The digital revolution is transforming higher education in general, and global education in particular, in dramatic and sometimes unsettling ways. The variegated landscape of global access to information technology — with data processing becoming ever faster and person-to-person communication practically instantaneous for much of the world’s population, even while billions of people still live in impoverished communities lacking even reliable electricity — makes responding effectively to technological change in higher education even more challenging. How can we take full advantage of the remarkable new frontiers of knowledge available to us through advances in artificial intelligence, GIS, and “Big Data,” while still training students to understand and appreciate multiple perspectives in a world that remains mired in socioeconomic, political, and cultural conflicts and divisions?
Here at William & Mary, we are developing an approach to global education and research that is uniquely suited to helping students navigate today’s complex international environment. W&M combines a liberal arts college’s in-depth exploration of global cultures, intense mentoring of students, and genuinely interdisciplinarity with a research university’s abiding commitment to cutting-edge analysis of central problems of global concern. Most liberal arts colleges are too small to sustain global research partnerships around the world. Most research universities are too big and impersonal to ensure continuous, culturally-sensitive relationships with international students, scholars, alumni, and partner institutions alike. At W&M, in contrast, we believe that global understanding and global analysis are inherently synergistic. We eagerly embrace innovative technologies and approaches for global teaching and research, but we reject “one-size-fits-all” solutions to global problems that fail to take into account the full diversity of cultural, historical, social, and geopolitical factors shaping the human condition.
This issue of World Minded illustrates these commitments in a variety of ways. Our undergraduate students win prestigious national championships by bringing deep regional knowledge and language fluency to bear on high-level foreign policy debates. Our faculty and students delve into topics ranging from the potential role of blockchain technology in improving foreign aid to understanding Sufi mysticism in the Indonesian context. The Reves Center and the Global Research Institute together work to bring research utilizing the most advanced technologies into dialogue with explorations of particular cultures and communities through study abroad, connections with students and scholars from around the world, and inspiring presentations of global film, theater, and dance. The result is a university that truly inspires “world mindedness” — at a time we need this more than ever.