HIROKAZU MIYAZAKI: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Hiro Miyazaki, Director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. I'm really pleased to welcome you all to this the final lecture in our Distinguished Speaker Series for this year, this academic year. I'm proud of what we do and all of our events and especially all the lectures in the series this year have been really interesting and important. But I must say that today's event and it is special, because the subject matter is particularly compelling for me as an advocate for international studies and international education.
I will not try to make the case for why it is important for people to know and care about other cultures and societies. But our guest today will, of course, speaking eloquently to that. What I do want to say is that support for International. studies under the US Department of Education's Title VI and Fulbright-Hays Programs, both of which Mohamed Abdel-Kader helped run in the previous administration, has made a huge difference to Cornell and people who study and teach here.
For more than 50 years, our area studies programs have benefited from the National Resource Center's Program under Title VI. Among many other things, and our C designation has helped us build extraordinary libraries, library collections, and make them available to scholars all around the world. It has also helped us provide teaching materials and learning opportunities to educators at public schools and community colleges across New York state.
Foreign language and area studies fellowships, known as FLAS fellowships among international studies geeks are also funded by Title VI. These fellowships have given Cornell students a chance to study languages that are simply not taught in other places. Languages like Tamil and Urdu, Khmer and Burmese. The Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Program has made it possible for Cornell graduate students to travel all over the world to pursue their research at a critical juncture in their academic careers. And the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program supports travel by teachers, students, faculty, and professionals pursuing training research and curriculum development. This summer, in fact, one of these grants will fund an intensive advanced language course in Indonesia.
All this support does not just strengthen our Center and our university, it also changes lives, lives of the people who directly benefit from these programs, but also the people they teach, influence, and inspire. So many of our faculty at Cornell were supported as students by these programs. So many others who are out in the world making a difference were shaped by these faculty members as well, and the programs.
I do not want to talk politics. I will leave that to our speaker today, if he chooses to, but I will venture to say that a world full of people who can speak to each other and who know just a little bit about one another is a much better world, a much more hopeful world than that in which people kind of make things up, still make up stories about one another and believe what they want to believe.
Before I introduce Mohamed Abdel-Kader, I want to thank Heike Michelson our Associate Director for Programming--
--for all her work this year and particularly for bringing this speaker, special speaker, to campus today. And also her assistant Bari Doeffinger, for organizing this event. I also want to thank our co-sponsors, our Center's own South and Southeast Asia Programs, both of which are thriving National Resource Centers.
Mohamed Abdel-Kader served in the Obama administration as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the International and Foreign Language Education office at the US Department of Education's office of post-secondary education. He was responsible for promoting the study of foreign languages and cultures at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels in the United States. Before that, he was the Director of Development for the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
Today as a consultant, he advises clients on organizational strategy doing business in emerging world, emerging markets, intercultural communication, and cultural competency. Please join me in welcoming Mohamed Abdel-Kader.
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Thank you all. Let me make sure I've got this thing on. There we go. Can you hear me?
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Thank you guys so much for that warm welcome. Dr. Miyazaki, thank you for your insightful and kind remarks. Dr. Michelson, thank you for bringing me to Cornell. And thank you to the Vice Provost for International Education for being here and for supporting the units.
And most of all, where are the faculty members in in the room, all the language teachers, all area studies folks? I want to thank you guys, because you guys are doing a lot of the hard work. And you're keeping this work alive. So thank you so much. And I love visiting with your Centers. And I love seeing the Centers thrive and think about new ways to deliver a very, very, very important skill set to the students.
So it's almost cliche-- I feel like having sort of been in the international education space, it's a little bit cliche because I feel like every few years we talk about important this is. And now more than ever, it's important for students to learn these skills. But I'll be cliche and say, now more than ever, it's really important for students to learn these skills. And if you don't know why, just heard the news on and you'll pick it up. And I'll leave it at that.
So I'm going to dig in a little bit. My name is Mohamed Abdel-Kader. I'm currently the Executive Director of something called the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute. I'm about a month in. The Stevens Initiative, if you don't know, is named in honor of Ambassador Stevens who passed in Libya a number of years back. It's a public-private partnership that's there to encourage virtual exchange.
