Find Events Find People Find Jobs Find Sites Find Help Index


November 12, 2001

Global studies more crucial than ever

Lailee Mendelson is communications coordinator for the Office of Inertnational Affairs


Professor Kristen Brustad may know she is making an incremental contribution to international understanding when she stands before her Introductory Arabic class. But she may not know the U.S. government will soon celebrate her work. The same can be said of all educators—both at Emory and nationwide—who work daily to encourage international education.

The reason is that the week of Nov. 12–16 has been designated International Education Week by the U.S. departments of State and Education. Established by former President Bill Clinton to promote the practical benefits of world knowledge, the week has taken on increased significance since the events of Sept. 11.

“Today we live in a global community,” Clinton said in an April 2000 executive order, “where all countries must work as partners to promote peace and prosperity and to resolve international problems. One of the surest ways to develop and strengthen such partnerships is through international education programs.”

The memorandum called for increased support of initiatives that promote understanding of the cultures, languages and governments of other nations. These include study abroad programs, exchange programs, high-quality foreign language studies, in-depth area studies programs, and the preparation and support of teachers in their efforts to interpret other cultures for their students.

This year’s International Education Week has now assumed even greater meaning as an observance of the role of knowledge in building mutual understanding across the globe.

In an Oct. 17 statement, Secretary of Education Rod Paige said, “Knowledge about the culture and language of our neighbors throughout the world is becoming increasingly important in the daily lives of all Americans. The events surrounding the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 underscore that point.”

Paige’s comment reflected an Oct. 11 New York Times article revealing the price being paid for Americans’ lack of global awareness. The article reported that U.S. intelligence services face a critical shortage of Americans with in-depth knowledge of the languages and cultures of Afghanistan and its surrounding regions. According to The Times, linguistic deficiencies have forced the FBI to issue urgent appeals for citizens fluent in Arabic and other languages.

On a more positive note, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Charlotte Beers spoke recently of the successes of U.S. international education programs. “Over 50 world leaders are alumni of our exchange programs,” Beers said in testimony before Congress. “These long-term relationships help us deal with international challenges at a time when the United States is seeking to build a coalition of nations against terrorism.”

Across the nation, Americans have turned to those in the teaching profession to better understand the causes and contexts that lie behind the acts of terrorism committed against the United States. National Public Radio recently reported on the large numbers of universities that rushed to add Middle Eastern studies courses to their fall schedules.

“We need to give our students at all levels an international education that meets the highest standards,” Paige said. “International education means learning about the history, geography, literature and arts of other countries, acquiring proficiency in a second language, and understanding complex global issues.”

Ildiko Flannery, associate director of Emory’s Office of International Affairs, agrees, but she is quick to add that international education is not just for American students. “Preparing people to cope with international challenges and to benefit from international opportunities is a must,” Flannery said. “And this has to occur globally. All nations must learn about each other if we are to avoid misconceptions and misunderstandings.”

Marlene Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors, an association of international educators, hopes the country this week will celebrate programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders of other nations to study in the United States.

“Our nation, now more than ever, must reach beyond its borders toward true engagement in the world,” Johnson said. “It is only in gaining a deeper knowledge and appreciation for our global community that we can hope to build a more peaceful world.”



Back to Emory Report November 12, 2001