December 12, 2007: President's Page

An American University with a Global Vision

In the field in Kenya

In the field in Kenya: Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, in collaboration with the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Program in African Studies, and Kenyan institutions, offers juniors an unforgettable semester-long immersion in tropical biology. (Daniel Rubenstein)

In 1996, on Princeton’s 250th anniversary, President Harold Shapiro broadened the scope of our informal motto to include not only service to this nation but also service to all nations. Since that time, our University community has devoted considerable thought and energy to giving substance to these words in the belief that we can only remain an outstanding American university, to say nothing of a worldclass institution, if we imbue our educational mission with a truly global perspective.

At the risk of stating the obvious, this is because our world is growing smaller by the day, thanks to the Internet and other technologies that have altered our relationship with time and space in ways that would startle even Albert Einstein. Moreover, as the scientific and technical prowess of countries such as China and India grows, together with their economic power, decisions taken, products made, and ideas developed abroad will increasingly affect us. We can no longer assume that the finest students and faculty in the world will automatically gravitate to American institutions. Whether the measure is patents issued or papers published, the United States is losing intellectual “market share” to other countries, which means that we must establish two-way bridges of understanding and co-operation, bringing the world to Princeton and Princeton to the world.

None of us—and certainly not American colleges and universities—can afford to view the world through a purely domestic lens; Princeton has an obligation to create learning and teaching opportunities that will help us to understand how other polities and cultures tick and how we, in turn, are seen by them. To realize this objective, Provost Christopher Eisgruber ’83 and I established a special faculty committee last year to advise us how to strengthen Princeton’s international dimension without compromising our powerful sense of place. Headed by Jeremy Adelman, chair of the Department of History, and Anne- Marie Slaughter ’80, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, the committee formulated a set of guiding principles and a number of practical recommendations designed to “fully realize our aspiration to be an American university with a broad international vision.” In October, the provost and I endorsed this blueprint in a report to the University community entitled “Princeton in the World” (available at

The committee argued, and we agree, that the internationalization of Princeton should be broadly conceived, “nimble and flexible,” faculty- and student-driven, and strongly supported both administratively and financially. In other words, we should avoid the temptation to concentrate our international activities in specific geographical areas or in specific disciplines. We should develop fluid international partnerships and networks—the unobstructed inflow and outflow of people and ideas—“bottom-up,” so that they are anchored in the scholarly priorities of our faculty. And, finally, we need to develop an administrative structure that will give our international activities the centrality and impetus they need to flourish, as well as a solid financial footing, in part through the creation of “Global Initiatives Funds”—one of the goals of our newly launched campaign.

Within this framework, the committee made a number of concrete proposals, including the creation of a new cadre of visiting faculty, to be known as “Global Scholars,” who would come to Princeton on a recurring basis to teach and pursue their research, forming strong connections between our campus and foreign centers of excellence. The committee also stressed the importance of facilitating international travel and research on the part of graduate students, both our own and those from other countries. To oversee our international initiatives, the committee called for the creation of a faculty Council on International Teaching and Research, as well as the appointment of a senior administrator to ensure that these initiatives are carried out with maximum effectiveness. Another key recommendation calls for establishing in Frick Hall (once the Department of Chemistry moves out!) a physical “hub” for international activities such as the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies and an expanded Office of International Programs for students who wish to study or work abroad.

The critical role that the latter programs play in undergraduate life was not directly addressed by the committee. This is because the provost and I had already asked Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel and Associate Dean of the College Nancy Kanach to recommend how Princeton could significantly expand its current opportunities for undergraduate study and research abroad, as well as our support for international internships and employment. They argued that “global competence—defined as a combination of substantive knowledge about international matters, an empathy with and appreciation of other cultures, foreign language proficiency, and a practical ability to function in other cultures—should be a part of every Princeton undergraduate’s education.” We agree and recognize that we must create a much wider range of options for students to study abroad during term time, as well as in the summer, and to find summer employment, including meaningful public service internships. Most importantly, we must lower the institutional barriers that have stood between Princetonians and the opportunity to incorporate an international experience into their education.

I have every confidence that in the coming years Princeton’s faculty and students will make the world their oyster and that they will do so in a way that preserves the unique qualities of this great American university.end of article



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