So we focus on project based learning, language learning across borders, primarily connecting students in the United States and the Middle East. And when I left the Department of Education in January, the day before Inauguration day, I kept thinking to myself, well, how can I continue to stay in the field and really try to advance relevant skills for our young people, not just here in the United States, but around the world skills that are going to prepare them for their careers in the 21st century? But how am I also going to connect to people? Connect young people and keep this message of international education out there.
Because I really believe this is not just fluff. This is very, very important. When I sort of look at my career trajectory, there were certain inflection points where my language learning, or my ability to understand ambiguity in a global context, or my ability to understand a global issue really made a huge difference in my career, and I think ultimately led to where I am. I hopefully still have a ways to go.
But I want to dig in to the presentation. And then we'll leave some time on the back end for Q&A and for discussion, because I feel like that's always where the fun is. You guys don't want to hear me ramble on for so much.
So there's my Twitter handle on the bottom if you want to-- if you do the Twitter thing and you want to follow me. I'm always tweeting out articles on international education, various conferences that I want to sort of amplify messages on, and then various other cool things in the field. So if you want to do the Twitter thing, it's a shameless plug.
So I'll tell you a little bit more about myself. It's about me. So my family actually came to the United States from Egypt in the mid '70s. I was born in Brooklyn, New York. As I mentioned, my family came from Egypt. They came to do their masters and their PhDs. And I actually grew up, sort of, a little bit, not too far from here, in Potsdam, New York. My parents were graduate students at Clarkson, if you guys are familiar with that institution. So I spent a number of years at Clarkson.
And then somewhere in there, my parents said, well, you know, we want to expose you and your brother to some culture and language. And we spoke Arabic in the home, which was great. I spent a lot of my childhood going back and forth between the US and Egypt to visit family and I'll tell you more about that in a minute.
So we moved to Saudi Arabia for a year and a half. And then from Saudi Arabia, my dad was like you know what? We need to go back to the States. So we went back to the States. And we ended up in Clemson, South Carolina. And I often talk about culture shock doesn't just happen when you're going that way over the Atlantic. Sometimes it can happen when you land in certain places in the United States. So only to say that cultural and global competencies are relevant even here at home. And we'll dig into that a little bit more.
But one of I think the most interesting things about my childhood that I sort of reflect back on is those summers when I would go to Egypt-- [CLEARS THROAT] excuse me-- I would hang out and play with my cousins, as most 8, 9, 10, 11-year-olds do. And if you're anywhere in the Middle East, you're probably playing soccer. They didn't really get football. And hockey was really not an option in Cairo.
But I remember my cousins asking me if I'd met Michael Jackson. And I hadn't. So I had to explain that. And they asked me if my dad drove a Ferrari. And my dad was a graduate student. So he most certainly did not drive a Ferrari, which would have been nice.
But then I also recognized that when I came back to Potsdam those summers-- or in the following academic year, my friends would ask me different questions about Egypt. They would ask about the pyramids. And they would ask typical questions that 10, 11-year-olds do. And I very quickly found myself having to explain what was going on.
And if any of you all remember, the context of the '80s, one of the big political issues was the US relationship with Iran. And I was often asked if I was an Iranian. And there were some derogatory things that came along with that as well that I had to navigate and learn to understand what folks were asking or why they were asking what they do. And I very quickly began to recognize that I had a role to play in bridging this gap in teaching people on the playground what was going on the other side of the pond.
Long story short, a couple of years later, I found myself in college in Clemson, South Carolina, at Clemson University and really recognized the role of an institution. I had a maybe a nontraditional student experience. I was very involved in student government. I was mentored by the president of the institution. And they really empowered us as student leaders to play a role in the lifeblood of the institution.
