Goals and General Description

Infusing a Global Dimension into Undergraduate STEM Programs
The 2003 PKAL Assemblies
What Works - What Matters - What Lasts: The Roles and Responsibilities of Leaders in Undergraduate STEM

National Academy of Sciences, Irvine
November 14 - 16, 2003

The American Conference of Academic Deans (ACAD)
The Forum on Education Abroad

The most pressing 21st century challenge facing academic leaders is preparing students to be contributing citizens in the world in which they will live and work upon graduation. In no arena is this as urgent as in the fields of science and technology, where there is a special need to equip students with skills and understandings that enable them to contribute to solving problems and to realizing opportunities that have a global dimension. There are several reasons why these are so:

  • worlds open for discovery by contemporary scientific, engineering and technological communities have no geographic boundaries
  • problems facing our world today require attention of scientists and engineers with an understanding of how culture affects and is affected by the work of solving those problems
  • technologies provide new tools for discovering and problem-solving that enable communities of practice to come together from all parts of the globe, and to be more creative and productive.

Infusing a global dimension into the undergraduate learning environment can be realized in many ways, at different levels, serving different populations of students, and by advancing the scholarly career of faculty. Sessions at Irvine will provide opportunity to learn how to shape courses, curricula and programs ranging from:

  • introductory courses in general education programs that introduce students to scientific ways of knowing by examining real world problems that have a global dimension and/or are from a non-western culture
  • study-abroad programs providing first-hand experience in dealing with environmental and other issues that require interdisciplinary and cross-cultural understanding
  • research-abroad opportunities that introduce and socialize students into an international research community
  • exchange programs that provide opportunities for extended interactions between students and scholars from different countries and cultures
  • faculty opportunities to build and join research communities that span the globe.

Another reason for infusing a global dimension into the undergraduate learning experience was suggested by Dr. Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences, writing in the portfolio prepared for the PKAL Delegation to China in March 2003. Dr. Alberts will be the plenary speaker at the PKAL Irvine Assembly.

My interests in this regard are shaped by an awareness that global communities of science face similar challenges and opportunities in preparing the next generations of scientists and engineers and by a conviction that more can be accomplished by working in collaboration than by working in isolation. Further, it is clear that the issues to be addressed by the scientific community– now and into the future– require sensitivity to and an understanding of their global dimension.

That colleagues around the world are pursuing similar aims and objectives in regard to the quality and character of undergraduate learning in science and technology was evident from presentations from Chinese colleagues to the PKAL delegation. For example, thoughts on reshaping Chinese engineering education, from Dr. Tsun KO, University of Science and Technology Beijing; Senior Member, Chinese Academy of Sciences:

The engineering education has to be reconsidered in order to meet the needs of China in the 21st century. It is a challenge to all engineering schools and their faculty to prepare their students for their successful working life of several decades. The world however has changed and is rapidly changing due to scientific, technical, economic and management development. The old economic system and the education designed to meet the assumed need of the old systems has dug its own grave.
- For the full text of Dr. KO’s paper, go to: