Nov 042007
Authors: Martha Denney

The term “global citizenship” is widely used term to describe someone who can work and live effectively in a rapidly globalizing world, but in practical terms we haven’t really decided what that means.

Citizenship implies that we are recognized as belonging to a specific nation-state.

When we say “global citizenship,” does it then imply that we can move and work effectively all around the world?

Stating “I Am A Global Citizen” won’t get us very far, I’m afraid. We are still required to have a passport (our proof of citizenship) and visa (permission to enter another country) and even then we can encounter problems.

Most of us are bound by outdated notions of the power of nation states and even though many of our realities have become truly global and beyond the reach of any single nation’s control.

Technology, communication, transportation, environmental issues, job migration and labor forces, marketing, music and arts, infectious disease and terrorism are but a few of the things that move without much concern for national boundaries, yet they have become some of the most powerful influences in our contemporary world.

So, if being a global citizen isn’t really a reality, how do we figure out what our graduates need to know?

I don’t want to get bogged down in semantics, but I’ve now begin to think in terms of how we can assist students in becoming globally-minded graduates.

How do we define and create learning opportunities that will provide students with the skills, knowledge and attitudes that will serve you well as the world continues to change? And what exactly are the skills, knowledge and attitudes that we want to teach?

I recently heard about research at a large university in the Midwest that asked students to rank items that they felt were important to become a civically-minded graduate.

One category was global and cultural skills. I was as surprised as the researchers to learn that global and cultural skills were ranked in the bottom third of what students felt they needed to learn at the university.

This was particularly dismaying, because in the same research project they asked professionals in the field (read: your future employers) the same question and they ranked global and cultural skills in the top tier of what they want students to learn at the university. That is an unfortunate disconnect.

The take-home message for me, based on my experience of graduating during the recession of the 70s, is if you want to be prepared for today’s job market and get a good job, you better pay attention to what employers are looking for.

According to the research mentioned earlier, that includes becoming a globally-minded graduate.

In International Education at CSU we continue to work on identifying what it means to become a globally-minded graduate. There will always be more to learn about the world – that’s what makes it so fascinating – but there are some concrete things we can do.

Most important, we must have the intention of becoming a globally-minded person.

I don’t want to sink into “Jay-Walking” or a National Geographic Society Geographic Literacy Survey-induced tirade about what we don’t know, so let me just tell you some of the things I’ve found that have helped me become globally minded.

I read fun and interesting books about history and cultures and I study geography. I keep maps around and I have a globe and a good world atlas at home.

Every time I read about a country that I don’t know well, I look it up. I Google it and read an English-language account of the news item from that country. That is usually very enlightening.

I listen to world music, and I travel vicariously by reading books about other parts of the world. Some of them are really fun.

If you don’t strive to understand a region of the world and learn about cultures and countries you cannot become globally-minded.

Get a world map and place it where you can look up a country each time you read about the country.

When I was memorizing the countries of the world, I put a map in my bathroom at home. I saw it and took a minute to think about it every day.

Learn to pronounce the names of the countries of the world – it is fun and it implies that you’ve heard of it and know how to look it up.

International visitors, unfortunately, are still impressed when an American just knows some small thing about their country. Try to impress them!

I subscribe to (and read) newspapers like The Guardian Weekly or the Christian Science Monitor (this is not a religious newspaper). I watch BBC television news (I get it even without cable) to keep up with what is happening in the rest of my world. I listen to NPR and BBC World news on the radio. They all do a great job of covering news about the world.

There are many wonderful classes available to you at CSU that will give you a new view of the world.

Take geography. Take World Interdependence: Population and Food. International Studies classes that provide an introduction to a region of the world will serve you well your entire life. You can also earn an interdisciplinary area studies credential.

Studying abroad is an awesome way to learn. You can work, intern or participate in a service-learning project abroad. You will learn more about yourself and the U.S. than you expected, but it will also help you learn about how the rest of the world thinks about Americans.

And by the way, Americans can learn languages, and they do! So can you.

There has been a very damaging myth that Americans aren’t good language learners. Perhaps if we had more opportunity to study language at an earlier age we’d find out we are just as capable as Europeans, who study multiple languages from the time they start school.

The first step to becoming a globally-minded citizen is to tune into the fact that this is your world. Embrace it. Learn about it. Experience it. Try to understand it.

I’d love to hear what you think it means to be a globally-minded graduate. Let me know by emailing me at:

Martha Denney is the director of International Education at CSU. Her Column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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