Exploring Global Connections: Dismantling
the International/Multicultural Divide
By Jeffrey Shultz, assistant provost and professor
of education, Ellen Skilton-Sylvester, associate professor
of education and director of global communications,
and Norah P. Shultz, dean of undergraduate studies—all
at Arcadia University
Students convene beneath a French flag on Arcadia's campus. (Photograph by Josh Blustein, associate professor of psychology at Arcadia University)
The human mind has a powerful and limiting tendency
to create binary, oppositional categories as it attempts
to understand group identity. As educators, “when
we teach about gender, race, and sexual orientation,
we warn students about the artificial ways in which
Americans dichotomize these characteristics.”
People tend to define “women” in opposition
to “men,” “people of color”
in opposition to “white people,” “youth”
in opposition to “age” (Shultz 2006). We
warn our students that language can reinforce divides
between people when words fail to fully express the
continuous nature of identity. This dichotomous language
can vastly complicate our attempts to work for social
justice (Shultz, Shultz, and García 2007).
Yet as educators, we also dichotomize. We tend to view
diversity education as attending to either domestic
multiculturalism or to global learning, and as a result,
we create unnecessary competition for resources. Yet
if we start to see U.S. multiculturalism and internationalization
as intertwined rather than divided, we can vastly improve
our teaching about diversity. If we work together to
combine our pedagogical efforts and resources, our work
gains “the potential to change the way in which
we interact globally and locally” (Shultz, Shultz,
and García 2007).
Arcadia University recently reformulated its general
education program to address the traditional division
between international programs and domestic diversity
education. The faculty will implement the new program
in the fall of 2008. In crafting our reformed curriculum,
we hoped to dismantle divisions between “us”
and “them,” between international and domestic.
We wanted to bring the U.S. into conversation with the
rest of the world and fully prepare our students to
engage as global citizens.
Connections Reflection Criteria
During the cross-cultural experience students
must participate in an electronic portfolio–based
reflection that requires them to document the
experience and analyze its meanings.
Global Connections reflections ask students
to examine their cross-cultural experiences
in order to explore interconnections, interdependence,
and inequity and to analyze the relationship
between their experiences and world issues and
Global Connections reflections ask students
to examine their cross cultural experiences
in order to focus on the immediate personal
(what they are doing), immediate social (how
their actions affect others), long-term personal
(how their actions prepare them for future goals),
and long-term social (how their individual actions
Global Connections reflections must utilize
electronic portfolios or other means of collecting,
examining, and assessing students’ reflections.
The Global Connections reflection requirement
may be fulfilled by students enrolling in a
stand-alone two-credit reflection component
(typically offered online) during their cross-cultural
experience. Alternatively, the Global Connections
reflection component may be built into a four-credit
course that also includes a student’s
cross-cultural experience (such as a service-learning
course, internship, or student teaching).
(From the general education
curriculum Arcadia Explorations, effective fall
2008, available online at www.arcadia.edu/GenEd.)
Creating Continuity in the Core Curriculum
As we worked toward dismantling the international/domestic
dichotomy, we encountered many false starts and missed
opportunities. Nevertheless, we are confident that we
are moving forward with a new vision of global learning.
We hope that our efforts will make our students better
prepared to engage in today’s multicultural society,
both locally and globally.
Since 1993, the university’s mission statement
has begun with the claim, “Arcadia University
prepares students for life in a rapidly changing global
society.” We primarily met this goal through study
abroad programs and an internationalized curriculum.
Our curriculum specifically required students either
to study abroad or to take one course with significant
international content. All students also took a core
course called Global Justice. These requirements formed
the core of a general education program that positioned
Arcadia as a leader in global learning.
The results of our efforts in this regard have been
gratifying. The university devoted a great deal of resources
to making a name for itself in the arena of international
education, and this investment has paid off. In the
past fifteen years, the number of Arcadia students who
study abroad has increased significantly. About half
of our undergraduates present credits earned abroad
when they graduate. Arcadia has won a number of prestigious
awards and is recognized as having one of the best study
abroad programs in the country. The flags that dot our
campus are everyday reminders of how important internationalization
is to us.
Yet issues of domestic diversity have taken a back
seat (Peters-Davis, Shultz, and Wagner 2005). The only
requirement related to the U.S. has been Pluralism in
the U.S., a course meant to be taken in the second year.
Those of us concerned with issues of domestic diversity
were unhappy with this imbalance. We began to discuss
ways to balance the allocation of resources. This group
convinced the university’s president that domestic
diversity deserved serious attention, and she established
a task force charged with exploring the division between
internationalization and domestic pluralism. As Ana
María García explains in the sidebar,
that initial effort proved fruitless.
the Definition of Multiculturalism: A Personal Reflection
García, assistant professor of sociology
and chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology,
and Criminal Justice, Arcadia University
Several years ago, I served on Arcadia’s
Campus Diversity Taskforce, formed to address
resistance on the part of the university community
to several issues related to institutional diversity.
Our goal was to focus on climate assessments,
campus-wide interventions, and ways to engage
larger segments of the college. I was tentatively
optimistic. At last, I thought, we would discuss
critical issues of campus diversity and listen
to the subaltern voices whose perspectives we
had previously ignored.