And what I recognized as a student very early on was the power of an institution to transform lives in a state, for example, like South Carolina, which was not a very affluent state. I saw classmates who were from little, almost little villages, in rural parts of South Carolina who through their interaction with this institution-- which I might add is a land grant, so don't underestimate the power and reach of a land grant-- I know Cornell is a preeminent land grant. But through their interaction with the institution, their lives were transformed whether it was because of the people they met from other parts of the world, or because of the study abroad opportunities that perhaps they were able to engage in, or the subjects they were able to study, it truly transformed their lives. And I sort of gained this love for a higher education.
I didn't have the patience to be an academic like my parents. So I kind of want to be on the business side of things. But long story short, that's a little bit about me.
So I'm want to dig in a bit more on the presentation. Is this thing working? Do I have to point this any where? All right. Maybe we can just do it on this guy.
So why do world languages and international education matter? Any thoughts?
I'm sure you have quite a few. Let's dig right in. I want to preface it by saying that since the financial crisis-- and I say this again, we're on an academic campus. So let's be real. There's some tensions on academic campuses. But ever since the financial crisis, parents, students, and administrators, everybody, is thinking about every single dollar that's spent, sometimes annoyingly so. But that's the new landscape that we're in post financial crisis. Wall Street banks are thinking about it. Families are thinking about it. College campuses are thinking about it.
So what does it mean when we're talking about less commonly taught languages? Which by the very nature of them they're not less-- they're not really spoken that much, there may not be 50 people enrolled in your Tamil course. There may not be 50 people enrolled in your Swahili course. But what does that mean for the campus environment?
I always ask, though, what's the ROI? Yes, sir.
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Do what?
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Oh, the project-- oh.
AUDIENCE: Up here.
AUDIENCE: Up here.
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: There's a projector?
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Nope. Still not working. All right. It's all right. Technology issues always happen.
So I often ask faculty members this. As the son of two faculty members, I'm going to prod you guys a little bit. Are we too busy talking about our languages? Are we too busy talking about our research and our world areas that we're failing to see beyond that? Right?
Are we too busy talking about Portuguese and Arabic and Farsi and Quechuan, Swahili, and Mandarin, and Russian that we're forgetting to connect that to our students, to the audience that we really need to connect with? Because that 18-year-old freshman that's just stepped on to your beautiful campus, do they really understand why Quechua is important? They probably don't.
So I'm going to share a lesson that I learned a number of years ago that was really valuable for me early in my career. I was a development officer at Georgetown University. And the then Dean of the School of Foreign Service, I was working closely with her because she wanted to start this new master's degree called Global Human Development. This was a program to train development practitioners who would go work at places like USAID and Save the Children and maybe in the CSR office of a place like General Electric or Coca-Cola.
And as a development officer, I had to go out and raise money. And where do you go to raise money? You go to New York City, because that's where your alums are and that's where the cash is. And I remember interacting with a colleague who managed our New York office who said this is never going to fly in New York. You're never going to raise any money. Nobody's ever going to buy this hippie mumbo jumbo as she called it.
So jokingly, I said, OK. I said you're not looking at it the right way, because this program that is there to train development practitioners is about bringing two billion people into the global marketplace. Right? So we've reframed the discussion around this academic program for this new audience. And similar to what the United Way does-- how many of you have given, perhaps, to the United Way? I don't need to see hands-- but if you've given to the United Way, they say give through the United Way. Give through the United Way to make that difference.
And similarly I framed it as giving through Georgetown to have that impact. So when I spoke to my donors and someone said you know, gosh, I'm really struggling with this food security issue in the Horn of Africa. Or I'm really struggling with AIDS in this part of the world, I would say, you know, give through Georgetown because our students are trained to accomplish what it is that you want to do. Our students are trained to fix these global issues.
Cornell is similarly placed. Your students are getting-- you're in such a rich academic environment with great faculty members and significant resources that I hope, and I'm pretty confident, you're training your students to think about these global issues. So as you engage your constituents think about that.
But for our faculty members, think about reframing the way you talk about your programs to reach new audiences who may not be thinking about it. Because in this resource constrained environment, we've got to be creative and we have to reach new people. So again, we've got to reframe that question. Why should we invest in world languages? Right?
