Last week, the British Council held its annual "Going Global" conference for the first time in Africa. It was a good opportunity for all of us to meet with colleagues who bring different perspectives on the most urgent challenges facing higher education today. An IIE team member, Caitlin McNamara, who works on the Fulbright Scholar program, had an IIE Traveling Fellowship to attend and present a poster session on the impact of the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. I was invited to offer some perspective on the role of higher education in today's refugee crisis on a panel with European and Lebanese colleagues. In war zones, and in crisis zones under repressive regimes, the international community often thinks first of humanitarian aid, providing food, shelter, and medicine to displaced persons and others. Education usually comes last. At IIE, we have been working to help students and scholars in crisis, so I welcomed the chance to join this conversation.
This year's Asia Pacific Association for International Education (APAIE) Conference was the biggest ever with 1,600 attendees. And although Australia was a long way even for some of us in the rest of Asia, universities, NGOs and international education experts from across the globe gathered to find common cause and mull over the issues facing our sector.
Nearly four years before he would deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC, civil rights vanguard Martin Luther King, Jr. visited India, the home of Mahatma Gandhi. He wrote, “I left India more convinced than ever before that nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.” Contemporary civil rights are one of the countless solutions that were borne out the exchange of ideas and people beyond national borders. We live in a globalized society where countries and economies are more interconnected than ever before—it’s critical that all students, no matter their race, ethnicity or economic background, have the opportunity to participate. When U.S. students study abroad, they not only learn about the world, but they also serve as ambassadors for the United States and all the unique diversity of ideas and solutions.
A good friend from school gave me a book 10 years ago that he used for the orientation course he taught for visiting international scholars—J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. It wasn't until the recent New Year's holidays that I finally committed myself to reading this classic 1950's novel and it unexpectedly sparked my reflection upon higher education and some larger dynamics at work in the world today.
This past September IIE joined the Clinton Foundation and the Brookings Institution’s Collaborative for Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls’ Education (Girls CHARGE). Girls CHARGE is a collaboration of over 50 companies, civil society organizations, multilaterals and governments all committed to improving learning and leadership opportunities for young women and girls globally. IIE and our Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives are excited to be a part of such a powerful collective voice in advancing global action on women and girls education. Girls CHARGE partners have committed over $800 million to reach more than 15 million girls by 2019. IIE’s initial commitment is centered around expanding our HER program to help university become a reality for more than 60 girls in Ethiopia. Three of the HER girls received the highest university entrance exam results at their respective schools!
Last week I had the honor of participating at the Qatar Foundation’s WISE Education Leadership Program in Doha, a program that we implement together with the International Association of University Presidents. This program, now in its third year, brings together newly-appointed university presidents, rectors and vice chancellors from developing countries and prepares them to more effectively lead their institutions. This year’s participants came from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iraq, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Palestine, Tanzania, Tunisia, and the Ukraine. They all face common challenges: how to build the capacity of their teaching staff, how to expand access to women, how to develop programs that meet the demands of the job market and that support sustainable national development, and how to operate in fiscal austerity. And some are dealing with the aftermath of war or conflict, and the toll it took on their students and staff.