Richly accented English blends with aromatic coffees from around the world at the Small World Coffee Hour’s biweekly gathering.
A world map dotted with dozens of colored pins hangs outside the front door. The pins, marking the homelands of the coffee hour’s patrons, are spread evenly across the planet.
In the past, the Small World was a haven for about 60 foreign nationals studying at the University. This year, participation doubled because of an influx of U.S.-born students with interests in international affairs and people.
“As soon as you say international ‘something,’ American students think that it is only for international students,” said Kuniko Yasutake, a first-year graduate student in comparative and international educational development. “The coffee hour is a good example that this isn’t the case.”
The Small World, which Yasutake helps coordinate, is an example of the contracting world and how globalization can be handled amicably — over coffee.
International commerce and communication are rapidly expanding every day, drawing the people of the world closer than ever before. Yet, as it expands, globalization is setting off fires of discontent around the world: mass protests, wars, currency crises and terrorism.
But globalization cannot be tamed.
It began the day humans began moving across the planet and meeting one another, but in the past 15 years, the process has sped up. Fiber-optic wires and satellite communications have revolutionized the way people talk and do business.
“Globalization is not man-made; it is self-propelling,” said Mahmood Zaidi, director of international-program development at the Carlson School of Management. “People don’t understand that.”
Signs of the beast in Minnesota
The Twin Cities is the 15th-largest population center in the United States and the eighth-largest exporter. Those figures put the state in a position where internationalization is a real and quantifiable phenomenon.
“The face of Minnesota has changed — the person next door can come from a very different background,” said Carol Byrne, executive director of the Minnesota International Center. “People want to understand who their neighbors are.”
And Minnesota is now home to thousands of immigrants, refugees and migrant workers, and their children are bringing the world to Twin Cities’ schools. Three years ago, a total of 7,615 immigrants listed Minneapolis-St. Paul as their destination — 546 hailing from Russia and the Ukraine, 266 from China and 690 from Vietnam.
But these numbers don’t include more than 3,000 refugees who arrived the same year and hundreds more immigrants who didn’t list the Twin Cities as their destination, but ended up here anyway.
In addition to an international population, Minnesota boasts many multinational companies — Cargill Inc., 3M and Ecolab, for example.
In order to take advantage of Minnesota’s global economy and society, the University must produce students who can speak foreign languages and have a knowledge of worldwide political and social systems, said Steven Rosenstone, College of Liberal Arts dean.
“The person who can deal with international issues — who can understand how a foreign client thinks and what he wants — will have an advantage,” Rosenstone said.
Mohammed Bari, a counselor for International Student Scholar Services, put it more bluntly:
“I think any University of Minnesota students who think they will work the rest of their lives without a multicultural work force are deluding themselves.”
At the University
Thousands of foreign students come to the University every day. This University houses the nation’s largest population of Chinese students and a swiftly growing Eastern European student body.
For all of these reasons, the University has engaged in a conscious struggle to “globalize” itself.
The process has advanced slowly and steadily for years, in many different forms: expanded study-abroad and foreign-language programs; increased collaboration with faculty overseas; the formation of centers dedicated exclusively to the study of foreign relations and history; and a closer cooperation with the business community.
True to its decentralized governance, the University has no over-arching strategy for internationalization. Unlike many other schools around the country, colleges at the University have been forced to forge their own paths and make individual decisions about globalization.
One of the priorities University President Mark Yudof took to the Legislature last year was globalization — particularly for undergraduates.
Two colleges at the University — CLA and the College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences — have taken widely disparate approaches to globalization.
The College of Liberal Arts
“The study of different cultures is the heart and soul of what we do at the College of Liberal Arts, be it anthropology or political science or history or the language program,” Rosenstone said. “If CLA doesn’t take a leadership role, then the whole University suffers.”
In its capacity as a University leader in global affairs, CLA has cut the ribbon on a few ambitious projects.
The college has proposed a new international major to be housed in a new department. The proposal, submitted last month, would go into affect next fall if approved by CLA and the Board of Regents.
“It’s a smashing proposal,” Rosenstone said.
