A World of Possibilities

Richard L. McCormick, President
As published in the Winter 2010 issue of Rutgers Magazine

Each summer, anthropology professor Daniel Goldstein takes Rutgers undergraduates to Bolivia to study the nation’s justice system and its impact on poor indigenous people. Last year they volunteered in an orphanage and worked to build a community center in Loma Pampa. Some of our landscape architecture majors take a six-week summer course in Munich and Berlin. Rutgers students involved in the nonprofit organization Engineers Without Borders have worked to fix a failing water system in Thailand and to analyze the local soil in order to best locate private wells. 

Such students, however, are in the minority at Rutgers. Too many of our undergraduates earn their degrees without venturing abroad or even studying a foreign culture. And yet we know that the students in our classrooms today will live deep into the 21st century, in an increasingly global society. Rutgers must prepare them accordingly. 

For many years, our faculty members have been collabo­rating globally in an astonishing range of research. Neuroscientist György Buzsáki works with partners in France on the mechanism that triggers learning and memory formation while we sleep. Joanna Regulska, dean of International Programs at the School of Arts and Sciences and professor of women’s studies and geography, works with faculty in the former Soviet republic of Georgia on internally displaced persons and their struggles for survival. Historian Barbara Cooper is studying debates about fertility in the west African Sahel. 

Now we must take steps to ensure that our students truly understand cultures, languages, regions, and economic influences beyond their own. 

Rutgers has established dynamic, internationally focused academic programs, including our highly regarded global studies program on the Newark Campus, our global executive master’s programs, the international studies programs at Camden, and the international service learning initiatives of the School of Arts and Sciences in New Brunswick. These efforts provide the foundation for what I believe should be an even greater Rutgers presence on the international scene and for far more extensive international education for our students.     

Universities that are most successful in this area incorporate a global ethos throughout their schools and programs. It is my hope that within five years, we will dramatically increase the number of Rutgers students who have meaningful international exposure by the time they graduate. That exposure can come in many forms: study abroad and exchange programs; mastery of a language that is not one’s own; courses in local cultures or international politics; or even engagement with communities right here in New Jersey—for example, the Haitian community in Newark or the Mexican community in New Brunswick. 

Our students will live their lives in a global society, so we should challenge them to obtain a global perspective as they pursue their Rutgers degrees. Jersey Roots, Global Reach is not just our slogan; it is also what we want for our students.
This column is adapted from President McCormick’s 2009 Annual Address.