Published in President's Corner
A renewed focus on international engagement fuels exciting work by TC faculty around the world
With the spring semester now in full swing, we have a great deal of exciting activity surrounding our international projects and efforts to enable other nations to build capacity in education, health and psychology.
TC has a longstanding tradition of international engagement, beginning with the founding of international and comparative education in 1898 and our historic role to help modernize China’s education system in the early 20th century. Over our 125 year history, TC has built strong partnerships and programs that have transformed education around the world.
Today we’re building on our global leadership in education to expand professional development, technical assistance and applied research partnerships into fields across health, psychology and leadership as well as continuing to advance our work in education. Many institutions work internationally. But the TC difference lies in our intense focus on capacity-building and helping nations and communities develop and retain their own expertise.
An important new vehicle to support the work of John Allegrante, Associate Vice-President for International Affairs, is the newly formed Faculty Steering Committee on international affairs, led by Lesley Bartlett, a scholar of anthropology and education in the Department of International and Transcultural Studies. Professor Bartlett’s work on language and literacy, teacher education, and migration and education has focused on Latin America, the Caribbean and East Africa. The committee will include faculty from across departments who will represent a diversity of professional and regional expertise.
The new steering committee will help TC better involve faculty in building upon ongoing international projects, identify new areas for collaborations and boost support for faculty in international work. For example, we want to expand TC’s opportunities for collaboration with the Columbia Global Centers. With eight centers on four continents, the network is Columbia University’s flagship international venture, and TC can become much more involved. TC has continuing projects under way with the Centers in Amman and Mumbai, and we’re planning new projects in Beijing, Istanbul, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago. Our goal is to have active partnerships with each of the eight centers and to expand development, training, and research opportunities for TC faculty, staff, and students.
Our work in Brazil is a prime example of how TC can make a difference to a nation undergoing significant change. As Brazil’s growth and integration into global markets have accelerated, making it the world’s seventh-largest country by GDP and fifth-largest by population, its education sector is adapting as well – and bringing expanded opportunities for international collaboration.
A constellation of TC faculty members across multiple fields have long-standing involvements in Brazil and research partnerships or policy projects under way with Brazilian institutions. But growing public and philanthropic interest in international education in Brazil and accelerated internationalization of U.S. universities are combining to open doors to larger, more systematic, and farther-ranging initiatives that will benefit students and scholars in both countries. For example, Brian Perkins, Director of the Urban Education Leadership Program, has been helping the municipal government of Rio de Janeiro to assess the education environment and build leadership capacity in the schools. A leadership development academy for principals that resulted from his work is about to graduate its first annual class.
Meanwhile, the Sao Paulo-based Lemann Foundation – a major player in the effort to improve education in Brazil, has made a major commitment to Columbia, including funding for Brazilian master’s degree students at Columbia’s graduate schools. The first Lemann-funded student at TC, Tonia Casarin, enrolled this year, and several more are expected next year and beyond.
TC’s size and diversity are tremendous assets as we move forward on the international front. Consider the impressive breadth of the work our faculty members engage in around the world.
Under the direction of Tom Corcoran, the TC arm of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) has active projects in nine countries, with new projects launched in Chile, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Evaluations of work by TC faculty in Thailand, Mexico and Jordan have shown positive effects on teaching and learning.
Cate Crowley and her Speech-Language Pathology students have recently returned from their annual visit to Ghana where they work with people with communication disabilities as well as special education teachers. Professor Crowley and her team also are creating video tutorials on how to increase participation of people with communication disabilities in their homes, schools, and communities. They are now dubbing the videos into local languages of East and West Africa with the help of TC students and staff from African backgrounds – a wonderful way to involve our own TC global community here on campus.
Gita Steiner-Khamsi, Professor of Comparative and International Education, has been conducting UNICEF-funded studies on teacher salary reform in 10 countries. Some of the studies, especially in in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova, have had a huge policy impact. In Kyrygzstan, teacher salaries were tripled as result of the study, among other advances.
Lena Verdeli, Associate Professor of Psychology and Education, and Madhabi Chatterji, Associate Professor of Measurement- Evaluation & Education, are working with the International Medical Corp on a project to evaluate mental health case management models for the half-million refugees in Jordan who have fled the conflict in Syria. This is a humanitarian crisis worsening daily with large numbers of Syrians crossing the border.
Xiaodong Lin, Associate Professor of Technology & Education, continues TC’s education leadership in China as Director of the Advisory Board of Research for the country’s new National Research Center for Ethnic Minority and Multicultural Education. The Center will be hosted at Beijing Normal University in collaboration with the Chinese Ministry of Education and will work to further education for China’s minority populations on a variety of fronts.
Given all this great work taking place – and much more to come – this is a tremendously exciting time for international engagement at TC. We’re poised to build on more opportunities ahead to advance the education and well-being of people and communities wherever TC can make a positive difference.