A Closer Look: Breaking down boundaries?

By Matthew Stone

Editor’s note: This article is one in a series of community-oriented columns written by Mac Weekly editors.The talk was all about breaking down boundaries on Wednesday as a group of panelists mused over the virtues and meanings of global citizenship during a meeting intended to introduce the Student Council of the Institute for Global Citizenship.

Timothy Den Herder-Thomas ’09 recounted his experiences from this past summer when he attended the Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Program in New York, where he made the connections needed to get him started working on developing biodiesel in Mexico and a recycling program in China.

Program attendees were initially skeptical of each other, Den Herder-Thomas said, but the walls between them eventually toppled.

“We went from ‘are all these other people elitists?’ to ‘how do we actually build a community?'” he said at the event in the chapel basement.

Miriam Larson ’08 called for conversations about global citizenship to span beyond the walls of the academe.

“How do we break down those boundaries that say you have to have an education to be part of the conversation?” Larson asked.

Kabir Sethi ’09, in talking about the project he undertook as a Chuck Green fellow, agreed that global citizenship naturally entails some practical aspect.

“It isn’t just academic. It isn’t just practical either,” Sethi said. “It transcends borders.”

Breaking down boundaries is just what President Brian Rosenberg wants to do.

“I think that we’ve compartmentalized.things too much,” he said in an interview last week.

Different divisions, offices, and interests are competing against each other, Rosenberg said, when they shouldn’t be.

He’s putting the Institute for Global Citizenship at the crux of his efforts to bring people on campus who have never collaborated before to work together.

“It’s the work of a decade,” Rosenberg said.

During the Institute’s planning process, such divisions became most evident, as Joi Lewis, former Dean of Multicultural Life, and others said that Institute planners were not doing enough to incorporate multiculturalism into the initiative’s mission and programming. The concerns have largely subsided as some of those raising them have either resigned or graduated.

“I think time is your best friend,” Rosenberg said of healing some divisions.

The focus from administrators is back on how the Institute for Global Citizenship can bridge divides.

New concentrations, such as an emerging initiative in Human Rights and Humanitarianism, can bring faculty from different departments to work together.

Original programs on campus can bring together unlikely mixes of students, staff, and faculty.

Wednesday’s event seemed to do just that.

So how might Macalester break down long-existent boundaries?

Throw out a concept like global citizenship and an initiative like the Institute, intentionally supply the broadest of definitions and the most general of guidelines, and let different constituencies come together to sort it all out.