What kind of problems are our graduates going to be able to solve with these skills? We've got to articulate the impact. And we have to talk about it relative to the issues that we face. So pick up an issue of The Economist and just flip through it. And I want to ask you guys as faculty members and practitioners and as students what are the issues that we have to be tackling? How should we be training our students?
And as we think about language learning and area studies and international education broadly speaking, I like to frame them as tools for problem solving. Problem solving for things like climate change, big issue, global public health. These are things that a lot of your students are interested in and they want to study, things like global peacekeeping and global security, or perhaps things like the global economy and global business. I know your students are thinking about these as career paths. And their parents are also thinking about them as well. Right? You guys have a lot of helicopter parents?
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Yeah. It always happens. One of the metaphors that I often like to use for students is I'm not going to tell you what your Swiss army knife should look like. OK? But you should leave college with a Swiss army knife that's going to fit your career, your trajectory, your interests, and the things that you want to explore.
So again your Swiss army knife could be very slim and simple or it could be very big and cumbersome and complicated as some languages are. But don't leave home without your tool set. Don't leave home without your Swiss army knife. Now be careful, obviously, if you're going through TSA security, that's another story. But I think you get the point.
So I'm going to give you guys a little bit of a global perspective, because data is important. I think data drives decision making. And I think as folks who are in positions of leadership, you're going to have to make decisions based on that. And that's how we sell some of these ideas.
So there's over 7 billion people in the world. 75% of the world does not speak English. How many times on your campus, or perhaps in interacting with parents have you heard someone say-- hopefully not on a campus like Cornell-- have you heard someone say, it's OK, everybody is learning to speak English? Everybody will be speaking English at some point. Everybody's heard that, right?
False. Completely false. OK. 75% of the world does not speak English. That's over 5 billion people who don't. And those who do speak English, very often have limited English language working proficiency. So even then, there is a language barrier. There's over 320 million people in the United States. 90% of Americans don't speak a second language.
For those of you-- how many of you students that are in the room are in a graduate program? A couple of you guys. So if you're going into a graduate program, if you're going to do a JD, you're going to Med school, in some ways, you're doing that for an advantage. You're going to great school like Cornell even for your undergrad because it gives you a certain advantage-- great professors, great library, great opportunities, right? That's why you're here. I often tell folks you can get in that top 10% just by picking up a second language. If you do it early and you don't have to go through the college admissions process even.
And then lastly to give a little perspective, there's over 400 million people in China learning the English language alone. And that's not there to make the point that everybody is learning English, but it's making the point that other people have prioritized bilingualism. They have prioritized this tool set of being able to communicate across borders. And we have not done that in this country just yet.
Here's similar data represented slightly differently. And I'm going to get to something in a second. But I'm going to plug the American Academy of Arts and Sciences because they have just issued this new report. And if you're interested in the subject, go to their website. This is a congressionally mandated study that was recently put out in February. Very interesting, it's on the state of language learning today.
I'll get out of the way so you can take a picture of the sides if you need to. I'll make the slide deck available if you guys want to send it out, too. And I'll tweet it out so you can have it. But a lot of great data in this report.
So let's just jump in a little bit more. I want to get a little bit more granular. So this is a map that I stole from, I believe, is the World Health Organization. And this was a mapping of-- do you guys remember when the avian flu hit? And it hit pretty hard in Asia? This is a map of how they were tracking it. And it kind of freaked me out, to be honest, when I saw it. It really scared me.
But when facing a global pandemic, the solution is rarely, rarely just epidemiology, because you are having to work across borders. You're having to work across borders. I read an article the other day that said with the polar ice caps melting, there is a worry and a nervousness that as the ice melts that new bugs and diseases are going to be exposed. And that sufficiently freaked me out, again. But, again, it highlights the importance of being able to blend everything from area studies to science to language learning so that we have the tools to study these types of situations and address them with solutions.
So again, on that, you guys saw the movie Outbreak? Again, I'm here to freak you out today. Just FYI. What happens when doctors don't understand what a patient is saying? Let's go back to last-- was it last summer when we had the Ebola outbreak? Would you like to be that doctor from the CDC in that little rural village trying to communicate with a patient and you can't understand what he's saying? I wouldn't. I wouldn't.
