Dr. Richard Slimbach is chair of the Department of Global Studies & Sociology at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif.
At the dawn of a new millennium, three major challenges face the world of higher education: the globalization of goods, people and ideas; the growing importance of knowledge; and the information and communication revolution. The "virtual university" has now arrived, fueled by the exploding demand for human intellectual capital (the acknowledged coin of the realm in an increasingly integrated economic system), the lure of profit in e-learning and the dizzying speed of innovation in information technology. In many ways this epitomizes the new systems of relationship and exchange that are stretching, intensifying and speeding up connections between individuals and institutions across the globe. What will all this mean for the Christian university or seminary of the future? Should these developments be viewed as terrible threats or terrific opportunities in relation to preparing a new generation of Christ-followers to understand and critically encounter a world whose economic, social and political life is increasingly enmeshed but uncertain?
The fashionable term to describe what is happening is globalization - the social and economic reorganization of global society in which transnational corporations enabled by new technologies, trade agreements and massed capital are able to pursue the maximization of profit in a borderless world. For its boosters, globalization holds out the promise that the freer flow of trade and investment will expand economic freedom, invigorate growth, spur competition and ultimately extend the productivity, prosperity, and social stability enjoyed by the West to the rest. But critics of globalization continue to marshal evidence of its disruptive social, cultural, environmental, and spiritual effects. They point to the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the forced migrations, the burgeoning slums of world cities, the political impotence of local citizens in relation to imperial corporations, the relentless homogenization of cultures, the spread of a culture of violence and consumption and widespread environmental degradation.
Most will agree that rapid social, political, economic and technological changes are radically reshaping our world. The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) has recognized that a substantial effort must be made to help its member institutions address the fundamentally new global conditions and circumstances facing Christian higher education and its mission in the world. "Internationalization" or "globalization" is simply shorthand for these changes. In this briefing, we will use the phrase "global Christian education" to refer to comprehensive efforts by Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries to enhance the capacity of students and staff to function competently in an increasingly urban, multicultural, and interconnected environment, and to make personal and public policy decisions that reflect the character and commitments of the kingdom of God.
What makes our situation especially urgent is the rapid pace and complexity of the developments that are fundamentally transforming this global context. These developments include the end of the Cold War; the dissolution of old states; the porousness of borders; the unprecedented mobility of people, information and capital; European economic unification; regional trade agreements; and the rise of new identities and new expressions of nationalism. Beyond these social, political and economic developments are a host of global-scale problems that threaten human survival across national boundaries: the inexcusable gap between the world's poor and rich (the richest fifth of humanity consumes 86% of all goods and services, while the poorest fifth consumes just 1.3%); intractable conflicts in the Balkans, Palestine, East Timor and Iraq; the pandemic spread of AIDS; nuclear proliferation; the devastation of earthquakes and flooding; widespread human rights violations; international crime (drug trafficking, prostitution); and unchecked ecological deterioration. If this were not challenge enough, we in the United States (and particularly in our urban centers) are experiencing a demographic transformation fueled by high rates of immigration, intermarriage and childbirth. All of these changes and challenges are not separate entities and know no traditional boundaries; they interrelate in ways that impact the lives of everyone of us. Together they have forced a radical questioning of conventional ways of viewing the world and of how we train a new generation of Christian workers. At the same time, shrinking institutional resources have led to cuts in programs that fall outside mainstream academic disciplines.
In a previous era, issues like those listed above were addressed through relatively isolated departments and programs labeled "international," "intercultural," "ethnic," "urban" or "study abroad." Today, the fact of globalization means that we can no longer treat these perspectives and competencies as either separate or exotic. Each of these perspectives, together, must pervade the total campus environment. The goal of a truly global Christian education must be to inculcate in all students the understandings, character qualities, and skills needed to make a redemptive difference in today's world. We must produce students who are intellectually flexible, culturally adaptive, technologically competent, emotionally expressive and spiritually aware. Students who possess a broad cultural identity, a preference for diversity over sameness, and egalitarian attitudes about power and status. They will have the capacity to resist xenophobic reactions, and to view and evaluate the moral adequacy of ideas and behaviors from multiple perspectives. They will be able to think "outside the box" and to imagine original responses to local problems. These competencies will include the ability to communicate in one or more foreign languages, and to learn how to learn throughout one's life. Of course, producing graduates of this kind requires pedagogical approaches that combine classroom-based conceptual learning with community-based, experiential learning. Additionally, student learning must incorporate interdisciplinary perspectives, applied to crosscutting transnational problems. Global work environments will demand that graduates demonstrate competencies not confined to single disciplines.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Distinctly Christian institutions should lead their public counterparts in removing institutional barriers that limit the flourishing of global programs and activity. At the same time, the public should expect that Christian schools will sustain a consciousness of the broader public interest, as well as a concern for the ethical hazards involved in many globalization efforts (e.g., the "cash cow" financial exploitation of foreign students, overemphasis on easily marketable programs, and growth-for-profit enterprises with little regard for quality standards). At its best, the Christian college and seminary exists as a community of faith and learning that exhibits the prophetic insight, purity, passion and plurality of Christ's kingdom in their collective life. In so doing they aim to provide, not only an optimal conditioning environment for nurturing a transculturally valid understanding and experience of the Christian faith, but also a durable alternative to both the homogenizing/ universalizing and the fragmenting/relativizing tendencies in globalization.
