tie shop, visited the Dohany Synagogue built by a relative, the famous architect Laszlo Vago, and descended the steps that her grandmother and mother had used to flee to their building’s basement before scurrying out a window when the Russian military set their apartment complex ablaze during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

While there, Stone enjoyed USF’s modern campus in the heart of Pest (USF’s classes are held at the Pázmány Péter Catholic University law school) and the many day trips. “We even had access to a nice gym that offered group classes,” she said.

Semester-long study abroad programs have more to offer students than first-rate facilities, however. At USF, transferring credits is made easy and students can apply 100 percent of their financial aid (whether from the federal or state governments or USF) to programs in more than 30 countries, with the only exception being work-study.

The Ethical Question

USFers intrigued by the opportunities that a rising China offers have flocked to Professor of business Rongxin Chen’s two-week tour of Beijing, Shanghai, and Shouzhou, USF’s immersion program with the highest enrollment. MBA students meet executives from firms such as Baidu, China’s largest search engine company and Google’s biggest Chinese rival, U.S. firms with Chinese operations such as IBM, Cisco Systems, eBay, and Silicon Valley Bank, as well as entrepreneurs and manufacturers.

Traveling to China—more than reading about it or watching videos—helps students appreciate the complexities of such a large country and leads them to examine the role of social justice through various lenses: economic inequality, censorship, and government economic control, said Chen, another of USF’s international faculty. The tour crystallizes for students that making money for money’s sake or developing a country too rapidly can result in destabilizing disparities between rich and poor, competition between a country’s regions, and environmental degradation on a vast scale. “These social justice issues feature prominently in discussions with company representatives, government officials, and business people,” Chen said.

A commitment to social justice is at the heart of a USF education. It’s why 3,000 USFers each year log more than 200,000 community-service hours and why undergraduates must complete at least one course that includes a service element to graduate.

USF Provost Jennifer Turpin, who was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and an advocate for infusing USF’s curriculum with a global perspective when the new mission was adopted in 2000, describes the benefits as fundamental to USF’s tradition. “Providing a global perspective is essential to realizing the Jesuit mission of educating women and men with the knowledge and ambition to serve others,” Turpin said. “As such, a key question is, ‘Which others?’ And, from a Jesuit perspective, those others must include the least fortunate members of our world.”

“I always tell the kids that one person in 100 has a college education, so they’re one percent of the world. The ethical question for higher education, whether Catholic, private, public, for profit, or not for profit, is: What are you doing for the other 99 percent?” said USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J.

Reading about places that are impoverished isn’t enough. People are unlikely to take action until they witness conditions on the ground for themselves. A firm believer in “seeing is believing,” if not in St. Thomas’ style, Fr. Privett has accompanied students on service immersions to India, South Africa, and Uganda and led immersions for faculty and staff to Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Mexico to meet subsistence farmers, and speak with children who live on the streets and gather their meals in city dumps.

Conflict Studies in Israel-Palestine

Her mother was worried when Celeste Wilson ’10 announced that she wanted to travel to Israel and Palestine her senior year.

But she was determined to be supportive, figuring Wilson’s grandmother would raise ample safety concerns. “My mom’s parting goodbye was to say ‘have fun, learn lots, and try to remember everything,’” Wilson recalled.

For Wilson, who studied theology and religious studies, it was a natural next step. As part of her USF coursework, she had read the Bible, the Torah, and the Qur’an. She was minoring in Jewish studies and social justice. And she was drawn to conflict resolution and human rights. Going to the land that was the source of the conflict she’d been so absorbed with seemed obvious.

“Jerusalem is a major holy city for the three Western religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and my major focus was on Western religions,” said Wilson, who graduated cum laude.

After some convincing, her family was on board. Wilson signed up for the Center for Transformative Education’s Beyond Borders program, a summer immersion run by Aaron Hahn-Tapper, assistant professor of theology and religious studies and chair of the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice in Judaic Studies at USF.

In Israel, she met academics and activists, traveled to Haifa, Bethlehem, Tel Aviv, and Hebron. She visited Israel’s Independence Hall and the Palestine National Authority headquarters in Muqata. She broke bread with Jewish Israeli settlers and Palestinian refugees.

The trip opened a new world to Wilson, who had never traveled outside the U.S. before. “Being in Israel-Palestine is to be surrounded by occupation, from the wall to military personnel who are armed at all times,” she said.

