Georgia Tech Symposium Offers Vision of Atlanta as Global Higher Education Hub

Atlanta Global Studies Symposium

Posted May 2, 2019

By Michael Pearson

More than three hundred representatives of non-profits, community organizations, K-12 educators, and university faculty members from around Atlanta and the nation gathered on the Georgia Institute of Technology campus in April for the inaugural Atlanta Global Studies Symposium.

The April 25–27 symposium focused on global education, advanced language learning, international studies, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The symposium and other initiatives of the Atlanta Global Studies Center—a partnership of Georgia Tech and Georgia State University—have helped to highlight the city’s growing role as a global hub for higher education, said President G.P. “Bud” Peterson.

“Our city is building a rich ecosystem and infrastructure of research, development, and education that is bringing the world to the Southeast and Georgia to the world,” Peterson told the symposium. “Leveraging this richness in partnership with the public and private sector is one of the most exciting prospects of this new center—and this symposium. It has the potential to connect people to issues that are critically significant to longer-term sustainable development.”

The AGSC is a National Resource Center and a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship program funded by a $2.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The interdisciplinary center works to enhance access to advanced language learning and deepen knowledge of global and intercultural issues for the benefit of Atlanta region students, faculty and the public.

Higher Education, Sustainability Key Focal Points

The center’s inaugural symposium included a keynote address by Pardis Mahdavi, acting dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, and five parallel tracks: Transforming Education and Society through University-Community Partnerships; Teaching and Learning in Global Studies; Global Connections: Inequality and Interchange; Translating Sustainability in the Middle East and North Africa; and Challenges in Development: A Global-Local Perspective. The symposium also featured a K-12 professional development workshop that addressed the UN’s Sustainability Goals as they relate to the teaching of world cultures, social studies, and foreign languages.

Anna Westerstahl Stenport, co-director of the AGSC and chair and professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Modern Languages, noted that the Atlanta region has one of the highest concentrations of institutions of higher learning in the country, along with 70 foreign consular and foreign trade offices, 15 Fortune 500-level headquarters, a vibrant research and development community, and numerous international non-profits. Such diversity of international presence makes the city an ideal hub for innovation in higher education focused on languages, global competence, and sustainable development, she said.

“Most everyone expressed that the symposium provided a rare and much-needed opportunity for people to come together to share expertise in international education and sustainable development, identify societal benefits of language and global competence, engage with community and corporate partners, develop best practices, and design ways in which to collaborate in the future,” she said.

Jennifer Hirsch, director of the Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain and one of the leaders of the Greater Atlanta Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCE Greater Atlanta), hailed the symposium as a key development.

“The symposium provided RCE Greater Atlanta an opportunity to learn from and create new relationships with our colleagues from RCEs around the world and to expose more people in the Atlanta region to our network's work,” Hirsch said.

'A Welcome and Important Addition'

Government leaders also welcomed the arrival of the center, and the launch of the symposium—which will be an annual event.

“The launch of the inaugural Annual Atlanta Global Studies symposium is a welcome and important addition to the international academic landscape of the metro region and beyond,” said Patrick Wallace, program specialist for world languages and global work initiatives at the Georgia Department of Education.

Vanessa Ibarra, director of Mayor's Office of International Affairs for the city of Atlanta, told the symposium that the AGSC and efforts to increase advanced language learning and intercultural skills are “an essential part of the Atlanta international puzzle.”

“At the Office of International Affairs, we know the importance of advanced language learning and the benefits from growing our citizens’ multicultural competencies,” Ibarra said.

Stenport: Educating Good Global Citizens in Georgia Tech's DNA

Stenport highlighted Georgia Tech’s contributions as a top-notch STEM-focused research university with a thriving humanities program in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, including the launch of two new globally focused master’s degrees, one in global media and cultures and the other in applied languages and intercultural studies. Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy is also launching the state’s only master-level program exclusively devoted to sustainability. Georgia Tech also boasts a robust graduate program with a global focus in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs.

“Part of Georgia Tech’s strategic plan is to enhance our global footprint and educate good global citizens,” Stenport said. “That makes Georgia Tech an excellent partner within the larger coalition to help achieve these goals we share.”

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Atlanta Global Studies Symposium
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Michael Pearson