Preparing Global Citizens
An Educational Imperative
I am writing this column as I return from two days in Chicago where I serve
on the Board of Directors of IES Abroad, one of our nation’s finest studyabroad
programs. Such meetings remind me of the importance of exposing
our students to the world beyond our national borders. I have seen firsthand
the transformative impact that study abroad can and does have on the
lives of our students. It literally changes the lens with which they view the
world. I am also reminded of the powerful impact a student from Vietnam
or Argentina can have on a class discussion in an economics or political science class. In my
inaugural address, you may recall that I encouraged us to “Bring the World to Wittenberg and
Wittenberg to the World,” and I am more convinced than ever that this must be a major focus
for us through the remainder of the decade.
When we completed our strategic plan, Distinctively Wittenberg: A Vision for Excellence, now
four years ago, we included global citizenship as one of our 11 values. And since then we have
made some impressive progress including the establishment of an East Asian Institute (with
the help of federal support), which links our East Asian Studies program with our Business
Department in the development of international internship opportunities across the Pacific
Rim. We have also instituted a new major in international relations, appointed our first faculty
member in international business, and developed a national model for language study with
our “Language Across the Curriculum” program funded by the Mellon Foundation and the U.S.
Department of State. Additionally, we have developed an increasing number of international
connections with universities such as Fudan in Shanghai, China. Our annual service trip to
Lesotho (a small country in South Africa) has literally transformed the lives of hundreds of
Wittenberg graduates, including Andrew Steele ’10, who has since established BLOOM Africa,
a non-profit dedicated to helping Lesotho orphans, and Betty Cheney ’10, who is attending
medical school and plans to focus on pediatric AIDS research in hopes of working in Lesotho
post-graduation. This coming year we will also debut an exciting new study-abroad program
called “Wittenberg in Wittenberg,” providing our students with a home base in Wittenberg,
Germany, to study throughout Europe.
While we have accomplished much, my thoughts focus on all that we have yet to do.
Despite our best intentions, we continue to fall short in our efforts to increase the number
of international students who attend Wittenberg and to provide the opportunity to study
abroad for all interested students. I firmly believe that we must redouble our efforts both to
bring more international students to Wittenberg, and to encourage all of our students to
“experience the world on its own terms” through a study-abroad program. My sincere hope
is that we can increase our international student population to 10 percent and increase the
percentage of our students who study abroad to 50 percent by 2020.
Unfortunately, the biggest barrier to both attracting international students and sending
our students abroad is financial. If you are an alum or friend of Wittenberg who shares my
passion for international engagement and believes it must be a priority for Wittenberg’s
future, I would encourage you to send me an e-mail at email@example.com, and tell
me what role you might be willing to play to move this critically important priority forward.
Financial support for international student scholarships or stipends to defray the cost of
study abroad for our most financially strapped students would open the doors to a whole
new world. Lin and I have made a significant contribution to support these efforts and would
ask you to consider doing the same. If you live or work abroad, we would love to engage you
as an active recruiter of international students. We have alumni in Japan and Hong Kong who
have already made such a commitment, and we see it beginning to make a difference.
Our students will be the future leaders of this state, our nation and the larger globe. We
must prepare them well by ensuring they are global citizens in every sense.
Mark H. Erickson, President