Global

Global learning at NAU takes off

2012-10-23T05:00:00Z Global learning at NAU takes offRANDY WILSON Daily Sun Editor Arizona Daily Sun
October 23, 2012 5:00 am  • 

It is Thursday afternoon in Room 315 of NAU's Performing and Fine Arts Building, and junior Hannah Stone is on the cutting edge of NAU's acclaimed global learning initiative.

Actually, she is on the cutting room floor, scraping used tile from a board as part of her Recycled Art course.

"Why recycle?" she says. "You get a lot of colors that you can't find new."

Next to her, seated at a table, three classmates are cutting the tile into various shapes, then sorting them by size and color into plastic bins.

Down the hall, Gabe Schmadel and three other students are gluing the tiles to a board that will become a mural in the style of Friedenreich Hundertwasser, the acclaimed Austrian tile artist who specialized in recycled material.

"Did I know I was going to go global in this course?" Schmadel says. "No, it just sounded like a cool course. But now I'm doing my own tile project."

Stone, Schmadel and their classmates are channeling Hundertwasser intentionally after their instructor, Debra Edgerton, led seven of them on a two-week trip to Vienna in July to see the artist's master work: the tiling of an entire municipal incinerator.

"He made that neighborhood into a living space just by designing for who we are and how we live," said Edgerton. "We came back and looked at our hallway walls here -- they are entirely white -- and said: We can create a mosaic to make them more friendly, too."

NOT BY ACCIDENT

That global perspective did not arrive in the art department by accident. Led by Vice Provost Harvey Charles, the university's Center for International Education has helped to infuse the themes of global engagement, sustainability and diversity into 80 percent of the academic departments on campus in just four years.

Earlier this year, NAU beat out every other university in the world to win the top prize for internationalization of the curriculum from the Association for International Educators -- its membership consists of 10,000 individuals from all 50 states and 150 countries.

"To the extent that this award confirms or underscores our success at preparing our students to succeed as professionals and as global citizens, then we believe we are meeting one of the most fundamental obligations as teachers, scholars and administrators." Charles said.

ENGINEERING SUSTAINABILITY

Over in Engineering, Linsey Dower of Hawaii is huddling with Yiyang Chen of China and Khaled Almaraghi of Kuwait. Their assignment as part of their Environmental Engineering course: Pick two cities (one from the U.S.) to compare for sustainable engineering practices and give a 10-minute presentation to the class at the end of the semester.

"The code of ethics of (professional engineers) contains the language of sustainability, but I just don't see that we've really bought into it," says their professor, Terry Baxter.

Baxter's engineering courses have a sizable number of students from China and the Middle East, and he deliberately matches them with U.S. students on group projects.

"It gives them a chance to take a lead role if they want, and it tells U.S. students that their profession is a global one," says Baxter, who has traveled to China four times.

Behind him on the wall is a printout of engineering courses taken by Chinese students at their home universities, courses that Baxter is evaluating for transfer credits or meeting prerequisites here at NAU as part of the 1-2-1 program. Many students receive credit, but some don't.

"Some had taken courses in civil engineering drawing, but it was all done by hand," he notes. "There was no credit because it wasn't done on a computer."

On the blackboard, the groups are starting to write their choices of world cities to study -- Reykjavik, Auckland, Dubai, Tokyo. Dower has nominated her hometown of Honolulu and Chen picks his home city of Jiujiang, a city of 4.7 million on the Yangtze River.

"China has made moves toward environmentally sustainable investments," Baxter notes. "It's just that they've grown so fast they don't get credit for them."

BUY-IN FROM THE PRESIDENT

Chinese students make up the largest contingent of international students at NAU -- nearly 300 out of 989 this fall. Foreign students numbered fewer than 500 just five years ago, but that was before Charles arrived on the Mountain Campus from Wheaton College.

Charles said he wanted to create an international education program that went beyond attracting foreign students and sending U.S. students abroad and more than creating special seminars in global learning and conducting annual international fairs.

But to fully integrate global learning with the curriculum, he needed buy-in from a college president and he needed to hold an academic post that would leverage academic resources, not just administrative ones.

He found that person in NAU President John Haeger, who named Charles, who has a doctorate from Ohio State, a vice provost and turned over most of the historic Blome Building to Charles' Center for International Education and its 35 employees.

CIE's annual budget is about $4 million out of a total NAU state and local budget of $213 million. Charles notes that most of this year's 989 international students are paying full tuition from private sources, and the most recent study of the local dirrect and indirect spending by such students puts the impact at about $22 million in the Flagstaff region alone.

Charles, who arrived on campus in 2007, said global learning wasn't going to work as a top-down initiative from an administrator, despite Haeger's support. He needed faculty buy-in across the curriculum, so he assembled a 40-person committee that included some of the top scholars on campus.

They convened in February 2008 and emerged after six months with a report that would fully commit what at the time was a financially struggling, second-tier university to becoming a world leader in global education. Their three curriculum components -- global engagement, sustainability and diversity -- reflect the emerging competencies needed not just by U.S. students but students everywhere.

All departments and programs, from dental hygiene to electronic media and criminal justice, began having faculty look at ways to expand their course perspectives to include other cultures and practices. Grants helped to underwrite short trips by faculty abroad to gather new course material or host international scholars to help develop new courses here. More students were encouraged to take courses for credit abroad, and the number of international students on campus has doubled.

"The ethic has become that the university is responsible for empowering students to become global citizens," said Charles, who has plans for NAU to host a national undergraduate student conference in 2014 on research involving global themes. Another initiative is the new five-year Global Science and Engineering Program, which involves an immersion year abroad and involves a double major in a foreign language and in science or engineering.

NEXT UP: JAPAN

Back in the art studio, Edgerton says a global perspective also comes full circle as art students learn more about collaboration across not only cultures but across the community, too. The mosaic project involves getting leftover tile from Home Depot, the Flagstaff Design Center and Daltile. Edgerton and Pam Stephens, an art education professor, will create a course on mosaics for K-12 teachers, and students in the art department will build on the Hundertwasser lessons to continue renovating their workspace into a more livable and creative environment.

Next up for Edgerton: a quick trip this semester to Japan to teach and research a new approach to printmaking. She hopes to take another class of students next summer to Japan in advance of a new course next fall in printmaking with a global learning component -- underwritten and supported by Charles and the CIE.

"It's important for students to realize what they can not only study but learn in college," she noted. "Global learning has shown them those possibilities."

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