And what happens when those experts from different countries want to coordinate how they get the medical supplies out to those villages? There's a high degree of coordination that has to happen. That's not all done in English. What happens when an analyst doesn't understand the languages and the cultural context? What if they don't understand how people move around the world?
You may remember a couple of years ago there was an outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. And what the big issue around that was, when it broke out was, the Hajj-- so for those of you who are Middle East experts, Muslims will tend to go to Mecca once a year for the pilgrimage. But what happens when you have folks from all around the world convene in a one square mile area for three days in very close quarters and then go to every single country in the world? Wow. Wow. Wow.
So when we think about disease outbreak, that's pretty frightening. So you have to have someone who not only understands the epidemiology and the way diseases get transmitted and how water moves around the city and understands the city landscape, but also understands the religious ritual. All of that factors into your decision making. And we're talking about real time. 24 hours makes a big difference. So these skills are essential for the way we train our students.
Let's go on to something else that's just as pleasant, climate change. I'm going to share four photos here. The one on the top left was-- I'm shamelessly plugging-- from the conference that took place about two years ago where they negotiated the Paris Climate Change Agreement. And all those flags are represented to show the number of countries that were there. And from my former colleagues who were there, and part of that discussion, that was not just done in English. So if you care about climate change, think about your colleagues from other countries around the world that you'll have to work with.
This is a picture from Brazil. So how do we tackle climate change if we don't understand deforestation in Brazil or in Indonesia? I know you have a strong Indonesian studies program here. If you don't understand what's happening in the countryside, in the rain forest, how are we going to tackle this on a global scale?
For those of you who love technology, how do we understand climate change and how do we tackle it if we don't understand consumer habits in emerging markets like India or China where people are hungry for technology? But how are we getting the minerals to put into those phones? We're mining and we're digging. And it's polluting. So we have to understand how to manage that and how to satisfy that consumption.
And then, finally, energy. This is a no brainer. We have to understand energy consumption around the world to be able to tackle these issues. And to be able to communicate, language is essential.
And for those who are going into business, here in the United States, one in five American jobs-- this is sort of a very low level estimate-- one in five American jobs are tied to global trade. In some cities, in some states, it's much, much higher. So if you go to Washington state, in Seattle, how many of those jobs in Seattle are tied to global trade? When you have Microsoft, and Boeing, and Starbucks, and Amazon, and who else is there? You get the point.
Even in my home state of South Carolina where if you hopped off the plane and you looked around, it doesn't seem like a very global place. But within five miles of the airport, you have BMW, Bosch, Michelin, another Microsoft operation, Nissan, Schlumberger, right around the airport. So even in states where sometimes we don't think of as being very global, they're tied to international trade.
95% of the world's consumers are outside of US borders. So if you're a business person-- I'll talk about entrepreneurship in a bit-- but if you're a business owner here in the United States, is it in your interest exclude 95% of the world's market? As the United States, is this market increasingly gets congested-- you're shaking your head, you're right. Just the numbers don't work.
And then in terms of recruiting, so 33% of mid and large US corporations serve multilingual clientele. So there is room for those skills in those businesses. 64% of states-- this is according to a Michigan state survey done by the International Business Center up there-- are seeking employees of multicultural experiences. And then 93% of mid and large cap US companies are seeking employees who can work effectively with people from different cultures. It's right there.
Now I'll fully admit one of the things that we found and this is a challenge to any of you who work with career services is that oftentimes you'll get an executive who'll come to campus. And they'll come speak at the business school and they'll say I want students who are globally competent, students who understand the world. You get a lot of executives who say that. But sometimes that doesn't always translate down to the HR team, because the HR team wants people who are going to make widgets. Right? And that's a disconnect that in my time in government, we certainly tried to address, to the extent we could.
But what I also want to do is challenge you all as practitioners, as academics, when you work with your career folks sometimes you have to articulate the value of the skills that your students are getting to the career center folks and help them articulate it to the recruiters. Because sometimes they just don't connect. And that's a reality. But that helps your students get there. That helps your students get plugged into that system. But these skills are incredibly important.