The Scriptures give us clear indications of the "end of history." It is neither identified with the alleged triumph of corporate capitalism and liberal democracy, nor with a cornucopia of consumer goods, bourgeois values and technical solutions to human problems. Rather, the signs of the future consummation are to be found in the resurrection of Christ, in the outpouring of the Spirit and in the ongoing witness of the Church among all peoples. Our hope is based on a real horizon, a concrete vision - of a new world order, the kingdom of God, where all relationships are restored and energized by the divine presence; where nothing threatens the weakest segments of society (particularly childrenand the elderly); where the basic needs-and more!-required for life are provided for all; where freedom from every kind of servitude and oppression is safeguarded; where the ultimate affections of both the poor and the powerful are changed; and where the beauty and harmony of the material universe-from the tiniest particle to the farthest galaxy-have been restored as an essential display of the greatness and goodness of God. (See Isa 65:17-25; Rom. 8:19-23;II Cor. 5: 16-17; Col 1:19-22; Col. 3: 9-11 with Gal. 3: 27-8; Eph1: 7, 9-10; Eph. 2: 13-17; Rev 5:1-10; Rev. 21: 1-5, 23-27.)
The ultimate goals of a global Christian education are suggested by the biblical vision of the New Jerusalem offered to us in Revelation 21. In this dramatic glimpse into the consummation of all public history, we see the creation of the true city, where "there will no longer be any death, any mourning, or crying, or pain, for the first things have passed away" (v. 4). Over it flies the banner of Christ's resurrection: "Behold, I make all things new!" (v.5). All of creation will be renewed to a state of multicultural and international unity, in which "all the glory and honor of the nations" is made visible, tangible, and audible to all (vv. 24-26). The "new heaven and new earth" becomes not the enemy, but the preserve of the finest insights and achievements of human philosophy, art, communication, science, technology and culture. All that is unclean is excluded, but all that is honorable finds a place as an offering to the King of kings.
These eschatological realities carry immense significance for our campus cultures. In the final analysis, it is our awareness and conviction concerning the relationship between the end of history, the mission of the kingdom, and the return of Christ that should shape the mission, educational goals and strategic priorities of our institutions. Our efforts are fueled by the fact that the kingdom has already come in Jesus, is coming and will one day come in full public manifestation.
GLOBALIZING CHRISTIAN HIGHER EDUCATION
Campus cultures play a crucial role in shaping the kind of student who will contribute to a world restored in their relationships to God, self, others (especially the 'other'), and the earth. Globalizing a campus is a multifaceted process, both top-down and bottom-up, that must touch all aspects of the collective culture. From strategic planning to student affairs, the make-up of the student body and professorate to the residential environments, the academic curriculum to co-curricular activities - our campuses can either assist or impede the global development of students.
The Christian college, university or seminary can be viewed as a social system consisting of the organization's goals and rules, understandings and expectations, relational hierarchies and social practices. It is seen as largely reflective-in composition, political values and cultural practices-of the broader middle- to upper-middle class evangelical community from which administration, faculty, staff, students and finances are drawn. This means that if the constituencies are primarily white, the institutional macroculture will be predominantly normed on a Euro-American cultural system. It also means that efforts to globalize the campus culture cannot be piecemeal or add-on. Although one dimension (e.g., study abroad) may be the focus of initial innovation, the task is to build connections between the many parallel efforts.
The following lists 25 key signs of a globalized campus culture or "wineskin" inspired by the biblical images of the kingdom of God. We might liken the whole to a hanging mobile, with each element (activity) delicately balanced and intimately connected to the others in the system. Together, the activities act to reinvigorate the total school environment in order to provide optimal conditions for nurturing global competence.
