A Newsletter for Faculty & Staff in the
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Volume 11, Issue 2
Just as the forces of globalization play out in but are also mediated by the local context, higher education also faces the challenge of being both globally engaged and locally useful.
-Hudzik and Stohl, “Comprehensive and Strategic Internationalization of U.S. Higher Education”
I write this installment of CLASS Directions from Ljubljana, Slovenia, where I am completing my time as Fulbright Subject Specialist at the University of Ljubljana. Here I have been tasked with giving a series of lectures on various topics in administration: on the current state of higher education in America, student success, faculty hiring processes, program fragmentation and prioritization, and quality assurance processes. Although the systems of higher education in the U.S. and Slovenia are very different, we do face many of the same challenges. Falling numbers of high school graduates have had significant impacts on enrollments at the University of Ljubljana, and the competition for students has increased. Cuts in state funding have made it more difficult to deliver all the university’s programs, and there are calls for greater accountability, including calls for better post-graduation employment rates. Finally, the University of Ljubljana, like CSU, is striving to increase its international connections.
There are also unique challenges faced by the Slovenians. Hiring a diverse faculty, for example, is made more challenging by the relatively small pool of international scholars who can deliver courses in Slovenian, a language with a relatively small speaking population that historically has had to struggle to thrive in a context full of other major competing languages. In addition, over the past number of years, programs of study in Slovenia have had to be completely revised to bring them into line with the Bologna accords. On the plus side, their research productivity continues to improve, and students in Slovenia have the benefit of a totally free education. No student debt crisis here!
Through my discussions with faculty and administrators here in Ljubljana, we have both come to see our local situations in the context of a broader international perspective and have a greater appreciation of what strategies can and cannot be used to increase our effectiveness. In the final analysis, I have come to admire the dedication and hard work of my Slovenian colleagues, and I am grateful for their warm hospitality.
This brings me to the epigraph by Hudzik and Stohl. In the past, I sometimes heard people say that CSU must choose between being fully dedicated to its urban mission or to a global mission. I don’t hear that on campus anymore, but the current global political climate—the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump—may indicate a return to that kind of thinking within the larger public. My own view is that Hudzik and Stohl are correct; we must do both, and the initiatives must be intertwined. My efforts at building up connections between Cleveland and Slovenia, Cleveland and Poland, and Cleveland and Hungary, reflect local history, where the contributions of these immigrant groups, both their labor and their cultures, played important roles in building up our city. Thus, building international bridges to these countries actually ties CSU more closely to our local context, and we can see that happening at all the various cultural programs attended by members of the local communities. But this is only a part of the CLASS story. Our Spanish language courses and programs tie us ever more closely to the important and growing local Hispanic community, and our Arabic program does the same with the local Arab community. Finally, our partnerships with institutions in China and Korea connect us to other smaller but no less important ethnic communities in Cleveland.
But, there is more to be done. Recently I engaged in talks with a group of representatives from Achill Island in Ireland, who visited to promote a connection to CSU. A closer international connection to Ireland would also help us tie our university to another important local group, and Jennifer Jeffers has agreed to explore this possibility carefully. In addition, I am very pleased that Donna Whyte, the Interim Director of Black Studies, has begun working on better international connections to Africa, which would serve students in our Black Studies program as well as interested community members. All of these efforts play a role in the college’s goal of engaging both internationally and locally.
It is exam week, and all the college’s faculty and students are busily finishing papers and writing exams. But the end of the semester is in sight. For CLASS staff members, the news this year is also bright: the Trustees have officially closed the university from December 24th through January 2nd. As a result, staff as well as faculty will have an extended break during which to enjoy the holidays.
I also want to remind the faculty that Commencement will take place on Sunday, December 18th. There are four special reasons to attend this fall. First in this group of four is that Mackenzie Paul, a graduate in History, will be honored as university Valedictorian. The second is that Cheryl Bracken will receive a Distinguished Faculty Award for Service. The third is that Jody Milkie will be honored with the Distinguished Service Award for Professional Staff. The fourth is that Jane Dugan will be honored with the Distinguished Service Award for Classified Staff. Please join me at the Commencement to celebrate the successes of an outstanding CLASS student scholar, a distinguished professor, and two dedicated staff members as well as our many new CLASS graduates!
Finally, I want to wish you and your families a very warm and happy holiday season. As always, I remain grateful for your continued dedication to our collective mission. I particularly want to thank the Dean’s Office associate deans and staff for holding down the fort over these past four weeks; they did a great job. I look forward to seeing you all back on campus very soon!
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