NKU should go global

At the second Visions, Values and Voices meeting Nov. 16, Northern Kentucky University President James Votruba joined with the Student Government Association to support giving students a global perspective by “internationalizing” campus.

An admirable goal, especially considering that in 2002, as President George W. Bush was rattling his scimitars against Saddam Hussein, National Geographic reported that only one in seven American 18 to 24 year olds could even locate Iraq.

It hasn’t improved much since then. National Geographic reported in May of this year that now only one in every three U.S. youths can find Iraq on a map. An astounding 90 percent of Generation Y doesn’t know where Afghanistan, the nation that harbored Osama Bin Laden, lies on a globe. New York’s whereabouts elude half of America’s twenty-somethings. Among young adults. 10 percent thought that the Alps were in Antarctica!

NKU students, and Americans in general, need a global perspective. The United States does more international business than any other country, so its citizens should know about the world beyond their city limits. If only one-third of Americans know where Saudi Arabia is, how can they know what impact the Saudis, controlling 24 percent of the world’s oil reserves, have on America?

NKU students need to meet foreign people, especially foreign students, whom they can relate to.

Students not only need to see what other people believe, but also understand those beliefs.

Thus, Votruba and SGA’s efforts to internationalize NKU by supporting an increase of international study abroad programs and financial aid for these programs is certainly commendable.

But another idea mentioned at the VVV3 isn’t. At the meeting, Votruba discussed another option: studying abroad by staying within the United States.


Votruba is considering “internationalizing” the campus by allowing students to study abroad domestically?

Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.

Students should study abroad, but it should be that: studying abroad.

A trip to Russia’s St. Petersburg differs quite a bit from a trip to Florida’s St. Petersburg. Traveling to another country introduces pupils to a novel, yet historical, culture with its own unique visions, values and voices, opening students’ eyes to a new perspective. It introduces them to people who don’t bleed red, white and blue; who aren’t accustomed to laissez-faire free-market capitalism and two-car garages; who follow national and international politics and who speak two, or even three, languages.

But a visit to Florida, California or New York does none of that. Students would still be in a country whose CEOs, according to CNN, earn 431 times more than American workers while, the Seattle Times noted in 2004, their Old World counterparts average only 30-40 times more than the European laborers. They would still be in a country where, BBCNews reports, 22 percent of Americans can name all five Simpsons while only one in every 1,000 U.S. citizens can name the five freedoms of the First Amendment. They would still be in a country where, National Geographic notes, three-fifths of the population only speaks English.

Votruba said NKU needs to create “students with global perspectives.”

That’s not going to happen by sending Norse students to San Diego. The closest they’ll come to a global perspective is a set of cute panda bear photos from the city’s renowned zoo. That’s not to say America doesn’t have something to offer NKU students, but comparing Miami to Milan is like comparing Red Rome Apples and Florida Oranges.

Instead, students should stop by the Study Abroad office and give the available programs a glance. Not all of the options will appeal to everyone; but a chance to leave Ohio’s winter for Argentina’s summer sounds rather inviting with Jack Frost coming to town.

For the anglophiles out there, Study Abroad offers programs linking NKU and the good U.K. (the one without the Wildcats).

And serving as a Norse academic ambassador to a college in Norway seems ironic, and yet, intriguing.

A cornucopia of programs and scholarships exist to help Norse students study outside NKU. But NKU should encourage students to visit other countries, not counties.

The only way Votruba will get the internationalized campus he wants is if he encourages students to get out and see the world. Only after students have met other peoples face-to-face, only when they have laughed with foreign friends, lived with a foreign family and learned in a foreign land, will students have the global understanding that Votruba wants and that students, as well as all Americans, desperately need.