Updates - From the Office of the NYIT President
Aug 13 2011
Globalism and Higher Education: Modeling the 21st Century

President Guiliano addressed presidents and representatives from more than 160 universities at the World University Presidents Forum in Shenzhen, China.

World University Presidents Forum

Good Afternoon. It is an honor to be among so many distinguished officials and universities. Thank you to The Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, The Shenzhen Municipal Government, and the Guangdong Provincial Government.

The 21st-century is becoming the age of education without borders, something apparent in the broad range of provinces and countries here at this forum. It is one of the changes spawned by our global digital revolution. In our global economy ideas know no borders; human capital is no longer seen as the domain of a few developed nations.

At the university level, we are gearing up to teach 100 million students worldwide, in a world where only one in six humans live in a developed nation. We are inventing new paradigms and erasing old notions of geography.

Let’s take five major challenges of the 21st century: water, energy, the environment, health care, and education. Taken independently or collectively, the academy—through our traditional roles of teaching, scholarship and service—is particularly well positioned to play a central role in advancing solutions and policies on these vital subjects.

And none of these challenges can be met locally, only glocally, that is by thinking globally and acting locally. Universities worldwide are a supreme resource in teaching students and the public about issues with global resonance. We research the new scientific and technological solutions to these prominent issues, and we model the best practices for students and the global community.

Meeting global challenges means we must educate on a global scale. Defining a global university or global exchanges forces higher education to re-invent itself, to re-imagine its role in a greater society. Education is the currency that crosses borders and oceans…and brings solutions to civilization’s most complex challenges. My university, New York Institute of Technology, is deeply committed to playing a role in modeling new organizational structures, relationships, and programs in higher education for the 21st century.

We are one university with two campuses in New York, one in the heart of Manhattan and the other in a suburb about forty kilometers away. We also have programs and sites globally and virtually. We are best known for our academic programs in architecture, engineering, business, medicine, and communications-computer graphics among our many programs.

Among our 14,000 students, are students from 106 nations and all 50 states of the US.

We are especially proud of our ties with China, which go back decades. We currently have 1,000 alumni living in China and more than 1,000 students with either Chinese or American origins studying in China. In New York, we are home to 250 students each year from China, including some who come to us in exchange or dual-degree programs. In fact, students from seven universities in today’s audience have students studying with us in New York. In case you are wondering…those schools are Tongji, Tsinghua, Renmin, Shanghai Jiao Tong, Xiamen, Ji’nan Universities and Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. Plus we have close ties inside China with three additional universities, JUFE, NUPT, and CUMT (they, like us, like to go by initials). We often exchange professors and jointly participate in conferences.

It’s good to have New York as our first name and location.

And as we grow our university in the coming decades, one of our goals is to have half of our students studying in New York and the other half studying abroad, whether at our own campuses, in dual-degree or exchange programs, or through shorter experiential learning opportunities.

At NYIT we have been asking ourselves: what will a 21st-century global university be?

In answering what “global” means in higher education, our faculty has had a lively discussion. Some of them mention our projects around the world … our students who went to Cuba to help plan the renovations of historic buildings in Old Havana, for example. Others mentioned a writing class that joined students in New York and Nanjing through distance learning. Some point to our degree-granting sites around the world, or projects right by our campuses in New York.

I think about our Center for Global Health, where our young doctors-in-training have taken three trips to West Africa to help at a rural medical clinic.

So we at NYIT have come up with a broad outline that defines our institution. We are:

  • A 21st-century connected and networked higher education community
  • A university that prepares graduates for highly competitive careers in the global economy
  • A university with a model and enabling initiatives where students, faculty, and research to flow freely and widely
  • A university that turns out globally competent citizens of the world.

And while there are many fine models for embracing globalism at universities, I do see a new category of university emerging, a global university.

I have proposed a new university taxonomy, with classifications that reflect the degree of complexity and global interconnectiveness a university embraces.

The lower tiers on the taxonomy chart include “friendship alliances” between institutions from different parts of the world. We sign agreements, exchange ideas and faculty. Moving up on the chart, we offer dual-degree programs, and have branch campuses that confer degrees.

But at the highest level on the taxonomy chart I propose, is the truly global university that offers one degree and one curriculum at more than one global location. This is a new class of university, and I believe it embodies our aspirations for the 21st -century global era.

At such a university there is an ongoing exchange of students, faculty, and ideas without borders. The outward-looking global university has one set of standards and outcomes worldwide. It is guided by one administration. Virtual or distance-learning classrooms enrich offerings, enabling rich cross-currents of knowledge … and multilateral perspectives foster global understanding, and lead to “globalized” content.

In the U.S. the most prominent examples of these Tier 1 global universities are NYU, Duke, and NYIT. They work to create citizens of the world, human capital tied to the real-world global and digital economy.

At NYIT, our development into a global university links three strategies:

  • We want to teach students to identify problems and devise solutions in real-world situations
  • Give them an interdisciplinary, team-oriented approach to challenges
  • And train them to harness technology to do those things.

Last year, our students had a challenge: to bring an architecturally significant, energy-efficient aircraft restoration hangar to the U.S.S. Intrepid, a retired U.S. warship that serves as a museum.

It was a true interdisciplinary team project that encompassed classroom skills, theory, technology, and budgeting skills.

In my moments remaining, I want to return to the role universities will play in solving some of the world’s major challenges, using sustainability as my example.

Recent famines in Africa and disasters in Japan have reminded us that none of the great challenges of the 21st century can be solved in isolation.

Universities are natural incubators of ideas, collaboration, and ingenuity. As educators, we serve our society and act as natural pioneers. Higher education is just as important as government or business in today's global discourse on sustainability. We cannot work in a vacuum, separating ourselves from business or government – or even from each other.

This year, President Obama spoke about sustainability and targeted a 20% improvement in energy efficiency by 2020. He publically challenged university presidents — that’s us —and students to be at the forefront of these efforts.

“We need you to seek breakthroughs and new technologies that we can’t even imagine yet,” Mr. Obama said.

These themes were echoed by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, writing a few weeks ago he noted that China is committed to “work with other countries with common responsibilities,” including tackling climate change....

Universities are a supreme resource for energy innovation and sustainability practices.

We must show, tell, and engage others; create the newest technologies, and model best practices. Our sustainability initiatives must have global footprints.

Educators should lead by example, looking at everything from how campus buildings are designed and operated to what students are taught in classrooms and how innovation is encouraged in laboratories.

What are some of the other things we as educators are doing or should do to address energy and sustainability?

  • Promote educational opportunities for a campus-wide interdisciplinary laboratory for sustainable environmental practice. That includes approaches to conservation and technology.
  • Investigate and put into practice strategies to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Establish goals for integrating environmental sustainability into all aspects of the university's operations.
  • Expand global reach, and become models of sustainability, through technology and communications, and share our learning with our neighbors and global community.

NYIT has long been committed to sustainability initiatives, from patenting our research to building solar homes and installing solar panels, to measuring and reducing our carbon footprint, to hosting global conferences in such locations as South Korea, the United Nations, New York City, and in 2010, our “Think Green” conference in Nanjing, China.

So, in conclusion, I believe in the 21st century our campuses must be more like “idea centers” where commerce, culture, intellect, and academic training come together from far-flung locations that function as a unified, but heterogeneous, whole.

Regardless of our global university model, we are all here to make a difference…in the lives of our students and in the world around us.

Because we can: Universities are the link in uniting ideas, cultures, nations, economies, and research.

Thank you.