Internationalisation in a conflicted world

Internationalisation in a conflicted world

This entire week on the EAIE blog, we are highlighting the spring issue of Forum magazine on the topic of ‘Internationalisation in a conflicted world’. Conflict comes in many shapes and sizes and perhaps always has. Yet, in our highly interconnected world, conflict increasingly affects us all. How internationalisation professionals cope with conflict in its many forms becomes a key question in our daily practice. Today we open the Spring 2016 Forum series with a blog post from Forum‘s Editor, Laura Rumbley.

Peace is an elusive matter in the world these days. This has likely always been so, but perhaps we’re perennially destined to feel that our own time and place is uniquely positioned – blessed or cursed! – when it comes to the arc of human events.

It happens

Let’s be honest, though, conflict happens and there are a LOT of worrisome things going on in the world. What’s more, as international educators, we’re out there in the thick of things: on a daily basis moving ourselves, our students, and our colleagues across Europe and around the world; engaging with colleagues working under difficult conditions in hot-button regions; and facing a fluid social and political situation in our very own home environments. Conflict abounds, anticipated or not. So, what does this reality mean for each of us in our professional roles?

This issue of the EAIE’s Forum magazine focuses specifically on this matter of ‘internationalisation in a conflicted world’ and aims to get us all thinking – calmly, pragmatically, strategically, sensitively – about the risks and challenges we face in an uncertain world.

From object to agent

No one really wants to dwell on this. But, not doing so represents a failure of responsibility on our part, to ourselves and to those who rely on us, to be informed and as well prepared as possible to face the more complex moments in our working lives. And there is much to appreciate in the thoughtful contributions authors have made to this issue of spring Forum regarding this challenging and timely subject. For example:

• An article by Savo Heleta and Vesna Hart, urges us to consider the importance of cultivating critical thinking skills among our students, in order to help them make sense of the complex underpinnings of all manner of social and political conflicts. Our younger generations need and deserve thoughtful guidance on how to be discerning and how to move beyond knee-jerk, ‘hashtag’ social activism.

• Two articles – one from Israel and one from a Singapore perspective – suggest that what and how we teach cannot be taken for granted, particularly when those teaching and learning processes are taking place across multiple ‘borders’ and ‘boundaries’. Violence and peace as intellectual exercises are fascinating issues explored by Amit Maranz-Gal and Leon Moosavi in their respective pieces.

• The interview with Robert Quinn, Executive Director of Scholars at Risk, brings not only the Syrian academic crisis, but also the global picture regarding threatened scholars, squarely into focus. His insights on the international effort to secure safety for academics offers a great opportunity for each of us to think about what we – and our institutions – can offer in this space, and why we should not be shy about placing our support our values front-and-center in our work.

• Risk management and crisis preparedness are not alarmist terms, and many universities are taking active steps to implement new – or shore up existing –protocols and procedures that provide crucially important guidance when needed. Martin Hochreiter provides us with some excellent insights into crisis planning and management that may provoke some important conversations within your own institution.

Yes, we can

The American journalist and author, Dorothy Thompson (1893-1961), is credited with saying, “Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict – alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.” From my perspective the field of international education is a highly creative space, in which smart, energetic, and committed professionals are genuinely keen to contribute to positive developments in the world, and bring to bear an immense reserve of skill and sensitivity to their work. Facing our conflicted world head-on requires courage, community, and “creative alternatives”. I hope this issue of Forum stimulates further ‘creative’ conversations about how the EAIE – and all of us – can contribute to the peace we all seek.

Laura is Chair of the EAIE Publications Committee and Associate Director at the Boston College Center for International Higher Education, USA.

EAIE members will receive their copies of Forum on their doorsteps soon, but can already download the full version online. Non-members can view the editor’s pick in the Resources Library.