Global Engagement Solutions for Higher Education


How to Develop a Global Engagement Program and Create a Better Future for Everyone with Ilgu Ozler

FEBRUARY 13, 2023

Episode Summary

Global engagement programs are about big-picture thinking, and they help students prepare for global impact and engagement. But how do you develop a global engagement program in your school?

In this episode of the Global Engagement Insights podcast, our host Chike Lawrence-Mitchell welcomes Ilgu Ozler, the director of the SUNY Global Engagement Program at the New Paltz State University of New York. They talk about the power of global engagement, the importance of big-picture thinking, and the ways to do globally engaged work at a local level.


Name: Ilgu Ozler

What she does: Ilgu is the director of the SUNY Global Engagement Program at the New Paltz State University of New York.

Company: New Paltz State University of New York

Noteworthy: Ilgu is also a professor of political science and international relations at SUNY New Paltz. Her research focuses on civic engagement as it relates to political parties, non-governmental organizations, and social movements.

Where to find Ilgu: LinkedIn

Key Insights

  • Global engagement programs aim to build globally engaged careers. They educate the students on global issues and the importance of global engagement. Ilgu says, “The goal is to be able to have students really understand what it is to build a globally engaged career that — of course, I have my own prejudices in this, and my prejudices come from the global ethics of how we do things. So it’s like sustainability fits into this. We study these unsustainable development goals and think about the intersectionality of all of these goals, and we think about issues of climate change, human rights — like big picture, big issues — and then they start to hone in and start to think about how they actually can solve the world's problems when they kind of graduate.”
  • Understand the bigger picture. Students need to learn to understand the bigger picture in their job, not just the small details. Ilgu says, “That’s how you build a career around the subject. You can’t just do the filing. You need to know what is in the files. And now you need to be able to kind of look at your organization’s mission and vision and the subject matter that they're working on and have substantive knowledge.”
  • Global engagement is about big-picture thinking. Global engagement is about making students globally engaged and culturally aware. Ilgu says, “I think that global engagement is like we need to understand from social science what works and then take the next step into understanding what has failed and then how do we put the pieces together to attempt to solve some of these problems. And I tell students, ‘You can’t take the entire world's problems onto your shoulders. You can do like this little thing.’”

Episode Highlights

Students need networks

"My students don't have connections. I didn't have connections when I started. But over several years of teaching the UN semester, we were building all these connections at the UN, and my students would ask me, 'Professor Ozler, how do I become that person who has just briefed us? I want to go work for the United Nations refugee organization. How do I do that?' Well, how do you make that pathway clear for a student who doesn't have connections? They need experience. They need networks."

Global engagement begins on a local level

"We have the luxury to do it at the global level here because I can take the students to New York City, but you can replicate those things locally in your own community by engaging through the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a holistic guide to how to think about sustainable development and global engagement in that way."

Developing a global engagement program

"You need a campus champion for this thing to happen. I was very lucky that I have a very supportive program. You start with your department because what you're going to do will take you outside of the department; for example, you need to have dedicated faculty to be able to do a program like this. [...] If there is an administrator and like a dean-level kind of an administrator and supportive department, you are really on your way to be able to start something like this on campus. It really works; it’s probably better to have the higher-ups support it."

Bringing the United Nations to your school is easier than you think

“I think bringing the UN to your campus is easier than you think, and it is life-changing for a lot of students. And I would highly recommend schools look into that, and if anybody wants to reach out to me, I would be happy to talk to them as well.”