The American Council on Education has selected Howard University and seven other HBCUs to be part of a project aimed at to enhancing their global impact.
Over the next two years, Howard will work with the ACE, an organization that provides leadership on key higher education issues, to audit the university’s international activities through the program, Creating Global Citizens: Exploring Internationalization at HBCUs. The goal is to enhance its curriculum, programming, and initiatives on global awareness and opportunities for students.
“Howard has a long history of having a global imprint,” said Provost Dr. James H. Wyche, “… but not with an eye toward creating global opportunities, in particular, for undergraduate students.”
Now the university is working to enhance the impact of its global activities by incorporating them into the curriculum — an idea that dates back to President Sidney A. Ribeau’s opening convocation speech in 2008, Wyche says.
“We must provide an important national connection and channel for educational and government interaction with countries throughout the world,” Ribeau said in the speech. “We need to be an international university … because the world is not longer defined by the parameters of the District or the boundaries of the United States.”
In the speech, Ribeau also lamented the waning presence of Howard in the international community.
“If you look at the data now, student participation, international affiliations or agreements, those numbers are declining and we must be active in the international world,” he said.
One part of Howard’s role in the international community is the numerous memoranda of understanding the university has signed with other countries. This includes a 2001 agreement with the Kogi state government in Nigeria to coordinate student exchange activities in research, science and technology between Howard’s School of Business and Prince Abubakar Audu University.
In 2007, Howard and the Republic of Botswana partnered to increase citizens’ access to post-secondary education from 7 percent to 20 percent by the year 2016.
As part of the internationalization of the campus, the university will encourage more students to study abroad, increasing the number from about 200 to 800 each year, Wyche said.
“The Obama administration has this 100,000 students going to China initiative,” Wyche said. “As a result of getting the ACE award, the College of Arts and Sciences is already targeting a hundred students to go to China this summer.”
Jerry Colo, a senior Spanish major, said promoting exchange programs and other opportunities abroad will help students become more open-minded. “It will be better for them to have a way of exposing our students to other cultures and also do things within the community,” said Colo, a Spanish, French and Creole tutor in the Modern Languages Department.
Colo said that the university needs to do more in encouraging students to explore internationally. As a tutor, he says he has come across students with different attitudes toward other cultures and languages, but has recognized a growing interest toward globalization in general.
“Some students don’t care,” he said, “but others, because of the way they see the United States changing rapidly, tend to be able to access language … and are interested in being more marketable themselves.”
The university is also looking to offer more research opportunities to undergraduate students and possibly to create an interdisciplinary program in international studies.
All these goals are aimed at building, what Wyche calls the university’s “intellectual capital.”
“What many of us want … is to have a curriculum that helps [students] understand the various cultures,” Wyche said. He noted that the move toward a more international community in the states has been fostered by the country’s departure of isolationist policies in the 1960s and the influx of information shared through the Internet.
A stronger orientation on international issues will “bring [students] into contact at an early age with all of what’s going on in the world so they can make their own judgments and understand the social dynamics that are in play,” Wyche said.
Nana Brantuo, a junior African studies major, is excited about efforts to internationalize the campus.
“It’s very needed especially when you talk about having students that want to compete in international markets,” Brantuo said. “It’s really good to be well rounded in terms of language and perspectives.”
Over a four-month period, the university put together its application for the Creating Global Citizensproject. The process included a report that summarized its international activities in the last 10 years and that made recommendation for future activities.
The ACE notified Howard of its acceptance on Jan. 27, along with Dillard University, Lincoln University of Missouri, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Savannah State University, Tuskegee University and Virginia State University.
As a part of the project, the ACE, along with the U.S. Department of Education, will also be providing almost $550,000 in an in-kind grant, which would offer goods and services up to that amount, in place of a monetary contribution.
“We are regaining our footprint on the international scene.” Wyche said. “What the ACE award does is give an identification saying, ‘Howard is a place where internationalization is about to be enhanced and expanded.'”