Signs of a Global University or Seminary
1. The institutional culture is open to innovation and responsive to change, and the highest levels of administration are committed to the globalization of the campus culture in light of the kingdom of God.2. The institution's mission statement incorporates a clear mandate to prepare graduates for the new global realities.3. The Strategic Plan outlines a plan, approved by the president and the board, to infuse global perspectives and experiences throughout the institution, and to acquire the necessary resources to do so.4. Community relations and outreach enable students to partner with members of adjacent communities in research and service-learning activities aimed at enhancing the local quality of life.5. The campus spiritual life seeks to reflect the liturgical styles, theological perspectives, and mission priorities of a diverse student body while connecting personal piety with social and ecological responsibility.6. Student recruitment and retention efforts bring about a diverse student body through campus-community partnerships, strategic marketing, supplemental funding, and student mentoring.7. Staff recruitment and retention efforts bring about a diverse staff, faculty, and administration in order to contribute a plurality of perspectives on disciplinary and administrative topics and issues.8. The attitudes, values and behaviors of faculty, staff, and administration reflect an understanding and sincere valuing of those experiences, perspectives, and cultural styles that have historically suffered devaluation and marginalization.9. Foreign students and visiting scholars participate actively and positively with students and employees, and contribute to the intellectual strength and global proficiency of the campus and local community.10. Residence halls foster co-habitation and positive cultural exchange among and between diverse groups (foreign students, Euro-American students, and students of color).11. The campus aesthetic and culinary environment reflects the music, art, architecture, foods, and dance of the constituent groups and surrounding community.12. Student life supports a variety of culture-specific clubs aimed at the active sharing of experiences and perspectives in both academic and non-academic (local school, business) contexts.13. Co-curricular activities connect students of diverse backgrounds in problem-based study and compassionate service within local, national, and global communities.14. Campus media (radio, student newspaper, chapel program) seeks to attract international and minority group participation in promoting campus-wide awareness and discussion of global events.15. The institution supports staff and faculty development opportunities (e.g., via 3-5day "reality tours", teaching/research exchanges with foreign universities) to acquire global perspectives.16. The scope and depth of foreign language programs are increased to enable all students to acquire intermediate proficiency in at least one modern foreign language.17. The general education program provides students opportunities to acquire the concepts, values, and skills by which they can understand the significance and impact of global issues and events, and requires that all graduates complete a global study/service term and demonstrate competence in at least one foreign language.18. The academic curricula are restructured to present diverse (intercultural/international/ comparative) perspectives and theological interpretations on the most critical global issues and problems (like public health and nutrition, sociopolitical change, migrations and refugees, international trade and balance of payment, energy and environment, urban sustainability, biotechnology, and ethnic-religious fundamentalisms).19. Special colloquia, workshops, and conferences support faculty andstudent research, presentation, and publication on those global issues that are transforming the nature, form, and prospects of God's world.20. A variety of off-campus study and service (internship) programs, both domestic and international, enable diverse student populations to explore critical global issues and to formulate biblical responses to them.21. A central office of global education serves as the focal point for coordinating and facilitating international and intercultural activities on and off campus.22. Opportunities for multicultural and international professional education - e.g., in business, education, social work, theology-enable students to apply profession knowledge to real cultural issues and topics.23. Pedagogical practices encourage teamwork, participatory experience (e.g., service-learning), problem-based investigation, social responsibility, and artistic expression.24. Local, national and transnational partnerships and alliances with community organizations, universities, governments, and businesses enable disciplinary collaboration based on mutual respect and reciprocity.25. The career planning and placement office assists students indiscerning their life vocation as "that place where their deepest joy and the world's greatest need meet" (Frederick Buechner).
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
How does the challenge of global higher education relate to God's vision of the kingdom? What does it mean to institutionally "follow Christ" in this new context?
What programs and activities presently facilitate authentic globalization on our campuses?
What factors inhibit the authentic globalization of our campuses (e.g., lack of adequate funding, pressure to serve immediate local needs, innate social conservatism/monoculturalism, relative disinterest among staff and students, increased specialization of academic work)?
What more would we want to do on our campuses to prepare this generation of Christ-followers to critically encounter this new world order?
What kind of educational processes can best facilitate (a) the direct encounter by Christian college students with the dynamics and effects of global change, and (b) the critical interpretationof and response to those effects in light of the kingdom of God?
How might the organizational resources of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) best support joint initiatives to help Christian institutions with limited resources widen opportunities for students, faculty, and administration to live, learn, and teach between the local and the global?
Click here to download "Implementing Global Christian Education," Dr. Donald Douglas's response to Slimbach's paper.