Safwan Masri, vice president for Global Centers, thinks that every Columbia undergraduate should have a meaningful global experience while in college.
“We’ve started to reach a tipping point in our faculty,” Masri said. “I want us to try to reach that tipping point with students.”
Global Centers administrators still have concerns about the visibility of the network among students, so the third day of the Global Centers directors’ summit focused on how to make global programs more appealing to undergraduates.
The signature undergraduate program of Global Centers is the Global Scholars Program, which sent 11 students to centers in Beijing, China, and Santiago, Chile, to research urban development this summer.
Faculty have also been involved in creating new opportunities for students at the centers.
This summer, Holger Klein, a professor and the chair of the department of art history and archaeology, taught a course abroad for undergraduates on the history and urban development of Byzantium into Constantinople, anchored at the Istanbul Global Center.
The Center for Career Education and the Mumbai Global Center also launched an eight-week internship program for undergraduates with for-profit and nonprofit companies across India.
“Students cannot be engaged academically and globally unless the faculty is,” Columbia College Dean of Academic Affairs Kathryn Yatrakis said. “The Arts and Sciences are coming to see what this means.”
Most existing opportunities at the centers are summer programs, which Columbia College Dean James Valentini said would appeal more to students.
“The academic year is a challenge for most students, so in many ways we’d like to focus on providing opportunities during the summer,” Valentini said.
The centers offer a small number of programs during the academic year, including the Fifth Year Fellows Program, where recent Columbia graduates can spend a year conducting research at different centers, and a study abroad program about tropical biology and sustainability anchored at the Nairobi center.
“We need to think about how to make our study abroad programs more accessible for our students,” Michael Pippenger, dean of undergraduate global programs, said.
Pippenger noted that Columbia’s two-year language requirement could deter students from studying abroad.
“We don’t want to lock students out of a rich intellectual experience just because they are not fluent in a language,” Pippenger said.
Directors suggested increasing the number of introductory language courses offered at the centers and teaching more courses in English.
The Amman center currently hosts an introductory Arabic program during the summer that requires no previous exposure to the language. Reid Hall, which houses the Paris Global Center and numerous study abroad programs for Columbia students, plans to add an elementary French course to its summer program course listing.
Directors will meet with students tomorrow—the final day of the Global Centers summit—to discuss study abroad opportunities at the centers, but Masri said he was confident that they’re on the right track.
“I don’t think this is an experiment anymore, though everything, including higher education, is an experiment,” Masri said. “This is something that is now proven enough and is something that is going to stay, so we can afford to make more risks, to be thinking bigger.”
Tracey Wang contributed reporting.