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Building a globally focused university

By Loren J. Anderson
Among the very most important initiatives at Pacific Lutheran University is our commitment to global education. We call it “building a globally focused university.” It isn’t a new thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. In fact, it’s been going on for some 30 years.

In the early years our global education programs were created and developed relatively autonomously around campus. Over time they have come together to form one of the cornerstones of the university’s mission and future. That mission is driven by a large and growing number of globally informed and engaged faculty who have built a curriculum that includes a new international honors core, a global studies major, a Chinese studies major, and a Scandinavian major. Last spring, by action of our Board of Regents, a master’s degree in conflict resolution was created that includes participation in our award-winning study abroad program.

Everyone has heard about PLU’s remarkable study away program. I am proud that Pacific Lutheran University last year was the first ever American college or university to be simultaneously on all seven continents, and we’re going to do it again in 2008.

Global studies at PLU also means that our campus has become a home for international students and scholars from around the globe, as well as a hub for the discussion of global issues. It is a remarkable accomplishment.

Our passion for this global education effort grows from our Lutheran heritage and educational tradition. It’s a tradition that teaches us to reach out to embrace the world to care, to serve and to do so, in the words of Acts 1:8, “to the very ends of the earth.”

In recent months this passion has been focused by a story, many have heard me tell before. I used it to open the year 06-07 in my convocation address. It’s the story about the visit by the astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking, to the University of Hong Kong. After his lecture, Hawking was asked what were the three most important questions to which he would like to know the answer?

Hawking said, “First, how was the world created? Second, what happens inside black holes in space? Third, how are human beings going to survive on this earth for the next 100 years?”

How can human beings survive on this earth for the next 100 years?

It’s a question that, at first, catches your breath. It’s a question that you would then like to dismiss. But I submit that, given the state of our global village, it is a question to be confronted; a question both powerful and real. It’s very real as long as our penchant for war exceeds our passion for peace. As long as our hunger for oil blinds us to its impact on our air, as long as one half of our human family lives on less than $2 a day, and as long as onlyone out of each 100 young persons in our world has a chance for higher education.

Yes, the challenges facing our global community are daunting. That is why this university has committed itself to seek to educate a new generation of global leaders who have the vision and the capacity and the will to build, in the words of our global education vision statement, a more “just, healthy, sustainable and peace-filled world.” You see, we’re a small, little place with a great big idea and we’re bold about it, because we go forth in the faith that God has not abandoned his creation.
Yes, we go forth in hope, because of the wonderful, young people who are part of our campus community – young men and women who bring to us the capacities of heart and mind, that, when honed by their PLU educational experience, can help to frame a positive answer to Hawking’s daunting question.

I believe that human beings can survive the next 100 years, but only if we educate a new generation of people to lead us. My generation, I fear, is not getting the job done.

That’s the vision we have at Pacific Lutheran University. That’s the passion that drives us. We thank you for sharing in that vision. We believe it is a noble calling. We believe that it’s an effort worthy of our most generous stewardship. And so we say “thank you” for being a part of it, for sharing it with us.

Photo top: President Loren Anderson says PLU is committed to creating global leaders who have the capacity to build a peace-filled world.