How Can Colleges Be Good Global Citizens?

At a forum in New Zealand, students and faculty share ideas about community engagement.

What does it mean to be a good global citizen? What should colleges and universities do to support and develop global citizenship in education and research, both on and off campus? And what role should academic institutions play in the face of complex social challenges worldwide? 

Those questions brought students and faculty from seven countries to the 2018 Global Citizenship Forum July 30-Aug. 2 at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. The forum was sponsored by the Matariki Network of Universities, a consortium of leading international institutions of higher learning chaired by President Philip J. Hanlon ’77. Three Dartmouth students—Allyson Block ’19, Zoe Leonard ’19, and Sabyne Pierre ’20—attended the forum with Kenneth Bauer, program manager for the Human Development Initiative and for the War and Peace Studies Program at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding.

In addition to Dartmouth, the Matariki consortium includes Queens University in Canada, Durham University in England, Uppsala University in Sweden, the University of Tübingen in Germany, the University of Western Australia, and the University of Otago in New Zealand. Taking its name from the Māori word for the group of stars known as the Pleiades, Matariki “seeks to build upon the collective strengths of its member institutions to develop international excellence in research and education and to promote social responsibility locally and globally,” according to its website. 

For Leonard, who had been to New Zealand on a Foreign Study Program, the trip to Dunedin was a chance to revisit the country. It was also, she says, an emotional experience. 

“I am a native Hawaiian, and Polynesians around the world, including the Māori, face similar issues, trying to preserve their cultures. My aspiration is to go back to Hawaii and work to improve life in local communities. This conference reinforced, for me, the importance of a phrase we heard often—'Think Global, Act Local.’”  

The conference addressed key themes in higher education: how to make universities more inclusive communities, how to weave global citizenship into research and curricula, and how to promote student engagement in social service beyond campuses. Leonard says she is excited about a proposal to create a Massive Open Online Course about global citizenship. “We know that a MOOC like that will not be launched overnight, maybe not even before we graduate,” she says. “But we can start building the foundation for it now.”

Sometimes, Pierre says, global citizenship begins at home, at colleges like Dartmouth, where the student population has become an increasingly diverse mix of nationalities from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. A member of the student assembly, she says she will propose ways to make campus life easier for students on a tight budget. “For example, between terms, a number of us, including international students, do not leave Hanover. But it’s hard to find affordable food when the dining halls are closed, and local restaurants can be expensive.” 

All three student delegates to the Otago forum agree that Dartmouth already offers many avenues for community service through the Dickey Center, the Center for Social Impact, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, and a wide range of internships. 

“I’m a Jaeger Civic Intern and a volleyball player,” says Leonard, “and I serve as a liaison between Big Green athletes and the Upper Valley. Some of our athletes go twice a week to Thetford Elementary School to play with the kids at recess and have lunch with them. And 300 to 400 Dartmouth athletes participate in the CHaD Hero annual fundraising event to benefit Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.”

Block has found an avenue for social service in East Boston, where she has been a public health intern. “Dartmouth has been an incubator for my own interests in civic engagement,” she says. And Pierre holds a Newman Civic Fellowship, recognizing her work in the Bronx, mentoring high school students, and in San Francisco, with an agency that provides mobile showers to homeless people.

The Matariki Network, Leonard says, adds an important new resource for such outreach and experiential learning while promoting social change on campuses, in surrounding communities, and around the world. “It brings students and faculties together from other places to hold each other accountable for action plans.”

Bauer sees another advantage to the consortium. Each of its members, he says, has its own set of strategies and programs that promote global citizenship, and they can all learn from each other. At Dartmouth, he plans to propose student and perhaps even faculty exchanges among Matariki institutions. “For example,” he says, “a Dartmouth student could go to the University of West Australia to do community service, and students from Otago could come to Dartmouth and study in the Native American studies program.”

Matariki’s Global Citizenship Forum is an annual event, so members will have a chance to meet again next year and compare progress reports. 

Charlotte Albright can be reached at [email protected]