International Flags

Distinctively Dickinson

Dickinson students utilize the timeless rigors of liberal learning to confront the most critical challenges of our globalized age. Foreign language study, regional and area studies, and the interdisciplinary investigation of the causes and consequences of globalization: these three elements comprise the core of our approach to Global Study at the College.  Far from being fragmented or oppositional, these elements--like most things in our era--are interconnected and accreting.

Critical examination of any pressing global challenge reveals the rationale for our approach.  Take global public health for example. The outbreak of infectious disease spreads quickly from country to country and continent to continent in this time of accelerated contacts across cultures.  Serious study of global public health concerns demands rigorous medical, scientific, and quantitative analysis. But public health does not exist in a cultural vacuum. Health practices in a country, region, or society are informed by cultural beliefs and understanding. And language stands as the sine qua non of cultural understanding, a shibboleth for group acceptance.  A global study program that fails to focus in a coordinated way on all three of these essential elements--foreign language, area studies, and inter-disciplinarity--misses the complexity inherent in the key challenges of the 21st century.    

Dickinson's "Problem Based Learning" collaboration with Akita International University in Japan is one of many initiatives that epitomizes the College's approach to Global Study and Engagement, and demonstrates that at Dickinson "Liberal Arts in Action" is more than motto. Utilizing a mixed-method research design, small student-faculty teams investigate community quality of life concerns in Yuri-Honjo, Akita Prefecture, Japan and in Carlisle, PA.  Working together, Akita and Dickinson students, in close cooperation with community-based partners, conduct quantitative and qualitative field research in rural communities, with the comparative, global-local dimension featuring prominently. In keeping with Dickinson's interdisciplinary approach to Global Study, Dickinson faculty overseeing the project span a diverse set of academic disciplines: Dr. David Sarcone (International Business & Management), Dr. John Henson (Biology), Dr. Shawn Bender (East Asian Studies), Dr. Shalom Staub (Anthropology). The project connects directly to the Dickinson curriculum, reinforcing our Health Studies certificate program. And its ultimate work-product is publishable-quality community research assessments that will be useful to the community partners in their own efforts to obtain governmental and foundation funding to address identified community health problems, and, ultimately, improve in tangible ways the quality of life of community members in Carlisle and Akita.

Essential Knowledge and Skills for 21st-Century Success

The Global Study program at Dickinson is both knowledge- and skills-based.  It compels students to acquire meaningful facility with foreign language while developing a deep historical knowledge of a country, region, or global theme (e.g., human migration, sustainable energy, public health, etc.).  At the same time, the program inculcates analytical skills and habits of mind critical to 21st-Century success, such as:

  • Ability to relate global factors to local developments (and vice versa);
  • Familiarity with comparative modes of analyses;
  • Facility with finding, interpreting, and verifying global data sources;
  • Appreciation for how the acceleration and intensification of contacts across cultures generate patterns of mutual change, accommodation, and resistance, and the ability to recognize how current patterns gain perspective when viewed as part of a process over time;          
  • Understanding of the evolution of cross-cutting forces that are global in nature (e.g., technological transformation, the movement of peoples, the interactions of cultures, the growth of the human population and our ecological footprint) and the particular histories of these forces; and     
  • Aptitude for "connecting the dots" by drawing on knowledge and methods from multiple fields.

Defining Characteristics of Global Study at Dickinson

Pervasive: The Dickinson campus radiates a diversity of ideas, worldviews, and approaches.  Students and scholars from vastly different backgrounds and experiences come together to create a global community on campus. Nearly ten percent of degree-seeking students are international, hailing from more than three dozen countries across six continents.  Special-interest housing focused on foreign languages and engagement with global issues combines with a rich array of globally-focused clubs and student organizations to unite the Dickinson curriculum with the co-curriculum in an immersive global experience.

Integrated: At many colleges, global study is additive rather than integrative.  Not so at Dickinson.  Global Study and Engagement has been a cornerstone of the Dickinson experience since the College's founding.  A focus on global issues pervades the curriculum, cutting across all academic divisions and departments. Over forty percent of all enrollments at the College are in international dimensions of the curriculum.  All majors in humanities and social sciences require internationally-focused courses. Dickinson offers interdisciplinary majors in East Asian, Italian, Latin American, and Russian area studies, environmental studies, international studies, and international business & management.  These interdisciplinary programs, by their very nature, connect directly to global concerns and to research and study opportunities at the College's network of global centers.  On average, twenty-six percent of students graduate with majors in international fields.

Dickinson preeminence in the study of foreign language is well established. The College ranks among the nation's top three institutions for foreign language majors, with thirteen percent of each graduating class majoring in one of the thirteen foreign languages offered. Students also frequently combine study of a foreign language with another academic discipline, often from another global dimension of the curriculum, to form a serious double-major that makes active use of language skills.

The Carlisle campus serves as the hub of the College's worldwide network of study and research centers. More than forty percent of faculty have personally led one of the College's renowned study abroad programs. All majors have pathways to study abroad and are linked closely with academically relevant study-abroad opportunities. Nearly sixty percent of Dickinson students study abroad during their academic careers--and nearly twenty-five percent of Dickinson students who study abroad do so for an entire academic year or longer.    

Continuous: Many colleges conceive of global study as a box to be checked en route to a degree.  At Dickinson, Global Study and Engagement represents a course of life--an indispensable and inseverable aspect of a useful liberal arts education, an education aimed at preparing students for lives of meaning and accomplishment in our increasingly complex, interconnected, and ever-evolving world.  Global Study at Dickinson begins the moment a student sets foot on campus:  A first-year seminar focusing on challenges to the stability of the Mexican state or the increasing geopolitical importance of Brazil leads to a major in International Business or Latin American Studies, perhaps with a special focus in Security Studies; leavened with courses and lectures by visiting faculty and scholars and enhanced by direct study in Latin America at one of the College's Global Centers, work done abroad serves as a springboard for the senior thesis or capstone project, and it propels one toward a Fulbright proposal, graduate study, or a career path in the diplomatic core or international business.  The global careers of Dickinson alumni testify to the profound influence Global Study has had on their life trajectories.

Active: Dickinson faculty are actively engaged in research on global issues and directly involved in leading our network of global centers. As a result, opportunities abound for student-faculty joint research on issues of critical global importance. Dr. Tom Arnold (Biology), for example, recently pioneered Dickinson's inaugural Global Scholars Program at our Brisbane Center, leading an interdisciplinary team of student-researchers in their investigation of the effects of ocean acidification. Students were not only engaged in the field research and data collection, but they continue to work under Professor Arnold's direction back on campus in Carlisle, preparing their findings for publication.