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The Meaning of Global/Globalizing Knowledge

Thaddeus B. Herman – Rapporteur

On Wednesday, September 26, over 30 individuals came together to participate in a discussion on global knowledge and its production. This event was hosted by the Center for Global Studies and was the first in a series of events exploring different aspects of globalization and knowledge. The discussion was led by a panel of four prominent Illinois scholars including Nicholas Burbules – Gutgsell Professor of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership; Andrew Orta – Professor of Anthropology; Assata Zerai – Professor of Sociology and Associate Chancellor for Diversity; and Steve Witt – Director of the Center for Global Studies and the Head of the International and Area Studies Library.

Witt opened up the discussion with a speech on access to academic knowledge and how it is being generated. He showed data that supported his claim that many “global” collections of knowledge really only include a very small portion of the globe and are not representative of truly global knowledge bases. Knowledge production – or at least the knowledge generated that has impact in academic organizations – largely takes place in a few countries, the majority of which are located in regions commonly referred to as the “west”.

 

Figure 1: Source: US Congressional Research Service. (2018, June 27). Global Research and Development Expenditures: Fact Sheet. Note the definition of “rest of the world”.

Burbules spoke second with a presentation titled “An epistemic crisis”, focusing on many issues around journal publishing. He indicated it is simply not possible to read every new article published in one’s field of study. In fact, more than 80% of all published papers are never cited and those that are cited are often not actually read. He also spoke of the influence of impact factors – the frequency with which articles in a journal have been cited in a particular year – and how this can lead to discrimination against local journals – which may be more relevant to a local population. Research institutions also pressure academics to publish in journals considered to have high impact factors. Of course, this system can be gamed and Burbules included examples of editors of journals who encourage those who submit to cite authors from their own journal in order to increase their impact factor.

Another issue highlighted was the lack of incentive to publish studies which reproduce and reinforce previous studies. Replicability is a cornerstone of the scientific method since a study performed under the same conditions should produce the same results. In fact, when meta-studies have attempted to reproduce results in many areas, a surprising number of results cannot be reproduced – even after increasing sample sizes. So we must ask ourselves the question, how much work of low quality is slipping through and being published?

Andrew Orta spoke on the globalized nature of Catholicism and Capitalism and how they have both been buffeted by local cultural forces. He briefly explored the concept that Catholicism responded to local practices of worship, and adapted to appear more palatable to a local audience. Interesting parallels were drawn between this process, and the process of incorporating global cultural trends into MBA programs around the world. The educational context of the MBA has changed from a “flat” model which saw a fairly standard set of curriculum taught throughout the world to models which are based on various cultural practices found throughout the regions in which the MBA program is established.

The final speaker of the day was Assata Zerai whose talk centered on access and digital inequality. Zerai pointed out that there are excluded voices from multiple fields of study and African research – particularly African research undertaken by women – is not included in western databases that collect research and provide access through search mechanisms. Scholarship that is readily available about Africa is largely generated by western scholars who are often disconnected from actual African perspectives. She argued that there is a direct correlation between the success of people-centered governance structures and women’s access to information and communication technologies (ICT). By not incorporating scholarship undertaken by women on the African continent, we are hindering the promotion of intellectual diversity.

Zerai is undertaking a project to build a database of the works of female African scholars to help make this body of research available to a wider audience and disrupt the conventional division of labor in the social sciences in which African scholars provide the empirical evidence while the heavy lifting of theorizing is left to their western counterparts. The hope is that this effort will amplify the voices of women scholars in African countries.

Following the presentations there was a rich dialogue between members of the audience and the panel members which ended with a dilemma. Can we create systems of knowledge to highlight voices that have been traditionally excluded from processes of knowledge generation and distribution? The speakers acknowledged that there is hope that a way may be found and we can move forward.

 

For more background information and reading please visit the library guide found at https://guides.library.illinois.edu/cgsbrownbag92618 .

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Globalizing Campuses at Community Colleges and MSIs: Illinois Opens Up the Conversation in a New Program

by Zsuzsánna Magdó with Donna C. Tonini

Reposted from the OCCRL blog post published on September 27, 2016

Community colleges and minority serving institutions (MSIs) are crucial partners in the comprehensive internationalization of K-16 education. These institutions provide instruction for nearly half of undergraduates in the country, with community colleges enrolling over 44 percent of college-going African Americans and 56 percent of Hispanic students (Ma & Baum, 2016, p.5), with MSIs enrolling more than 58 percent of minority students (Li, 2007, p. vi). Yet, as the recently released Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks for Higher and Tertiary Education remind, comprehensive internationalization necessitates the adoption of sustainable models, the improvement of institutional performance, and campus-wide dedication to the holistic development of globally competent students.

