Wanted: Global Leaders for Global Learning for All

Dr. Natalia Timuș (SFHEA), Université Côte d’Azur and Fulbright Visiting Scholar, Office for Faculty Excellence

When I applied for a Fulbright-Schuman International Educator scholarship in 2019, the academic debate around the topic of my choice – Inclusive Global Teachers for the 21st Century – was not well established in the scholarly literature. Talking about my research proposal with colleagues from faculty development, higher education (HE) instructors and researchers, I realized that I would have a lot to do about increasing awareness and promoting groundbreaking research on this subject. I understood that my unique identity, shaped by international education and professional development, allowed me to have a rich global HE perspective. I have experienced the American education system as a postgraduate student and various European academic cultures as an educator, a researcher, faculty trainer and senior manager. My multiple professional hats and my active involvement in European and international networks allowed me to see and explore what was largely ‘unseen’ by others and understood by a few. By connecting the dots between student, faculty and institutional needs, as well as the global HE challenges in the 21st century, I have been able to cultivate an international educator and global leader mindset. This proved to be crucial for being awarded a Fulbright-Schuman scholarship and securing my placement at NC State’s Office for Faculty Excellence.

Global learning and global leadership are rather new dimensions in HE. Nevertheless, they represent integrative concepts that address the needs and challenges of the globalizing society. Scholars and practitioners agree that global learning represents a solution for bridging diversity, equity and quality of HE and preparing graduates for the 21st century. It is simply defined as the process of developing and promoting knowledge and skills for tackling complex global problems. But in order to fulfill quality education and promote inclusion, in line with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4, global learning needs to be accessible to and benefit all students far beyond study abroad mobilities. Moreover, global learning initiatives require transformative global leaders, equipped with critical leadership skills for understanding and tackling global challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. HE leaders need to have a clear understanding of how their institutions’ strategies and policies intersect with local and global initiatives. This entails the development of the intercultural and global competencies, which are crucial for promoting sustainable inter-cultural partnerships and collaborations for students and staff.

The 5th Global Survey of the International Association of Universities (IAU) has revealed that around 90% of participant institutions have embedded internationalization in their mission statements or strategic plans. The practical implementation of internationalization, however, requires global leaders and new positions with international responsibilities to develop and elevate HE institutions’ global reputation and visibility. The pandemic context and the advancement of digitally enhanced learning and teaching have paved the way for new opportunities for global learning and collaboration. HE institutions worldwide have witnessed a recent shift from internationalization abroad, which benefited a small subset of students and staff through physical mobility, toward global learning for all. This opened the door for a large variety of global engagement opportunities, such as the internationalization of the curriculum (aligning global learning with learning outcomes and course content) and global learning rubric, collaborative online international learning (COIL), as well as faculty development in global learning. Now is the time to take action and promote transformative global leadership in order to keep this door open and develop a more inclusive and socially responsible global engagement. This represents a crucial factor for ensuring the relevance of HE degrees in the 21st century, ensuring that university graduates are equipped with knowledge and skills to become globally engaged professionals and citizens.

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