In spite of that, “danger” didn’t figure into her experience. “I saw people,” Wilson said. “Some of the most powerful and passionate individuals I have ever met.”

USFers Without Borders

Such trips aren’t for shock value. The intent is to spark students, faculty, and staff to consider how they can be women and men for others in the Ignatian spirit and for faculty and staff to consider how their curriculum and counseling can reinforce USF’s mission and values to educate leaders to fashion a more humane and just world.

That approach is why, in addition to more traditional countries such as Italy and Japan, USF offers foreign experiences in “less well traveled” regions.

Just ask senior international studies major Erica Ernst, who contracted a parasite that kept her from eating for several days during the five-week service-learning portion of her study abroad in Burkina Faso in West Africa. Ernst and other USF students studied French, West African politics, development economics, and created picture books for local school children about what the village library offers and farm animals.

Senior Stephanie Boyce, a nursing major, was caught in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala last May when Tropical Storm Agatha hit, turning roads into rivers and killing dozens. Boyce was part of a class of nursing students who had traveled to San Lucas Toliman to deliver prenatal care and screen expectant mothers as part of a course on global health issues. When the storm hit, the students and Associate Professor of nursing Linda Walsh, who is a midwife, adjusted to deliver two babies and provide assistance to area clinics.

For their actions, Walsh and the nursing students were honored for courage by the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter and San Francisco civic leaders.

“My immersion experience to San Lucas Toliman was very valuable. I would say even more valuable because we were able to assist the community through the disaster,” Boyce said.

Aside from parasites and flash floods, placing students and faculty on the ground in foreign locales inevitably raises challenges. USF monitors security matters using several security analysis services and by sending faculty and/or administrators to countries months or years ahead of a program’s launch to lay the groundwork and build contacts.

Biz Students Grow International InterProgram

An international perspective is so central to the university’s culture that USF students run their own independent organization promoting foreign internships.

Led by a group of USF business students, AIESEC (Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales) San Francisco has grown from five to 44 members in the past year to lead all other local AIESEC committees in the U.S. for relative growth.

AIESEC (www.aiesec.org), the world’s largest student-run organization, cultivates student leaders and promotes international exchange and internships, many of them paid, for foreign students.

Most recently, 18 USF students taught English or worked as summer camp counselors in China, Puerto Rico, Turkey, and Tunisia.

Senior Rebecca Levy, an advanced global entrepreneurship and management student, spent six weeks teaching English to children ages 5-15 at a summer camp outside Ukraine’s largest city, Kharkiv. “Everything from their food to their culture to their transportation systems were new to me,” Levy said. “I learned so much about the Ukrainian culture and loved my time there.”

Seeing Home from Here

The challenges of providing a global education aren’t limited to traveling abroad. Students or faculty occasionally have trouble adjusting to American culture, understanding accents, or dealing with events at home from afar.

“There are resources and programs to help international students develop their English language skills and proficiency,” ISSS’s Kosiewicz said. Not only can students choose from a variety of English as a Second Language courses, they can receive assistance from professionals trained to handle language issues or join informal one-on-one language exchanges.

ISSS is also prepared to respond to students’ needs who are away from home, as it did recently with students from Libya and Bahrain who were affected by civil unrest in their home countries and Japan following the earthquake and tsunami in March.

Challenges aside, international students and faculty add immeasurably to USF’s global perspective. Their connections to home, for example, often become the university’s connections, as epitomized by global sport management students’ trip to South Korea with Joon-Seo Choi, assistant professor of business; African studies students’ annual vitamin drive and distribution efforts to HIV/ AIDS patients in Zimbabwe and Zambia with Lilian Dube, assistant professor of theology and religious studies; or University Ministry’s involvement with street orphans in Peru led by Enrique Bazan, associate director for global social justice and community action.

Just as impressive as USF’s international faculty are USF’s international students. Consider Adeeb Yousif. A master’s degree student in international studies, Yousif fled his home in Darfur after being jailed and tortured for speaking out against the government-supported genocide there.

He is the founder and director of the Darfur Reconciliation and Development Organization, a non-governmental organization working on the ground to assist refugees and the communities that host them with health, nutrition, and environmental services. He has conducted research in Africa for Anne Bartlett, assistant professor of sociology and director of USF master’s program in international studies, helped to oversee the construction of a health clinic in Darfur, and raised awareness about the genocide among USF students and Bay Area residents as a public speaker.

