Institute for Global Studies and Citizenship

By Rebecca DeJarlais

After years of tentative discussions, planning for the Institute for Global Studies and Citizenship is gaining momentum, despite emerging questions about the role of multiculturalism and lack of transparency in the process.The Institute, developed by Political Science Professor Andrew Latham and Dean of International Studies Ahmed Samatar two years ago, will bridge academic and non-academic sectors of Macalester by combining the International Center, Community Service Office and Internship Office.

According to Latham, President Brian Rosenberg will make an announcement soon to launch the Institute and name the personnel hired from an internal search, including one dean and two associate deans, who will guide its development.

The Institute will officially begin operation next semester, with plans in the works for a conference with “very big speakers” to launch the Institute and generate interest in it, Latham said. Conference guests will include international, national and local speakers, to reflect the Institute’s multifaceted perspective.

“Mac has played a leadership role in defining international education and education for citizenship, and as the world has been changing, more and more colleges have realized they must incorporate an international and citizenship element,” Rosenberg said, adding that Kofi Annan pledged his support in early discussions about the Institute.

The Institute will eventually include a building to house the different offices, its advocates say. Fundraising for the physical structure will come from the upcoming capital campaign.

Latham called the eventual financial requirements of the Institute a “win-win” concept for everyone, because money used to support the Institute will be separate from the college’s operating budget. Funding that would have traditionally gone to the separate offices of the Institute will be freed up for other resources.

He also expects significant donations to come from supportive alumni and community members.

“It’s an exciting concept that’s going to shake some money out of some trees,” Latham said.

A committee formed last spring and met weekly to discuss the college’s vision for the Institute. The group, which included Stephanie Raill ’06 and Molly Bowen ’07 as student representatives, convened again in August to prepare a proposal that incorporated input from the newly-hired Provost Diane Michelfelder and Dean for the Study of Race and Ethnicity Jane Rhodes.

The committee submitted its recommendations to Rosenberg on Oct. 1. Committee members cautioned that the ideas are subject to change.

“The idea was not to ‘pre-cook’ it, but people were constantly asking what was going to happen,” Latham, who chaired the committee, said. The proposal, in addition to suggesting personnel shifts, contains four to six specific ideas, including a certificate program for students to gain experience in all areas of the Institute.

Rosenberg has declined to speak extensively about the specific details of the proposal, citing the need to talk with personnel whose positions may be changing as a result of the Institute. He also needed to wait until he had presented the proposal to the Board of Trustees, who Latham said have reacted very positively to the idea from the beginning.

“I’ve been having a lot of one-on-one conversations,” Rosenberg said. “You don’t want people to find out their job title has been changed from a story in The Mac Weekly.”

Bowen said that although she understands the need to notify staff and faculty, Rosenberg’s response has contributed to the deteriorating communication process since the committee’s weekly meetings ended last year.

“We had made a lot of really good steps last year, and this year it’s really hard to know what’s going on,” she said. “It’s kind of confusing because we spent so much time making sure students and alumni and other stakeholders were engaged in the process, and that hasn’t happened yet.”

Some students and professors have also raised questions about inadequate representation from community partners, faculty and students in the planning process.

Raill said that because there were no community members or alumni on the initial committee, she and Bowen often acted as de facto representatives for all of those groups.

History and American Studies professor Peter Rachleff said he was frustrated by the lack of accessibility in the planning process.

“It has not been an open process, and people with experience in civic and urban engagement have not been consulted,” he said. “In my case, it says that 23 years of working with community and professional organizations is apparently not valued when the time comes for the college to shape its relationship with the wider community.”

According to Latham, community partners were consciously omitted from the plan’s development.

“We value the input of community partners – this institution would flop without them,” he said. “But until we sort out the internal structure, it’s not appropriate to bring them in.”

Latham met twice last semester with students to collect their input, each time drawing 50 to 60 people. The problem, he said, comes when students who are well-informed about issues graduate and leave the planning process.

Criticism has also stemmed from the lack of discussion about multiculturalism’s role in the Institute.

Raill called the planning circumstances “bizarre” because the discussion happened without two people who are now heavily involved, Rhodes and Michelfelder, who had not yet started work at Macalester.

“It wasn’t an intentional administrative decision to leave out multiculturalism,” she said. “But that limited what we could do to institutionalize multiculturalism, and that was frustrating.”

Rhodes said the result is a blurry place for multiculturalism in the college’s plans, with an emphasis on an internationalist, not multiculturalist, orientation and few direct mechanisms for multiculturalism to play an active role.

“It’s unclear what role Multicultural ife is going to have, and if that was clarified, that would help,” Rhodes said. “It has a lot of potential and could be an exciting addition to Macalester. I’m waiting to see how we’re going to do it.”

Michelfelder said the Macalester community will have a greater understanding of multiculturalism’s place in the Institute once the proposal is released for campus-wide access.

“It is impossible not to think about multiculturalism in thinking about global citizenship, just as it is impossible not to think about internationalism and civic engagement,” Michelfelder said, adding that Rhodes’ position on the Institute’s advisory board will help ensure that multiculturalism finds a place among the top priorities.

For now, students won’t notice immediate changes in the ways in which they search for community service placements or study abroad information. But although Global Studies initiatives are being considered and implemented by many liberal arts colleges, Assistant Dean and Director of the Community Service Office Karin Trail-Johnson said that Macalester’s plan is unique because it allows the college to have conversations about global citizenship in St. Paul that are difficult to accomplish in a rural area.

“There’s a lot to be worked out, but this is a new way of looking beyond immediate local concerns,” Trail-Johnson said. “It’s a new lens that takes into account of how the local interfaces with the national and international.”

Most importantly, Raill emphasized that the Institute’s plans are far from complete.

“From here on out, groups with the clearest goals of their vision within the parameters we set, with good possibilities of funding, have the best shot,” Raill said. “People who still have issues with the Institute shouldn’t despair, because it’s not done. We’ve figured out what it should be for, but what we’ll do is so negotiable.