On Sunday, November 20, 2010, MU’s President Dr. Francine McNairy was the featured author of the Sunday’s Guest column in Lancaster’s Sunday News. The article, which discusses the importance of global education, is copied below:
Nov 20, 2010
By DR. FRANCINE G. McNAIRY, Sunday’s Guest
Universities have long been champions of faculty and student international study programs. Everyone benefits from an educational experience beyond our own backyard, one that affects how we perceive ourselves and our world. The 21st century has shown us that our lives are increasingly intertwined with the lives and events of people around the globe.
This summer, I found myself in Shanghai and then Beijing. I accompanied fellow Central Pennsylvanians visiting China for the World Business Expo 2010. During the six-month event, Shanghai hosted more than 70 million visitors from around the world. Our 23-member delegation included representatives from Millersville University, as well as business and industry leaders from Lancaster County.
The expedition provided time to reacquaint ourselves with alumni from our Shanghai Executive Training Program, which is designed to provide a high-quality educational opportunity for Chinese executives to learn about U.S. business principles and practices. Former State Sen. Gibson Armstrong, who was part of the delegation, has also been involved with our executive training program. “The most meaningful part of the trip for me was seeing the impact that the Shanghai Executive team has made,” he said. “They came to Lancaster as middle management, and they are now in upper management and extremely influential in both government and business in China.”
Marianne Nolt, a retired public school principal, and Joseph Nolt, chairman of Murray Risk Management & Insurance, were impressed by the respect and appreciation the alumni showed for the training program. They considered this to be especially significant in light of China’s commitment to economic growth as showcased at the expo.
China: what a life-altering experience! I benefited from the insights shared by my fellow travelers. Upon reflection, I wondered what observations Millersville University students have when they are afforded the opportunity to study and travel abroad. I didn’t have to look far. MU students report that they are more tolerant, flexible and curious about new ideas. They feel better able to accept others’ values and lifestyles as valid. Students improve their interpersonal communication skills and report they are more balanced in their judgments. Most heartening is that the experiences have broadened their worldview. They better understand other countries’ roles in world affairs and see the world as more interconnected than ever before. They have a deeper understanding of the common problems and issues that confront all human beings … an important development for those who will be tackling the real-world challenges facing us.
Sen. Armstrong noted that there is a need for the world powers to work together, to communicate for the future betterment of all countries. I, too, believe that the Shanghai Executive program, and others like it, are key in developing an understanding among the people of various countries. I also believe that cooperation between world powers begins at the individual level, which is why global education programs are so important.
It is also why a liberal arts education is invaluable. It is the means through which students are prompted to consider how our ideas about diversity and social responsibility translate into a global framework. It is in this education incubator that students are urged to contemplate universal values for an interdependent and diverse world. And it is here that students are encouraged to develop their global sensitivities.
One member of our delegation, Diane Koken, a legal/regulatory consultant and a former Pennsylvania insurance commissioner, was struck by the contrast between the poverty in the countryside and the urban prosperity of the people. “Although they promote a harmonious society, the potential for social unrest is a challenge. The culture of China is more diverse than I appreciated before; we learned that there are over 55 recognized minorities.”
Ms. Koken’s observation reminded me that the challenges facing our nation are not unique. “We also learned that there are 6 million new college graduates each year,” she continued, “and so the need to create jobs is strong.” It’s a sentiment mirrored in our own concerns for U.S. graduates. Travel experiences like this one afford us the opportunity to meet the people and experience the culture, history and societal issues of other countries. It helps us to see that our country’s challenges are sometimes comparable to those in others parts of the world.
I returned from this experience with a renewed commitment to global education and a determination to help Pennsylvania citizens understand issues that link people, cultures, governments, businesses and nongovernmental groups together; to find the means to improve relations and enhance the mutual understanding necessary for successful economic and intercultural relations in the future. Together with the faculty and administration at Millersville University, I am committed to creating and sustaining a world-class liberal arts education that enables our students and our citizens to thrive in the world marketplace.