“Talking with Adeeb helped me understand the complexities surrounding the Darfur crisis,” said Christopher Chida, MA ’10, a friend and former classmate of Yousif’s. “Before, I viewed the situation in a rather simplistic narrative of ‘black Africans versus Arab Africans’ or ‘JEM (Justice and Equality Movement) versus the Janjaweed and Sudanese military.’ While race or ethnicity certainly play a role in the conflict, it is far from being the only factor or indeed the defining factor.”

Teach abroad in South Korea

Among the foreign immersions offered by USF’s School of Education is a trip to South Korea in which students teach elementary and high school English language learners and meet with university administrators and faculty.

Launched last summer and led by Kevin Oh, assistant professor of learning and instruction and a native of South Korea, the program presents USF students with a classroom full of foreign faces and the challenges of teaching English in an unfamiliar culture. Students also met with Changwon National University administrators and faculty, stayed overnight with a South Korean family for a home stay, and traveled around the country, including to Seoul.

“I got a whole new perspective on teaching and my strategies were definitely strengthened and modified due to this experience,” said Lauren Petersen, a junior in the dual-degree in teacher preparation program.

“The trip is invaluable for teachers-in-training who are able to walk in the shoes of the Korean students and understand what it might be like for their future English language learner students,” said Oh, who not only developed the collaborative program between the School of Education, the College of Arts and Sciences, and Changwon National University in Changwon, but served as translator, tour guide, instructor, and teacher’s aide on the trip.

The Future, Present

From law students helping Haiti’s displaced families, to architecture and community design students designing an organic tea processing facility in Nepal, to graduating USF seniors raising more than $10,000 for scholarships to send members of their class to Africa to fight human trafficking, a global perspective pervades campus.

It’s no wonder that USF’s pursuit of a global education shows no sign of letting up. One example is USF’s new joint Master of Global Entrepreneurship and Management in the School of Business and Professional Studies, now in its second year. Designed for recent business graduates, classes for the accelerated 12-month program are divided equally among USF, Instituto Químico de Sarriá (IQS) of Barcelona, and Fu Jen Catholic University of Taipei, Taiwan.

“The program provides unparalleled education through classroom and firsthand experience,” said Mike Duffy, former dean of the School of Business and Professional Studies and now dean of strategic relations for academic affairs. “Globalization and diversity are real, integral, and substantive parts of this program.”

New short-term trips are on the horizon with the Arrupe Justice Immersions program. Beginning in January, St. Pedro Claver, S.J. scholars—120 to 180 undergraduates annually who receive a 50 percent tuition reduction— will be able to register for courses designed to expose them to the day-to-day lives and living conditions of the less fortunate, including those living in poverty, the homeless, the infirmed, and the marginalized in San Francisco and around the world.

And Michael Duffy, director the Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought (no relation to Mike Duffy, formerly of the School of Business and Professional Studies), along with faculty from across campus who work on issues related to immigration, is hammering out the details of a new initiative with Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University for collaborative research, advocacy, and outreach to support Jesuit Refugee Service/USA’s Kino Border Initiative at the U.S.-Mexico border.

USF is also in the midst of expanding scholarship funding for low-income and firstgeneration students to go abroad. “Those students usually need to work during the semester and can’t afford to study abroad for four months,” Marín said. “But, they deserve the opportunity to expand their global perspective every bit as much as other USF students.”

Over the next five to eight years, Marín wants to increase student participation in study abroad to 10 percent from about four percent currently. He’d like to see foreign immersion participation increase to half the student body, from about one-third now.

“USF has, in a short period of time, dramatically increased the ways in which we make it possible for our students to obtain a global perspective,” Marín said. But, just as important as the quantity of the programs USF offers is the quality, which has made great strides as more and more faculty develop curriculum and connections with a global perspective.

“There is no disputing. A USF education puts graduates on sound footing to work in multicultural settings and partner with global enterprises, whether in businesses, education, or non-governmental organizations,” Marín said. “It’s something we’re proud of but not something we’re satisfied with. With the haves and the have-nots of the world continuing to diverge, there’s more to be done so we’re hard at work.” 

For a map and descriptions detailing USF's many international study, immersion, and internship opportunities, please click here.

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