This July the Center for Global Studies at the University of Illinois opened doors for faculty and international education leaders from ten community colleges and two four-year minority-serving institutions (MSIs) from New Jersey to California. The Fellows who participated in the inaugural Global and Area Studies Summer Research Lab met colleagues, mined resources, and explored initiatives on the Champaign-Urbana campus. Their goal? To create sustainable pathways to global learning for their students through new courses and programs. As community colleges and MSIs have been impacted by the global economy and increasing flows of information technology and culture, they have adapted their institutional behavior and campus culture, often more by necessity than by choice (Levin, 2002). In addition, the gradual shift in the U.S. population from a white majority to a minority majority has been echoed across college campuses, where the percentage of college students who are minority has been increasing (Snyder & Dillow, 2015, p. 378), alongside a surge in enrollment from international students (IIE, 2015). These enrollment trends have remade college campuses into more culturally plural institutions, heightening the importance of expanding cultural literacy, worldviews and global knowledge for students and faculty alike. The Global and Area Studies Summer Research Lab Fellows, acknowledging the increasing engagement with other cultures and the growing impact of global forces, recognized the importance of embedding global content in courses, curricula and programs to assist in the internationalization efforts of their campuses. According to one Fellow, “watching new films and gathering potential readings for a new class amounted to a mini-graduate course.” As another related, “what I found really beneficial was meeting different faculty from a variety of disciplines, discussing my topic, and exploring connections.”

The Summer Lab is a joint initiative between the International and Area Studies Library, the Center for Global Studies, and University of Illinois area studies centers. Designated “Title VI National Resource Centers (NRCs)” by the U.S. Department of Education, these centers have the mission to enhance teacher training and instruction in less commonly taught languages as well as in interdisciplinary area and global studies for the benefit of underrepresented and underserved students. This mission serves community colleges, as the last round of Title VI NRC funding increased opportunities for collaborative programming with two-year institutions. Prior to the Global Area Studies Summer Research Lab, Title VI funds from University of Illinois NRCs supported post-secondary outreach to community colleges and minority-serving institutions in partnership with the Midwest Institute for International and Intercultural Education, a consortium of two-year colleges. The Center for Global Studies also joined other University of Illinois NRCs in providing curriculum and professional development opportunities for faculty and cultural immersion activities for students at Parkland College in Champaign. The Global and Area Studies Summer Research Lab expands upon such existing programs. It opens up opportunities for new synergies in postsecondary outreach by welcoming instructors, librarians, and international higher education leaders from across the country to explore resources at the University of Illinois.

The task of globalizing campuses involves intricate processes that are packed with challenges at every step. With this in mind, we ask our readers, how can initiatives like the Global and Area Studies Summer Research Lab create integrated programs for comprehensive internationalization? Moreover, what resources are needed to more effectively foster diversity and inclusion at community colleges and MSIs?

To share your thoughts, comment here or send your feedback to occrl@illinois.edu.

  • Institute of International Education (IIE). (2015). International student enrollment trends, 1948/49-2014/15. In Open Doors report on international educational exchange. Retrieved from http://www.iie.org/opendoors
  • Levin, J. S. (2002). Globalizing the community college: Strategies for change in the twenty-first century. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Li, X. (2007). Characteristics of minority-serving institutions and minority undergraduates enrolled in these institutions (NCES 2008-156). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008156.pdf
  • Ma, J., & Baum, S. (2016). Trends in community colleges: Enrollment, prices, student debt, and completion. College Board Research Brief. Retrieved from http://trends.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/trends-in-community-colleges-research-brief.pdf.
  • Snyder, T.D., & Dillow, S.A. (2015). Digest of education statistics 2013 (NCES 2015-011). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2015/2015011.pdf

The Center for Global Studies would like to thank Dr. Heather L. Fox, Assistant Director of Operations, Communications, and Research at OCCRL and Dr. Vance S. Martin, Instructional Designer at Parkland College, for their participation and support of the Global and Area Studies Summer Research Lab.

Dr. Zsuzsánna Magdó  developed the GAS-SRL while serving as Program Assistant at the Center for Global Studies. She can be reached at zmagdo2@illinois.edu.

Dr. Donna C. Tonini is the Assistant Director at the Center for Global Studies. She can be reached at toninil1@illinois.edu.

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