So every issue that we deal with requires an understanding of both the global and the local contexts. And they are connected. You may have even heard the term "glocal," right? I don't use it. But I've heard it out there. And what's also important is the ability to communicate then effectively. It's not just understanding, but it's how to communicate with nuance across culture, across the noise.
So again for the educators in the room, I want to reiterate and I want to ask you, what message do your students need to hear? I have heard it so many times from educators in the international space that my language classes, our enrollments are low. But what message do your students need to hear? Are you just talking about the languages? Or are you talking about them as problem solving skills?
And then also how can we better design our educational experiences to train students for this world where rarely are you just using a skill on its own? You're using skills intertwined with other skills. So many campuses talk about cross-disciplinary programming. And that's great. We've seen a rise in it. But I personally want to see more integration with languages.
When I was an undergrad at Clemson, one of the programs that we got a lot of recognition for was called Communication Across the Curriculum. Clemson's a very science heavy school. It was a land grant. It was an A&M. And they often found that a lot of the folks in the engineering majors were great at technical writing. They were great at doing what they did. But they weren't very good at translating that to the common folk.
So they instituted, essentially, this program across the campus to integrate not just public speaking but writing, everything, communication, across the board into every major. There was a requirement. It was integrated into a lot of classes. So I would challenge you to think about that as it pertains to the global perspective, to global competencies, to languages, because there's room in there for it.
So I get asked this a lot. Surely you can't be inferring that languages are more important than STEM. Oh, heaven forbid. No, I'm not. I'm not. But I do want to talk about one thing. I do want to talk about one thing. I've gotten this question a lot. And here's how I pushback on it.
I want to talk about this a little startup. Have you guys heard of this startup? Do you guys use its product? Probably more than we should, right? But let's talk about this startup, because I think it's an interesting case.
So many parents out there are pushing their kids to learn how to code. It's an important skill. The economy has shifted. And yeah, a lot of folks who are pushing their kids to pick up these skills. Perhaps a lot of folks want their children to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. I don't blame them. You probably want your kids to move your house, have a startup and pay for their college tuition, maybe from the comfort of their dorm room.
But let's talk a little bit more about Facebook, because sometimes people take it for face value that learn how to code and you'll go work for Google, learn how to code and you'll go work for Microsoft or Facebook. Let's dig in a little bit more. There's 1.7 billion with a B active monthly users on Facebook, 1.7 billion.
Now of those, 84% are outside of the United States and Canada. 84% are outside of the United States and Canada. Just let that sink in for a little bit. If you look at the number of offices-- 14 domestic, 36 international offices for Facebook. And that number will continue to grow. There's how many people in China? 1.3 billion? So if we're counting like that, Facebook might actually be the largest country in the world based on how we define it. The world is changing.
So who knows who that guy is up in the corner? Mark. So let's talk about Mark. And let's talk about some of the things that, as a manager, as a leader of this organization of this technology behemoth, what keeps Mark up at night? What does he have to think about? Users' languages, right? 84% of his users are outside the US and Canada. A lot of them don't speak English.
Censorship issues. So how do you operate in these different countries where your content may be censored? Different holidays. It doesn't all have to be doom and gloom. If you want that little you know Christmas tree to pop up in some countries, in some countries it's not going to be a Christmas tree. And for Facebook to be more responsive to its users, they need to be aware of that.
What about those employees in those 36 international offices? How do you pay them? That's not just sending it to their Wachovia account or their what bank's up here? KeyBank? Is it KeyBank up here? Chase. It's not just any-- there's some rules there.
What about refugees and global issues? Do you remember when there was an earthquake in Turkey a couple of years ago? And what did Facebook do? They came out this system where if you were in an area where there was some sort of disaster, you could check in. And it was remarkable because they just got it. It was so quick. It was responsive. So this team has to be aware of.
What about compliance with local laws? That's important. Emerging market strategy? So a lot of the markets in the United States and Europe are saturated. A lot of people arguing that the growth is in Africa and is in parts of Southeast Asia. So they have to have a strategy.
