By Judy Nichols Mitchell
Dean, WSU College of Education
When our college launched the International Globalization, Diversity and Education conference four years ago, we hoped for a good turnout of Washington educators who were interested in the work of our researchers. Our hopes were realized, and the annual conference has grown each year. That is not surprising, given the quality of the presentations and importance of the subject matter. But what has surprised me is the number of participants who come not only from outside Washington, but also outside of the United States.
In 2007, the 250 conference attendees included visitors from 27 states and 13 other countries. So scholars from Denmark, Nepal and Liberia were hearing, or delivering, presentations on such topics as “Social Movements, Diaspora, and Education” and “Indigenous Education in the Northwest and Beyond.”
Planning for the 2008 conference caused me to reflect on the various ways that the Washington State University College of Education takes its mission way beyond the Northwest. There is no better example than our unusual and dynamic partnership with Japan’s Nishinomiya School District, which started 17 years ago. Every year, we recommend a Washington educator to teach English in Nishinomiya, and we host a Japanese teacher for 10 weeks of intensive English studies at WSU. In alternating years, delegations from the college and from Nishinomiya exchange visits.
This fall, after spending a week with WSU colleagues in Japan, I headed for Thailand’s Khon Kaen University, where for eight years WSU has sent faculty to teach doctoral-level short courses, in a program spearheaded by Professor Forrest Parkay. In turn, KKU sends 15-18 doctoral students to Pullman each year for a research symposium and mentoring. In the past, we have also sponsored summer programs for administrators from KKU and other Thai universities.
Given Washington’s location on the Pacific Rim, it makes sense that our Asian connections are strong. We don’t limit ourselves to one region, though. For more than ten years, we have placed students in international schools in Japan, Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan; but also in U.S. Department of Defense schools in England, Germany, Italy and Hungary. Those student teaching experiences include a visit overseas from a WSU supervisor, as well as regular online contact.
In summer of 2008, we will offer our first study abroad course in Nigeria for college students and teachers. It will focus on social foundations and multicultural education. We’re investigating other study abroad opportunities in Mexico and India.
Among other ways we are involved internationally:
- College of Education faculty members are involved in planning WSU’s distance-learning courses, many of which are available to students nationally and internationally.
- The college is re-activating its International School Leadership program, which provides opportunities for educators in Southeast Asia to earn administrative certificates and advanced degrees.
- Every year, we bring three or four international faculty members to Pullman for visiting professorships.
- We recruit international students in key doctoral programs such as cultural studies and educational leadership.
In short, the college recognized global opportunities before “globalization” was a catchword. It’s important for the future of our students that we continue to expand our international reach.