By SAMANTHA GRISWOLD
managing editor, news
Gannon University has been focusing efforts on becoming a more globally savvy school, apparent in the renovation of Beyer Hall — which now houses revamped offices for global student services — and in the seminars offered covering issues from immigration to refugees.
An open forum was held Wednesday for students, staff and faculty to give input on the draft of the new global plan that is currently being developed.
Faculty and staff members from many departments — including the Center for Social Concerns, Campus Mission and Ministry, Global Admissions and Outreach, Global Student Support and English Language and Global Training — came together to hear what the president’s staff had developed so far in terms of a rejuvenated plan.
Tom Hassett, associate vice president for Global Admissions and Outreach, led the forum and explained why the university is focusing efforts on an improved global plan.
“Global students have traditionally been objects,” Hassett said. “But they can be more than that — they can be a part of the university, an asset if we integrate them.”
Hassett said that Gannon is traditionally a regional school, getting most of its students from surrounding areas in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York.
But he also said that domestic enrollment has been declining because the student-age population has been declining, so Gannon has been looking toward global students to stabilize enrollment.
“Global students can not only compensate for enrollment, but they can change our culture and be something unique,” he said.
He also stressed that this change requires community commitment.
“We need to include [global students] in the family we say we are,” Hassett said. “If you hear any message today, it should be that we can’t do it alone.”
Gannon President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., echoed that sentiment and said, “Staff and employee devotion, to me, is huge.”
Hassett also stressed that the document that was presented is a fluid document and is subject to change.
“We’ve been doing a lot of global things for a number of years, but now we want to do them more consciously and more deliberately,” he said.
Barbara Zarnick, assistant director of Global Support and Student Engagement, presented the first goal, promoting learning by engagement, which aims to integrate global and domestic students and expand on all students’ global skills.
Zarnick said that the university plans to accomplish this goal in three areas – global and domestic student integration, global student support and engagement and global student employment.
Zarnick said that possible ways of integrating global and domestic students include celebratory events for national holidays and festivals, integrated and ongoing retreats and facilitated discussions and activities.
Global student support and engagement will focus on efforts to help global students adjust to American culture. Some ideas of doing this include holding workshops and seminars for both students and staff, specific orientations aimed toward global students and creating links for students on and off campus.
Global student employment will help international students find jobs and internships during their time at Gannon.
Zarnick said that they would like to help students and faculty understand the requirements for curricular practical training (CPT) – which is employment that is directly related to a course of study – and optional practical training (OPT) – which is temporary employment during or after their time at the university.
Anjali Sahay, an associate professor in the political science program, voiced her concerns for international faculty.
“I’d like to see international faculty included in this plan as well because we have quite a number of them,” she said.
Sahay’s concern was met with a murmur of agreement from attendees and written down for consideration.
The second goal, advancing organizational health, will focus efforts to grow global enrollment.
The university would like to focus efforts on specific areas that include Asia, the Americas and the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East.
The university would also like to focus on academic programs and products such as articulation and twinning programs to create a pipeline of students.
The last area under organizational health will focus on global short-term training with things like summer programs for students, training for adult learners, test preparation for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and a pathway program, which would be an access point for degree programs for non-English speakers.
Mariana Syrotiak, director for English Language and Global Training, presented the third goal, creating public impact, which aims to make Gannon a global community that will impact on three levels.
The first level will be to impact the Gannon community.
First, Syrotiak said that the university would like to conduct an assessment to figure out the global and cultural competencies of the faculty, staff and students.
Syrotiak also said Gannon would like to look at the campus itself and see if the signage and symbols are inclusive. She also said that creating a community of understanding and sharing faith traditions is on the university’s radar.
Creating an impact in the greater community will focus on service learning, Gannon’s outreach to global communities in Erie, Gannon’s connection to off-campus constituents such as landlords and employers, and possibly a homestay program where global students would stay with local Erie families who would help them adapt to life in America.
Finally, to create an impact in the worldwide global community, Gannon relies on student participation in Alternative Break Service Trips (ABSTs), the Transforming Residents Abroad Via Engaged Learning program (TRAVEL), exchange programs and faculty-led programs.
After the plan was presented to the attendees of the forum, Hassett said that they need to finalize a global plan committee that would consist of representatives from each department on campus who would meet two or three times per semester.
He also said that the next steps in the process are to review the suggestions that were made during the forum, integrate them into the plan, submit the plan to the president’s staff and then share that plan with the board of trustees during the May meeting.
Bill Edmondson, vice president for enrollment, said that the administration wants to make Gannon a destination school for domestic students that value global diversity.
He also said that the global plan affects all of us.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a domestic or an international student,” he said. “We are all global.”