The new major will be offered under the Institute of International Studies, which is replacing the Institute for Global Studies. The institute has three new permanent faculty — something the old institute never had. A fourth faculty member will be chosen early next year.
All four will work part time in the Institute of International Studies and part time in their original disciplines — history, anthropology, political science and geography.
“There are several things we’re doing that haven’t been done before,” Rosenstone said. “In the past, there was a distinction between international relations and area studies, and what we’re trying to do is create one major that would recognize that those are not distinct things but things that have to come together.”
The institute’s ideas, issues, content and influence are then physically dispersed throughout CLA.
“Our institute can have an impact on curriculum in other departments,” said Gloria Raheja, who directs the institute. “It helps internationalize across the college.”
All three of the institute’s professors are from India.
“It happens that there are a lot of brilliant South Asian academics,” said Raheja, who also specializes in the region. “Over the past 15 to 20 years, there has been a shift in the locus of knowledge produced about the world.”
Now, many Eastern academics are becoming prominent in the humanities as well as the sciences, providing a previously unheard perspective.
“We want our students to be very aware of that,” Raheja said.
College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences
With no work abroad counting for University credit and no scholarships available to offset costs, most agriculture students see no reason to go, endemic of a University-wide problem.
Roughly 4 percent of agriculture-school graduates have had international experience, said Richard Swanson, associate dean and director of the Office of International Agricultural Programs.
Because of the low rate of participation in study abroad by University students, agribusiness firms are more likely to search for employees from universities such as Michigan State University and Purdue, “whose efforts and support for globalization far exceed our own,” according to a statement issued by Swanson’s office.
To remedy this, the college plans to focus on a short-term international stint — about four months — which might be more appealing to University students.
The college also plans to establish closer ties with nonprofits such as Africare and World Vision, which have programs in various developing countries.
Students will be provided with more scholarships and endowment funds and will be able to receive credit for their overseas’ experiences.
Administrators hope these efforts will increase the number of students going abroad for research and study programs to about 15 percent over the next three years.
“People are waking up and realizing how important this is,” Swanson said.
A long-standing relationship
As economic ties between Minnesota agriculture — a top export to foreign countries — and the world are strengthened, new markets are created, most notably in China. The need for an educated, capable and international-oriented labor force grows concurrently.
“I don’t think anyone should graduate from our college without international experience,” Swanson said.
The agriculture school’s 35-year relationship with Morocco is the flagship of the college’s internationalization plan.
The arrangement began with the Agronomic Institute Project in 1969 — a three-way collaboration between the University, the United States Agency for International Aid and the Kingdom of Morocco.
During the 1970s, University soil scientists provided technical assistance to the Institut Agronomique et Veterinaire Hassan II, also known as IAV, while 80 Moroccan students finished their master’s degrees at the University.
During the 1980s and into the 1990s, more than 200 Moroccan students did graduate work at the University. IAV and its sister schools, the Ecole Nationale d’Agriculture and the Ecole Nationale Forestiere des Ingenieurs, sent 130 faculty members to the United States for doctorate degrees.
The Minnesota Agricultural Student Trainee program — which allows students from abroad to work on Minnesota farms for at least four months and up to one-and-a-half years — is another agriculture-school mainstay.
Each year, between 200 and 300 foreign students participate in the program, which also involves course work at the University. Only 20 to 30 University students go abroad for the program.
The agriculture college also has more than 3,000 alumni in China — stemming from a tidal wave of Chinese students during the 1940s and 1950s. These students are now politicians, business leaders and university presidents and are eager to establish relationships with their alma mater.
CLA, the Medical School and the agriculture college have been historically linked to the rest of the world. Their recent efforts at internationalization are largely built upon progress made after World War II and into the 1980s.
All three plodded along, secure in the adequacy of their international endeavors — until now.
Tomorrow, the Daily looks at the Carlson School of Management and the Institute of Technology.
The two colleges represent business and technology — the twin engines that have dramatically increased the pace of globalization and forced the University and the entire world, to re-evaluate their senses of self in relation to the rest of the world.
Sascha Matuszak covers international affairs and welcomes comments at [email protected]