Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 27, 1997 Form

Acting Globally

Emil Venere
News and Information
Johns Hopkins should better coordinate its international programs to increase the university's global presence and to enhance educational opportunities for students, a 16-member Committee on Global Dimensions recently recommended in a report sent to the president and provost.

But the university could begin meeting the goals outlined in the report simply by improving communication between Hopkins faculty and administrators who already are involved in foreign programs.

For example, the schools of Arts and Sciences or Engineering might be interested in starting an undergraduate exchange program with a foreign university. At the same time, the School of Advanced International Studies might already be working with that university, having established ties that could facilitate a student exchange program. But unless faculty from both schools were communicating with each other, they might never know about their mutual interest in the same foreign institution, said Paula Burger, vice provost for academic programs.

A wider variety of international programs that enabled students to study their particular fields abroad ultimately could make graduates more competitive. And learning a foreign language might better prepare students for various careers, Burger said.

The report suggested the university experiment with innovative approaches to foreign language instruction so that language study can be linked more closely to the academic discipline a student is pursuing. In that way, more students might be encouraged to develop meaningful competency in a second language.

For example, learning German might be advantageous for engineering students who want to study in specific labs. "Others may want to develop conversational ability in Spanish, in order to support their careers in a medical or health field," Burger said.

The Committee on Global Dimensions began meeting in September 1995. French Department chairman Stephen Nichols, who chaired the committee, said it would be inaccurate to portray the goals as a blueprint for proposed changes.

Johns Hopkins
Committee On
Global Dimensions

Stephen G. Nichols, chair
Professor and chair, French Department
School of Arts and Sciences

Edward B. Baker Jr.
Associate Dean, Finance and Administration
School of Advanced International Studies

Robert E. Black
Professor and chair, International Health
School of Hygiene and Public Health

Sarah K. Bryant
Department chair, Business and Management
School of Continuing Studies

Phyllis Bryn-Julson
Coordinator, Voice Department
Peabody Institute

Jan M. Corazza
Executive director, Development
Campaign and Development

Catherine D. DeAngelis
Vice dean, Academic Affairs and Faculty
School of Medicine

Jack C. Fisher
Professor, Geography and Environmental Engineering
School of Engineering

Fannie Gaston-Johansson
Director, International and Extramural Programs
School of Nursing

John Hutchins
Director, International Services
Johns Hopkins Health System

Robert H. Kleeb Jr.
Alumni representative

Kishin Moorjani
Senior scientist, Milton S. Eisenhower Research Center
Applied Physics Laboratory

James Neal
Director, Milton S. Eisenhower Library

Ilya Prizel
Associate professor, Russian/East European Studies
School of Advanced International Studies

Nitish V. Thakor
Professor, Biomedical Engineering
School of Engineering

David E. Wellbery
Professor and chair, German Department
School of Arts and Sciences

Staff to the Committee
Paula Burger
Vice provost, Academic Programs

"I don't see this as a mandate for change," Nichols said, noting that individual schools may find the report helpful for planning.

Hopkins already is a leader in global studies, with well-established programs in Europe and Asia. "But we can do better than we are doing if we can get organized," Nichols said.

For example, he said he was amazed to learn that the School of Hygiene and Public Health has contracts with the French government for work in India. And the Mathematics Department has ties to math departments in various French institutions. Committee members specializing in other geographical regions were surprised to learn about Hopkins' connections with institutions in those areas, as well.

"Johns Hopkins has always been international in its character and mission, but the committee's report offers a large number of both promising ideas and practical steps for further enhancing the university's global nature," said Provost Steven Knapp.

The report outlined four major initiatives, covering areas "where immediate steps should be taken." They are:

  • To draft an outline for administrative mechanisms designed to improve coordination and communication throughout the university on international issues. The report calls for the designation of a senior administrator for international affairs and a committee to coordinate international programs.

  • To explore the development of programs that link foreign language instruction to a student's field of study.

  • To develop a university-wide initiative that builds on Hopkins' strengths in health care and marshals resources from across the university to address global issues of disease prevention and health promotion.

  • To coordinate distance learning and other electronic network-based services.

"The four different proposals are basically think pieces, other than specific blueprints," Nichols said.

To enhance the university's international curricula, it should develop a distance-learning network. With this capability, students studying in Baltimore, for example, might take courses offered at the university's Nanjing and Bologna centers, and students studying abroad would not have to miss required courses taught back in the United States.

For Hopkins' large number of premedical students, obstacles exist to participating in foreign-study programs because those students can't afford to get out of step with the sequence of required courses. Distance learning may offer a solution to that problem.

Also, "special academic programs could be developed for premedical students so that they don't lose ground," said Burger, who coordinated the committee's work for the provost's office and recently has been asked to devote the substantial portion of her time to these issues by serving as vice provost for international affairs.

One way to enhance Hopkins' international programs is to bring together faculty from various divisions who have interests in the same geographical region.

"You'd like to think that happens naturally," Burger said. "It doesn't happen as often as it should."

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