UT Goal: Help Students Become ‘Ready for the World’

KNOXVILLE –- The University of Tennessee has embarked on an ambitious plan to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

“Ready for the World: The International and Intercultural Awareness Initiative” is being promoted on campus to students, faculty and staff during the month of April through a host of campus activities. The launch is part of a long-range plan to transform the campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century.

“‘Ready for the World’ will prepare our students, faculty and staff for success in an ever-changing global society,” UT Chancellor Loren Crabtree said. “The world is changing every day in complexity. This effort is not just a lofty academic goal; it is an absolute necessity to provide our students the education and experiences they need to thrive.”

Dr. Mary Papke and Dr. Jan Simek are co-directors of the program. Faculty and staff leadership committees are working on various aspects of the initiative.

“‘Ready for the World’ calls for internationalizing the curriculum, increasing global competency of faculty and staff and focusing on the intercultural issues of particular concern to the university,” Simek said. “Along with recruiting more international students and faculty, we will increase the number of students who study abroad and dramatically change the programming, the opportunities and the overall feel of campus life,” Simek said. “In short, we will dramatically alter what it means to be educated at the University of Tennessee.”

The university began last year the five-year process of reallocating resources to support this initiative. Crabtree’s five-year goal calls for devoting $1.5 million in funds to faculty recruiting and new initiatives, campus programming, transforming the curriculum, new scholarships and study abroad opportunities and further support of campus diversity efforts.

As many as 100 general education courses will be reworked to integrate cultural awareness. Faculty members are working to strengthen interdisciplinary programs and integrate study abroad into general education as well as departmental requirements.

“Through these efforts, undergraduates will gain a worldview that recognizes, understands and celebrates the complexity of cultures and people. They will gain competence in cross-cultural communication, both domestic and international; the capacity to think critically about international and intercultural issues; the understanding that knowledge is global; and a passion for life-long engagement with global learning,” Papke said.

Ready for the World initiatives coincide with UT’s Diversity Action Plan that requires all departments to strengthen recruitment and retention efforts to enhance diversity among all faculty and staff.

“While our primary goal is focused on the student experience, we are creating an environment that welcomes and nurtures the very best faculty, who represent all corners of the world. This initiative lays the foundation to learn from their world knowledge, hear and appreciate their point of view, and learn from their experiences,” Simek said.

Although many international and intercultural events already have been taking place on campus throughout the academic year, the week of April 17-21 will serve to heighten public awareness for the “Ready for the World” effort. These are a few of the events planned during the week.

• April 18 — “A Conversation with Chancellor Loren Crabtree: Why he thinks the world is flat — a commentary on Thomas Friedman’s bestseller.” The forum will be held 12:30-1:30 p.m. in the first floor galleria of Hodges Library.

• April 18 — Joshua Rushing, the U.S. military’s lead spokesman to the Arab world during the invasion of Iraq, will be the featured speaker at Conversations about World Affairs at 7 p.m. at the International House on campus. Rushing is the host of a political and current affairs program debuting this spring on Al Jazeera International.

• April 18 — United Nation’s Special Envoy Stephen Lewis will speak about HIV/AIDS in Africa at 7:30 p.m. in the University Center Auditorium.

• April 19 — The play “Big River, The Adventures of Huck Finn,” based on the novel by Mark Twain, 8 p.m., Clarence Brown Theatre.

• April 20 – Reception celebrating the publication of the Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 5 p.m., East Tennessee Historical Society, 601 S. Gay St. More than 30 UT faculty and staff members were among nearly 1,200 contributors to the 1,864-page reference book, which took 10 years to complete. Produced by the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services at East Tennessee State University, the book was published by UT Press.

• April 21 — The annual spring International Festival, all day at the University Center Plaza. Sponsored by the Center for International Education and the International House, a number of student groups participate in the festival, setting up booths that display cultural information, provide food and showcase aspects of their particular cultures.

• All week –- Frank H. McClung Museum exhibits “The Banjo — From Africa to America and Beyond,” which runs through April 30. Permanent exhibits include “Archaeology and the Native Peoples Of Tennessee,” which traces the last 12,000-15,000 years of Native Americans occupation in Tennessee; “Ancient Egypt: The Eternal Voice;” and “Lucy and her Relatives: The Emergence of Humans.”

Planning for “Ready for the World” began two years ago as UT’s Quality Enhancement Plan, which was required for reaccreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The reaccreditation phase ended last fall semester with UT receiving a highly positive 10-year SACS reaccreditation.

For more about the “Ready for the World” initiative, go to http://www.tennessee.edu/readyfortheworld/.

Contacts:

Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu

Linda Weaver, (865) 974-5181, linda.weaver@tennessee.edu

###