Collaborative Global Citizenship Initiatives Through Salzburg Global Seminar
November 20–21, 2015
New York University
Bennett College is a small, private, historically black, four-year liberal arts college in Greensboro, North Carolina. Founded in 1873 as a coeducational institution for recently freed slaves in affiliation with the Methodist Church, Bennett was reorganized in 1926 as a college for women. It is one of only two colleges in the United States for black women and it is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Bennett has had a long history of global engagement. In this paper, I will discuss the initiatives that have been supported most recently by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Salzburg Global Seminar. Before discussing the college’s current initiatives, I will provide the historical context for our global citizenship focus.
Bennett’s History of Global Engagement
Dr. Linda Brown (1998), in The Long Walk , her book on the presidency of Dr. Willa B. Player (1956-1966), states that Bennett was among the first colleges in the South to encourage the admission of foreign students. Brown explains:
Bennett College was one of those places which recognized that empowering its students for moving into the world should include exposure to different kinds of people. From 1955 to 1964, a total of 46 students representing 18 countries were enrolled at the College. The places represented were: American Samoa, Bombay State India, Flatts, Bermuda, Germany, Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Nassau Bahamas, Nigeria, Pago Pago Tuluila, Panama, Seoul Korea, Sierra Leone, Sumatra Surinam, South America, Thailand and the Virgin Islands. (p. 136)
Brown also indicates that students came to Bennett from Japan, China, and Iran and that between 1953 and 1963 there were visiting international faculty at Bennett from Poland, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Kenya, and England (p. 137).
Not only was Bennett receiving the world on its campus, Bennett students were actively engaged in study and work abroad. Students were studying in Norway, Sweden, Germany, and France, for example. After graduation, they joined the Peace Corps, completed Fulbright Fellowships, and participated in Crossroads Africa and other educational exchanges.
The faculty at Bennett in 1992-93 came from diverse countries of origin, including Chile, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Nigeria, Palestine, Persia, Sierra Leone and South America. Dr. Figgins, a political science professor and retired U. S. Foreign Service officer, had lived and worked in four Latin American, one African, and two European countries and was an advocate for the internationalization of Bennett’s campus and curriculum (Bennett College, 1994).
Under the leadership of President Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole (2002-2007), Bennett appointed a coordinator of international programs in 2003 and, with the support of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, set up the college’s centralized office to oversee and manage its global education initiatives.
Since that time, the college has steadily improved the coordination of its global engagements, which are currently overseen by the staff of the Center for Global Studies. Global acumen is a priority academic area and it is one of four academic focal points specifically identified in the college’s current five-year Strategic Plan (2012-2017), approved by the Board of Trustees under the leadership of President Julianne Malveaux (2007-2012).
Current Global Social Justice Initiatives
The core of Bennett College’s engagement in global social justice activities is anchored in our definition of what it means to be a global citizen. In our Introduction to Global Studies course, we embrace the notion as defined by Patricia Campbell et al. that global citizens are “people who see their local actions as having global consequences and who have accepted that they have a responsibility to work to better the conditions of the world and its people” (2010, p. 4). To cultivate such citizens, we have made conscious efforts to help our students connect the local to the global and to think critically about what it means to be an activist for justice not only at home, but abroad as well. Our programs are designed to have students, faculty and staff engage in a variety of ways of thinking about issues of global concern.
We have been fortunate to participate with the Salzburg Global Seminar through their global citizenship initiatives sponsored by the Mellon Foundation. Four main components have been invaluable to our faculty, staff, and students: Salzburg Seminars; the Salzburg Global Citizenship Program (GCP); Creating Sites of Global Citizenship: The Mellon Fellow Community Initiative (MFCI); and the Mellon Global Citizenship Program (M-GCP).
Salzburg Global Seminars: Each year, Salzburg brings together scholars from all over the world who are engaged with various aspects of global social justice issues. These scholars represent a variety of enterprises and industries and participate in a rich discussion of the issues and their solutions. The topics of each session vary and Bennett faculty and staff members apply to attend sessions particularly relevant to their areas of research, teaching, and interest. With the generous support of the Mellon Foundation, and with the desire of Salzburg to diversify the participants, Bennett faculty and staff are able to attend these extraordinary seminars at minimal expense to themselves or their institutions. Throughout the years, Bennett faculty and staff have participated in seminars on a range of topics.
The Salzburg Global Citizenship Program: The Salzburg Global Citizenship Program began in 2004. The purpose of the program is to bring young college students to Salzburg and to engage them with scholars from all over the world discussing a range of global issues with the end result of having them think more intentionally about the local and the global, as well as how they have a responsibility for outcomes in the global community. Bennett students have been able to participate in these programs as attendees-at-large, but also as members of a focused Mellon initiative that includes Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Appalachian College Association (ACA) institutions. In addition to the seminar discussions, the participants experience the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site in nearby Germany, which is always a powerful experience for the group as they confront the realities of the Jewish Holocaust and the societal factors that permitted it to occur.
Creating Sites of Global Citizenship: The Mellon Fellow Community Initiative: The Creating Sites of Global Citizenship initiative began in 2008. Through the MFCI, Bennett put several important curricula and co-curricula components in place to strengthen our global education initiatives. The MFCI provided the space for us to be more strategic about our global engagements and to collaborate with other colleges and universities that have a similar mission. We benefited from our participation in a community of likeminded institutions with which we partnered. We were able to develop programs and activities for our students, faculty, and staff to have meaningful experiences that fully prepare them to be their best as 21st-century globally aware citizens. These activities took place in Salzburg, addressed a range of issues related to global literacy, and were facilitated by partnerships among ACA and HBCU colleges and universities.
The Mellon Global Citizenship Program: The M-GCP was launched in 2014 and grew out of a desire by Salzburg to base more of its citizenship programs in the United States with colleges and universities located here. In addition, the M-GCP was a way to structure a long-term relationship between HBCUs and ACA institutions. This program has assisted Bennett to work in collaboration with King University and with Ferrum College, both members of the ACA, to continue the work that we each began in the Mellon Fellow Community Initiative. Jointly, we have designed globally focused programs for our faculty and for our students.
We have laid a good foundation for internationalization at Bennett by enhancing the curriculum with global content, by offering critical and less commonly taught languages, by structuring global professional development opportunities for faculty and staff, by designing global experiences for students, and by facilitating the presence and active engagement of international students and scholars on our campus. These strides have been possible through Bennett’s partnerships with a variety of larger, more resourced institutions and through private and federal grants. Bennett would not have had these successes without partnerships. A continuing challenge is to find financial resources to support our global programs and activities.
Building on our rich history, Bennett has fully embraced the goal to increase minority participation in international education and in global social justice initiatives. A related goal is providing additional avenues for Bennett students to be exposed to and prepared for international careers and for prestigious international affairs scholarships, pre- and post-graduation. There is a clearly delivered message from Bennett’s senior administration that global education and global social justice are academic priorities. Leadership from the top and partnerships are critical.
Bennett College (1994, June). The international curriculum and campus of Bennett College [Brochure].
Bennett College (n.d.). Internationalizing the curriculum and campus: A strategic plan from 1993-94 through 1997-98.
Brown, L. (1998). The long walk: The story of the presidency of Willa B. Player at Bennett College. Danville, VA: McCain Printing Company.
Patricia Campbell et al. (2010). An introduction to global studies. Walden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.