After months of interviewing applicants for a personal assistant position, Cincinnati publicist Alice Jordan* found the perfect candidate. One week after she hired him, Jordan was raving about her new employee's performance. "He's multilingual, organized and articulate." And he's based in Pakistan. Distance, as noted by journalist Frances Cairncross, is indeed dead in today's global economy.
A question was raised at the "Innovation and America's Future" Forum on how American college students are being prepared to compete in a global marketplace. While there is no single answer, one thing was evident to panelist Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). "I'm not sure the American public has zeroed in on [globalization]," he said.
If overseas college enrollment is any measure of the importance a country places on the global economy, it seems other nations are more attuned to the international marketplace than we are. Just last week, a report issued by the Institute of International Education found that the number of international students enrolled in American universities rose 5 percent. A total of 723,277 foreign students were enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities in the fall of 2010. By comparison, only 270,000 American students went to study abroad in the same period.
Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) president Robert Templin, a forum panelist, noted that the college "has 78,000 students representing 180 different nationalities. Eighteen world languages are taught. But our students can't afford to go abroad for a year or a semester, so we've created a cross-border learning program." A recent cohort of the semester-long program involved a group of NOVA students who collaborated virtually on a project with counterparts at a Chilean university. The NOVA students traveled to Chile for a week to present their ideas.
Various U.S.-based MBA programs require students to travel to China, Europe or Latin America for an international business intensive, so the idea of cross-border collaboration is not new. However, it bears mentioning that of the 8,615 foreign students enrolled at the University of Southern California - the top college for foreign enrollments in the nation - 70 percent are pursuing graduate degrees in engineering, technology and business.
These are the very areas in which our nation's workforce is most lacking, and the subjects that our students are failing to master in K-12 and higher education. Globalization is not a passing trend but a reality, and our economic future depends on college graduates who possess the skills and knowledge to compete for jobs, at home and abroad.
This concludes our exploration of themes covered in the "Innovation and America's Future" Forum. We'd like to hear your feedback on the analysis and on the forum itself. We also welcome your thoughts and opinions about today's topic. How important is it that United States higher education institutions become more globally focused?
*Name changed for privacy
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