Global Engagement:  Higher Education’s Calling

Global Engagement: Higher Education’s Calling

By: Philomena Mantella

There has never been a time like the present, when the need for a population with cross-cultural understanding was so critical. That’s why Northeastern University was pleased to support NAFSA in organizing an important conference, which brought together thousands of individuals from across the world with the goal of advancing international education and exchange. Convening to focus on education in a global context will move our institutions to embrace the transformative power of diversity and to create new, compelling models of study. And, it provided the forum for diplomats and government officials, peace activists and journalists, as well as educators, the opportunity to look at where our work, our ideas and our goals overlap.

Global engagement is a core belief of Northeastern University. Engagement, for us, is defined by its many forms of authentic experiences, like our signature co-ops, which integrate real work experience into our curricula.

Whether you are one of our 8,000 international students from 128 countries doing research, undergraduate or graduate service, or pursuing your degree, including experiential learning and co-op with our 3,000-plus employers world-wide, or whether you are a domestic student choosing to pursue an undergraduate degree in Boston; at Northeastern, one city is never your campus.

Our President, Joseph Aoun, is fond of saying “come to Northeastern, and then get out and explore the world.” Your collegiate experience may take you from Shanghai to Cape Town and from Cape Town to Sao Paulo.

We have built a range of experiences: a strong, structured constellation of study abroad programs, freshman-year global experiences, faculty-led study and independent models like co-op study/work abroad, where students learn to simultaneously navigate  academics, corporate culture and the global community. Northeastern students personalize these educational journeys by choosing among these models, and are bound together in the pursuit of their unique paths towards increasing their world and cultural understanding.

Here are two such examples.

Sam, an International Affairs Major with a minor in Social Entrepreneurship, studied, volunteered, and worked in six different countries during his time at Northeastern. He learned about human rights in Chile and community health in Kenya, taught English in rural India, and assisted farmers in Jamaica with microloans and finance. He went on to live as a co-op student in Manila, the Philippines, and in Cape Town, South Africa.

Christie, an International Law and Social Policy major with a concentration in Human Services, completed study abroad and volunteer programs in the Dominican Republic and in China. During her time in China, in addition to intensive language studies leading to a minor in Chinese, she conducted field research on suicide prevention among young Chinese women. As a co-op student, Christie lived and worked in Zambia and in Cape Town, where she facilitated and managed harm reduction support groups for adults dealing with substance abuse.

While we feel great pride in our distinctive educational model and our resolute focus on global opportunity for every student, our work is not done. All of us need to continue to explore new models and create new constructs for global education.  As CEO of Northeastern’s Global Network, we look forward to how new sites, partners, and communities of engaged learners and companies will build new relevant, current, and compelling models. We each have the opportunity to make distinctive contributions and significant impact.

And, most exciting of all, I look forward to what we will learn, as an interconnected global society, from the students who have learned and grown in our global classrooms.

Philomena Mantella is senior vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Life and CEO of the Northeastern University Global Network. This post is drawn from her remarks at the NAFSA, New Horizons in International Education conference held in Boston in late May 2015. 

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