Ursinus College equips students not only to make a living, but also to make lives of purpose in a rapidly changing world. Opportunities to develop global awareness reinforce the learning that individual success is intertwined with the welfare of others. There are issues that extend beyond our country’s borders, and the world needs effective global citizens.
Ursinus students recently returned from participating in the National Model United Nations in New York. For more than a decade, they have been guided by a bona fide diplomat on our faculty, the Honorable Joseph Melrose, recently acting ambassador to the UN for Management and Reform and a member of the Ursinus Class of 1966. This year, students from the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, came to Ursinus and joined our group for the trip. Several years ago our students were joined on campus by students from Hilla University in Iraq before traveling to the Model UN program.
Our students have studied the art of diplomacy in a course, “International Organizations and Diplomacy,” taught by Prof. Melrose, who is the President Emeritus of the National Collegiate Conference Association/Model UN. Several weeks ago, assigned to represent the country of France, they dealt with such issues as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, food security, transportation, and immunizations from the perspective of that country. Only Ursinus and Pace University in New York are listed in the program as having participated in the Model UN for more than 50 years.
The art of negotiation they practice in such a setting is an application of the skills of critical thinking and judgment that are at the heart of the Ursinus experience. These esteemed capacities were embodied in this week’s campus speaker, the Honorable Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and Southern Asian Affairs under President Ronald Reagan. Ambassador Murphy spoke on “The Arab Spring: Russia and Syria.”
Our commitments to global awareness and civic engagement are among the reasons Ursinus was selected as one of only 14 colleges and universities in the country to offer a Peace Corps Preparatory program, consisting of courses and a community service component to equip students for international development work and potential Peace Corps service. A signing ceremony Friday afternoon with a U.S. Peace Corps representative will make this official. The program will build upon the Model UN and the renowned Bonner Leaders program by offering students additional exposure to international issues outside the existing International Relations major. It is my hope that the Peace Corps Prep Program will enrich campus-wide conversations regarding international affairs and inspire more students to explore international service.
Our emphasis on global experience is among the reasons Ursinus was recently welcomed into the United Nations Academic Impact, which places us among an international community of schools with a commitment to human rights, global citizenship, and peace and conflict resolution. According to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “The Academic Impact aims to generate a global movement of minds to promote a new culture of intellectual social responsibility. It is animated by a commitment to certain bedrock principles. Among them: freedom of inquiry, opinion and speech; educational opportunity for all; global citizenship; sustainability; and dialogue.”
Because students need opportunity to explore other cultures, our core curriculum includes a Global Study requirement whereby everyone takes a course that examines a culture whose development and origins lie outside those of Western Europe and the United States or offer a global or non-Western perspective. One option in the Independent Learning Experience required of all students is study abroad. This spring, our Center for Science and the Common Good co-sponsored a conference with the Institute for Science and Global Policy that explored “Emerging and Persistent Infectious Diseases: Focus on Pandemic Preparedness.” The conference gave our students an opportunity to interact with policy makers and renowned scientists.
The College commitment to global awareness is reflected in the honorary degree Ursinus is bestowing upon Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Our 2014 commencement speaker, she serves as Chair of the interagency network UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict. She has more than 20 years of policy, diplomatic and practical experience in the fields of governance, conflict resolution and reconciliation in Africa.
As we prepare students for life in the 21st century, just having a passing knowledge of other cultures is not enough. As Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his message to students in the Model UN program, “Technology has globalized communications. Now we have to globalize compassion and citizenship.” A connected world challenges colleges to develop globally engaged students. At Ursinus we are meeting that challenge.