This optimism was tested when the committee reorganized
to include administrators who wanted to focus
on internationalization. As they sought to expand
our study abroad program, they claimed that international
learning was somehow related to cultural diversity
in the U.S. The conversations shifted to study
abroad programs as a means of giving students
intercultural awareness. The new committee insisted
that this change in focus was a good thing. But
Although the new committee members argued that
international learning and domestic pluralism
are interconnected, the goals of this new intercultural
task force subsumed, even usurped, our original
focus on American identities and plurality. I
believed our original goal was doomed. How could
the often painful discourse about domestic inequity,
related as it is to contentious issues of power
and privilege, compete with this exotic international
focus? Where in our intercultural discussion,
for example, would students who are gay, lesbian,
bisexual, or transgendered fit in? They had been
officially, albeit subconsciously, erased from
As I pondered these questions, I grew angry and
disheartened. I felt betrayed yet again by a system
that did not really try to include my students
and myself and had found yet another way to avoid
the difficult issues. I was all too familiar with
the psychological defenses of avoidance, rationalization,
resistance, and denial that “protect”
us from the challenging task of facing and dismantling
racism, sexism, and homophobia. I was not interested
in responding, yet again, to these tactics. I
dug my heels in, put on my own blinders, and resolved
to disentangle myself from the committee and all
efforts at internationalization.
But even though I had given up on my colleagues,
they continued to engage me. At their urging,
I agreed to attend AAC&U’s summer faculty
institute for Global Learning as part of the Arcadia
Shared Futures team. The pre-institute reading
materials arrived. I read and reread, thought
and reconsidered. Finally, I recognized that a
path toward the outcomes I originally sought had
been laid before me. Deeply engaged by the work
of Paul Farmer in Pathologies of Power, I began
to see the threads that connected structural violence
and human suffering on both a local and global
level. I no longer felt doomed—I was exhilarated.
I now realize that the work of globalizing knowledge
is not unlike the best work of multiculturalism
and social justice. Global diversity and U.S.
multiculturalism are closely intertwined by the
threads of power and privilege. Across the globe,
social realities operate within the contexts of
inequity, of “birthright” poverty,
and of racism. As I recognized the pervasiveness
of these contexts, I saw that power and privilege
operate interdependently in the lives of the disenfranchised
across the globe. My work is now informed by the
recognition that the local is the global, and
that power works inside and across borders.
Curricular Change for Shared Futures
By the fall of 2006, Arcadia’s new president,
Jerry Greiner, and many others on campus had come to
believe that it was time to revise the general education
requirements, then more than fifteen years old. At approximately
the same time, Arcadia University joined AAC&U’s
Shared Futures project as one of sixteen institutions
committed to infusing global learning into their general
education requirements. The synergy that developed between
our participation in Shared Futures and our on-campus
discussions with the General Education Task Force pushed
us toward the reforms we sought.
Although our general education curriculum attempted
to ensure that students were exposed to international
content via study abroad or international coursework,
we felt the need to revisit this model. It became clear
to us that critical exploration of global interconnections,
interdependence, and inequality across nations (including
the U.S.) should be central to the global learning curriculum.
Thus we defined “global connections” as
an intellectual practice—an ability to take a
global perspective—rather than as an area of inquiry
in a particular field of study. Our new curriculum requires
students to take courses that emphasize these global
The new curriculum also requires students to engage
in a global connections experience—an encounter
with a cultural context different from the one in which
they grew up. Because we see global learning and U.S.
pluralism as tightly interwoven, we do not require this
global connections experience to take place abroad.
We are eagerly planning several domestic options that
allow students to cross racial, economic, and cultural
lines without leaving the U.S. During and shortly after
this global connections experience, students will reflect
on their experiences online, both through electronic
portfolios subject to faculty response and in live video
forums. This exercise will push them to think about
how their perspectives on the U.S. and the world are
changing, and to identify examples of interconnection,
interdependence, and inequality both at home and abroad.
As we emphasize domestic global connections and the
importance of understanding inequality both locally
and globally, we hope to engage students in more activities
that promote civic engagement through service learning.
To this end, we plan to develop faculty-led domestic
and international initiatives that address the role
of student civic engagement in both global and local
contexts. By increasing the focus on service learning,
we will help students apply their strengthened knowledge
of global connections as they act as global (and local)
Moving from Theory to Practice
As we begin implementing our new program, we face the
exciting and daunting prospect of making our ideas a
reality for our students. We continue to look to student
feedback as a component of that process. Our past experiences
with smaller groups of students have shown us that through
guided reflection and intentional course work, students
can bridge the divide between global learning and multicultural
understanding, exploring the inequities that underlie
global systems (Montgomery 2007).
By viewing the world through the lenses of interconnection,
interdependency, and inequity, our students will begin
to understand their role in the creation of a better
and more equitable world.
Montgomery, I. 2007. Beyond tourism: Race, space, and
national identity in London. Diversity Digest
10 (2): 21–22.
Peters-Davis, N., J. Shultz, and A. Wagner. 2005. Connecting
the global and the local: The experience of Arcadia
University. Diversity Digest 8 (3): 6, 23.
Shultz, N. 2006. Divide and conquer? Teaching/Learning
Shultz, N., J. Shultz, and A. M. García. 2007.
Social order, structural violence, and social justice:
Dealing with student resistance in classes on diversity.
Presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological
Association, August 14, New York City, New York.