The Vital Importance of Global Engagement
February 9, 2024
In a 4:00 video, Dr. Jill Blondin, SIO of the year, underscores the vital role of global engagement for institutions, ranking its significance at 11 out of 10. She contends that every institution is inherently global, stressing its benefits for students in fostering soft skills like flexibility and cultural agility and for faculty and staff through research collaborations and diverse perspectives.
From a podcast interview with Jill Blondin, Ph.D., Associate Vice Provost at Virginia Commonwealth University and SIO of the Year.
“I can’t overemphasize enough how important it is to be globally engaged as an institution.”
Global engagement has become a crucial aspect of higher education in today's rapidly changing world. Institutions must recognize the significance of being globally engaged and understand that it is not just an option but a necessity for their growth and success. In this podcast interview, Jill Blondin, Ph.D., Associate Vice Provost at Virginia Commonwealth University and SIO of the Year, emphasizes the importance of global engagement for students and institutions. Jill sheds light on the transformative impact it can have on individuals and the broader educational landscape.
Jill passionately highlights the numerous benefits students can derive from a globally engaged institution. She emphasizes the value of providing students with opportunities for global learning, whether through study abroad programs or on-campus initiatives. According to Blondin, these experiences cultivate essential soft skills that employers highly value:
“The kind of soft skills that you develop through global learning opportunities are the kind of skills that employers value—things like flexibility, adaptability, cultural agility, being comfortable with ambiguity, working in teams, collaborating. All these things that people value in their employees are things that global learning develops.”
Blondin emphasizes that regardless of a student’s major, global engagement fosters skills universally sought after in the job market. It transcends disciplinary boundaries and equips students with the ability to navigate diverse cultural contexts, think critically, and solve problems holistically.
It is important to note that global engagement is not limited to domestic students studying abroad. International students studying in a foreign country also benefit from these experiences. Jill reminds us that international students are also studying abroad and developing the same valuable skills through their cross-cultural experiences.
Global engagement not only benefits students but also has a profound impact on institutions themselves. Jill stresses the significance of global engagement for faculty and staff, particularly in research and collaboration:
“We benefit from different perspectives. And so when we work with people from different backgrounds…we rely on other people’s perspectives to have this holistic approach to problem-solving.”
Institutions gain fresh insights and challenge their existing practices by engaging with individuals from diverse backgrounds. This exchange of ideas and perspectives fosters innovation and enhances the overall quality of research and teaching. It allows institutions to reevaluate their approaches and adopt more effective strategies.
Furthermore, global engagement extends beyond academic collaborations. Institutions can also benefit from staff exchanges, where employees can experience different work cultures and gain a broader understanding of global practices. This exposure enhances their professional growth and creates a more inclusive and diverse work environment.
The implications of global engagement for higher education are far-reaching. Jill aptly states that every institution is now global, whether they acknowledge it or not. The choice lies in how institutions choose to engage with the global landscape. By embracing global engagement, institutions can position themselves as leaders in preparing students for an interconnected world.
From an economic standpoint, global engagement can attract a diverse pool of domestic and international students, contributing to institutions' financial sustainability. It also opens doors for partnerships and collaborations with international organizations, fostering a global network that can lead to further opportunities for research and funding.
Moreover, global engagement promotes cultural understanding and empathy among students and faculty. It breaks down barriers and fosters a sense of global citizenship. In an increasingly interconnected world, these qualities are essential for fostering peace, cooperation, and mutual respect.
The importance of global engagement for higher education cannot be overstated. It is not merely an option but a necessity for institutions to thrive in the 21st century. As Jill eloquently puts it, institutions must be globally engaged, and the choice lies in how they choose to engage.
The impact of global engagement on students is profound, equipping them with the skills and perspectives necessary to succeed in an interconnected world. For institutions, global engagement enhances research, fosters innovation, and creates a more inclusive and diverse environment.
Looking ahead, the future of higher education lies in embracing global engagement as a core pillar of institutional growth. Institutions must continue to develop and expand their global learning opportunities, ensuring that students are prepared to navigate the complexities of our globalized society. By doing so, institutions can fulfill their mission of educating and empowering the next generation of global citizens.
“I can’t overemphasize enough how important it is to be globally engaged as an institution…the more you do that to benefit your students, the stronger the institution is.”
Let us strive for a future where global engagement is a stronger, more integral part of higher education.