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In this segment, we look at how today's world is a global classroom for students, who can witness history being made in real-time. Also, Dr. Cofer discusses the importance of learning about international events and cultures.
Moore: Good morning, and welcome to “Ask the President: Dr. James Cofer on MSU, Current Events, and Public Affairs." This program lets you look at international and national news events from a local perspective. I’m Jennifer Moore and I’m joined in the studio by Dr. James Cofer, president of MSU. Welcome back, Dr. Cofer.
Cofer: Thank you.
Moore: And today, we’re going to be talking about how the entire globe is a classroom for today’s students. We got an email, Dr. Cofer, from Alex Primm in Mtn. View, Missouri. He’s asking what MSU is doing to encourage the study of China and East Asia. China’s economy, of course, is projected to overtake that of the United States in some 20 years.
Cofer: Sure. Study abroad has always been an important component of higher education. But over time, we’ve seen a little bit of a shift from Europe and South America to Asia as a location for the study away things. We have a lot of growth and relationships in China. For example, we have a branch campus in Dalian, China. We have a dual Master’s degree program in plant science with the China Agricultural University in Beijing. We have faculty and student exchanges with Qingdao University. And then we have joint agricultural research projects with Ningxia. We just signed an agreement with them.
We have about 700 Chinese students studying in Springfield. And we have about another 850 students at our branch campus in Dalian. So, we’re involved a lot in China; but we also have a Middle Eastern Studies program here at MSU, which really is in the College of Humanities and Public Affairs. So we have a lot of things going on in those areas.
Moore: You yourself have lived abroad in Budapest, Hungary. And part of MSU’s public affairs mission includes “cultural competence.” Why do you think it’s important to incorporate a global perspective in a student’s education today?
Cofer: You know, one of the characteristics of an educated person, as defined by our public affairs mission, is that the graduates dedicate themselves to being curious and contributing citizens in an increasingly globalized society. What we’re trying to do is ensure that a greater percentage of our students experience those different cultures. As a result, we’ve adapted programs to offer a variety of links of programs in different places, and in a wide variety of countries.
You know for me and my wife, living in Budapest for awhile, it was a chance to learn a different culture. Hungary is an Eastern culture. And so you had to help—we were on a fellowship—to help Hungary, you had to take Western solutions and translate them into an Eastern solution. It caused you to think about it—why you were doing it, and how it could work in a different culture.
And that’s what we want our students to understand—how things work in a different culture. But we’ve got study away programs almost anywhere you’d want to go.
Then we have some short term program that we run, usually, in intercession—in December—or in the summer And they’re almost everywhere: Mexico, Jamaica, England, France, Italy, Greece…a lot of different short-term study programs that we think are very important.
Moore: We all have watched history being made this month in Egypt, with the 30 year president [and] autocratic ruler, Hosni Mubarak, stepping down. Today’s students have a completely different way of experiencing that than just five or 10 years ago with all of the technology: we have internet, we have 24-hour cable [news] at our fingertips. How is that technology making a difference in students’ education today?
Cofer: You know, I think, if I remember history right, we started probably with the Vietnam War with the almost instantaneous transmission of what was going on in South Vietnam and North Vietnam to the American people. It caused a different way of looking at things, and caused us to question a lot of things the government was doing. And that may have been the first time we had that instantaneous kind of transmission.
And what we saw in Egypt over these last two or three weeks was the same kind of thing. We watched a peaceful revolution—very much like if people remember the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic. But you get to see it right up close, first hand.
For faculty, that means that we have to make sure that our instruction is active. Because we’re used to seeing active—we see it on TV. That doesn’t mean that we have something different; that just means that we’re active learners, and they’re not passive participants in instruction. So you use technology, and you use computers, and you use TVs to make sure we’re getting the students actively engaged in the discipline.
Moore: Dr. James Cofer, president of MSU, thank you very much.
Cofer: Thank you.
Moore: And to find out how you can help shape our discussion, you can visit www.ksmu.org/askthepresident. Thanks for listening.