Every fall and spring semester, faculty, administrators, and staff members meet on a designated day, All-College Day, to catch up on news about the college and state and federal factors and events about education, and to participate in professional development activities. One of those activities included Dr. Janis Kea (who teaches Economics), Ms. Renee Paquier (who teaches Administration of Justice), and Dr. Sean Pepin (the Director of Student Development) who spoke about their experiences attending the Global Citizenship Alliance’s GCS 6, the “Global Citizenship Seminar for Faculty and Administrators,” a one week residential professional development program.
As detailed in this blog entry, all three were awarded a grant to attend this seminar.
Each of these faculty members also composed a reflection about their experiences attending the seminar:
Reflections on Global Citizenship Seminar
As a teacher of economics—as well as someone whose post-secondary coursework involved analysis and discussion of other countries and international issues, and whose dissertation was on the trade policies of Indonesia—I recognized the role of ROW (“rest of the world”) in our daily lives and my teaching. However, after attending the Global Citizenship Seminar, I realize that the scope of my perceptions, in terms of my interaction with ROW, and of my teaching in the classroom was very narrow and reflected only a sliver of what the Global Citizenship Seminar offered.
At first my perception of “Global Citizenship” was a vague, amorphous term to include understanding of the rest of the world, recognition of issues/problems that transcended our nation’s boundaries, and recognition of diversity. Through the readings, lectures, and in particular, the group discussions that the seminar participants engaged in, a clearer understanding of what is meant by “Global Citizenship” began to emerge…a definition of not simply recognition of diversity and global issues, but rather an understanding of us as persons who are part of a global community and whose actions not only impact those immediately around us but affect others.
Furthermore, the Global Citizenship Seminar focused on actions that we can take to contribute to building this global community toward a shared vision of peace and prosperity for all, humans, animals and plantlife alike. Indeed, at the GC seminar meeting, it was clear that in order to achieve this goal, we must as individuals recognize that we have a responsibility to reflect on our actions with this common global view in mind.
The focus of GCS 2016—the Syrian refugee crisis—was particularly timely given the upcoming elections in the U.S. and certain European nations. Moreover, while attending the GC seminar, the Nice attack served to emphasize the importance of and the need for learning opportunities such as the GC Seminar. Both served to highlight the value of Global Citizenship in promoting responsible, sustainable and caring actions and policies among the global community, and individually as global citizens.
As a teacher, the Global Citizenship Seminar 2016 helped me to assess my teaching and basically to “refocus my lens” toward teaching with a broader perspective of responsibility and sustainability. For myself, the seminar has led to a reflection of my beliefs and actions within the broader framework of global citizenship.
Reflections on Global Citizenship Seminar
What does it mean to be a global citizen? The question struck a chord for me, about half way through the Global Citizenship Seminar in Potsdam, Germany. Although my interest has long resided within social justice work, I hadn’t given global citizenship much thought. My cursory definition was simply a person who is informed about issues around the world, and who acts responsibly towards a more just environment for people living outside the US.
My own definition of Global Citizenship was challenged by the very practice of travel abroad that is limited to a very small and mostly privileged group: less than 50% of Americans hold a passport, and fewer than 10% of undergraduate college students study abroad. Not only do few students ever make it beyond our borders, I am acutely aware that few community college students think much beyond the geopolitical borders of the United States.
To be candid, this was my first trip across an ocean; my only trips to date have been via car or ship to other countries in North America. But, I am more politically engaged on a global level than the average American. I keep up with new feeds coming from Der Spiegel, The Guardian, BBC, and Al Jazeera. I thought about that while at the seminar, and I asked: what moves a person from being a “citizen” to a global citizen? Does it require one to learn about the interdependent nature of nation states, or the way systems of oppression affect people in different societies?
My answer to those questions leads me to the affirmation that this kind of thinking is yet again a privilege. When working with a parent who struggles to feed his child, a trans student who has been kicked out of their house, or a young female teenage who has never left the state, they may not be ready to take on international issues. This seminar led me to think about the nuances of this issue. It gave me a new perspective about the definition and applications of global citizenship that translates to praxis in our world and our community.
Global Citizenship is fundamentally about learning beyond our boarder, not a nation state’s border. Global Citizenship is about understanding the interconnected nature of one community to another, the ways our actions here affect and are affected by people elsewhere.
At a community college like West Valley College, for so many of our students, coming to college is entering a new land, crossing a new boarder. Students must learn a new set of norms, cultural markers, and linguistic styles. So many of our West Valley College students are learning for the first time beyond their borders. And because so many of our students, or their parents, have already crossed many national borders, Global Citizenship as a practice in our college must be a developmental process.
Each of us who works in Global Citizenship must meet each person exactly where they are and understand that their borders may barely stretch beyond their block, city, or state. Their world may be smaller than ours and rightfully so. For the single mother who works two jobs, and attends school part time, her world and borders may end at her doorstep. For the young man in a wheelchair, he may not travel because his rights to accommodations may end at our nations borders. Or for a gender queer student, whose body doesn’t conform to some society standards, they may have limited access to many parts of the world, in fear of violence enacted upon their bodies.
So, what can we as educators do? I think we must first begin with ourselves. What borders did we travers? How did we first begin to understand the interconnection of communities, peoples, and places? The next step then is to encourage, challenge, and support our students to think beyond their borders. My job as an educator is not always to help a student to have an international perspective, devoid of their current reality, but instead to foster their ability to understand connections between them and that which lives beyond them.
For instance, Global Citizenship is teaching about the industrial plant up river that pollutes streams that run through our city. It is sharing the reality that Micheal Brown or Treyvon Martin can just as easily happen in our own neighborhood. It is teaching awareness that the tech industry in the Bay Area is rampant with sexism that exists throughout our society and most other societies. The issues we face today are interrelated. Global Citizenship is intended to help students, and ourselves, to think about and understand that which lies beyond each of our own border in this globe. For me, this “ah-ha” moment has led me towards being a better educator and a better person.