President's Pages in Princeton Alumni Weekly
Princeton as an International University
March 26, 2003
At the retreat of the Board of Trustees in November, I posed the following question to the trustees: Do you conceive of Princeton in the 21st century as an international university or as an American university with a global perspective? The resounding response was that the second description more accurately captures Princeton’s outlook today.
Our global perspective is reflected in a number of important steps we have taken in the past several years to strengthen our international approach to teaching and learning. We have greatly enhanced study abroad options; summer international internships attract increasing numbers of undergraduates; internships for students after graduation, offered, for example, by Princeton-in-Asia and Princeton-in-Africa, continue to grow in popularity. Our new financial aid program has expanded the accessibility of Princeton to international students, who now constitute about 9 percent of our undergraduates and about 40 percent of our graduate students. Our faculty are drawn from the best scholars around the world.
But Princeton has tremendous opportunities to do even more to enable faculty and students to understand, and to shape, the transformations taking place in today’s world. Recognizing the importance of this goal, the trustees included in their fall retreat a discussion of what will be necessary for Princeton to realize more fully its global perspective. This session of the trustee retreat followed the same pattern as those that focused on pedagogy and on science, technology, and engineering. An outside expert, Robert Gallucci, dean of Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, introduced the session, and Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, framed the general discussion within a Princeton-specific context. We were honored also to have as a participant Anthony Lake *74, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Walsh School, whose public service includes his tenure as security adviser to the Clinton administration and who is a recipient of Princeton’s Madison Medal.
There was quick and unanimous agreement among the trustees that in today’s world a global perspective is more than desirable; it is required. One reason for this, as Dean Slaughter commented on this page earlier this year, is that international and domestic issues, both in practice and in scholarship, are increasingly connected. The trustees expressed their belief that all of our students should leave the University with an appreciation of the culture, history, language, and perspective of people from other countries. As one trustee phrased it in a manner that was easily accessible to me, global awareness should be “built into the DNA” of the University.
How do we ensure that all of our students have international exposure? Trustees suggested a variety of ways to reach this goal. For example, we can incorporate more courses with international content into the curriculum, continue to enhance study abroad both during the term and in the summer, and bring international visiting faculty and fellows to campus. We should also take better advantage of the large number of international graduate students at Princeton by increasing their opportunities for exchanges with undergraduates.
We know from alumni, from international undergraduates, and from interviews conducted with institutional leaders as part of the presidential search process that Princeton’s enormous strengths are not as well recognized abroad as we believe they could or should be. Tapping our extensive alumni network abroad can help increase awareness of Princeton outside of the United States. Making better use of the Internet, according to our international undergraduates, would also serve us well.
There was discussion about how best to organize research and teaching in the broad area of international affairs. This past year a faculty task force, led by Professor of History Sheldon Garon, has been considering a new model for organizing interdisciplinary teaching and research in international affairs at the University. As has been the pattern at other institutions, in the past Princeton has segregated faculty who study specific regions of the world (for example, Latin America, the Near East, or Russia) from those who take more theoretical or global approaches to international relations. Following a review of the task force’s work by an external advisory committee, we are now considering uniting these two powerful approaches into a single multi-disciplinary entity that would combine the traditional strengths we have enjoyed within the Center for International Studies in the Woodrow Wilson School and the Council on Regional Studies.
A new entity would sponsor research projects that would attract stellar visiting faculty to the University, highlight important areas for research such as the HIV-AIDS pandemic or changes in global migration patterns, and provide topics for collaborative senior thesis and Ph.D. research. Most importantly the new entity would have as its central mission the creation of courses that enrich the international curriculum. It is an exciting vision for the future.
Let me conclude my summary of the trustees’ fall retreat by returning to the first session and Professor Howard Gardner’s concept of “good work.” “Good work” is engrained in Princeton’s commitment to service, as demonstrated by our informal motto, “in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.” Especially in these uncertain times Princeton can and should demonstrate a truly global perspective in scholarship and teaching.