Well let me ask you this. One of the things that Facebook is doing is prioritizing broadband. And they're prioritizing sort of bandwidth in remote areas. Well how do you do that if you don't understand the geography? Are you just putting up cell phone towers where ever you feel like it? You have to understand the geography. Geography is a part of this.
And the languages. And you also have to understand what kind of cell phone people can afford. Because Facebook doesn't work on those old Nokias. Do you remember those little Nokias? The little black one? Facebook doesn't work on that. So how much cell phone can someone afford in some of these emerging markets?
So again when people ask me is area studies really relevant? What are you talking about? What are you talking about? Of course it is. It drives me nuts when people say that, by the way, because I think they're just not doing the homework, they're being lazy.
So I want to dig into this. For you students in the room, and for those of you who are helping students get jobs, what skills are required to work at these companies in places behind me? And they're different. Everything from Fairfax County Public Schools, Department of State, BMW, Apple. What kind of skills are required to get in the door? I also want to ask you this, though. What skills are required to advance here?
So think of the leaders, right? Because we're all training leaders, right? Think of the leaders in these organizations. And not just the CEOs, but even in the classroom a teacher is still a leader. What skills are required to advance here?
So someone told me that for a lot of organizations, as a leader moves up the food chain, their responsibility actually becomes more about mitigating risk. And if you think about it, if you're a general-- if you're a general in the Department of Defense, your job is to mitigate risk. If you're a diplomat, you're an ambassador, you're a Secretary of State, if you're the CEO, you're thinking about political risk and reputational risk and operational risk and financial risk. If you're a principal, you're thinking about risk in a different context. If you're a university president, you're certainly thinking about risk. If you're in a student affairs office, you're thinking about risk with your students.
And what I often tell folks is that when you study China or you study the Middle East or you study Latin America, it's not just linear, you're not just studying history. You're not just studying history, you're studying language. You're studying culture. You're studying the economy. You're studying politics. And it gives you a well-rounded perspective of the region. And that's why so many graduates who come out of area studies program, I will still say are very valuable.
I shared this story with Dr. Michelson earlier. When I worked at Georgetown for the School of Foreign Service, I spent a lot of time in New York. And part of our engagement with alumni is that we would bring them to campus to recruit. We wanted to get them back on campus engage with students. And we found that a lot of our graduates were working in the financial sector, and particularly in New York, were coming to recruit from primarily area studies programs, over the business school. Now I'm a business school graduate from Georgetown. But they were recruiting from the area studies program.
And we would often ask those alums why are you recruiting from an area studies program from the School of Foreign Service versus the Business School. And they said one thing. The students have an X factor. The students, they get it. I can drop that student overseas and I don't have to worry about them. I can teach them derivatives. I can teach them the quandt. But I can't teach languages.
I can't teach a student to understand culture. Citibank, HSBC, Goldman, McKinsey. They don't have the capability to teach you how to be comfortable in another country. They can't teach you to negotiate in a different cultural context. You get that here in one of these programs. They can certainly teach you how to do derivatives. Some of these firms have great management programs. And regardless of what degree you get, they'll still put you through that two week boot camp. So something to keep in mind.
Think of the leaders that you see out there, the big corporate leaders. And what makes them different? They have a global perspective. They're able to see risk. They're able to see how the landscape shifts. That's why this training is so important. That's why sending a student overseas to Morocco to study abroad for a semester or to Brazil is important, because they interact with people.
And they begin to see that in some countries when someone says inshallah, it doesn't necessarily mean yes. If you're in China and someone says-- and you're in a negotiation, they may not want to say no because they're trying to save face. So those experiences are very important. Now I will say as a practitioner-- people always ask me, I remember being up on the hill advocating for Title VI and trying to bump up our appropriations. And someone said, well, how are you evaluating this? I said, yeah, that's a really tough question.
Educators struggle with how do we measure impact and success, but I often tell them this. What is the value then-- what is the value 20 years out when someone who is an executive is negotiating a deal? They're negotiating a deal, and they remember that time 20, 25 years ago when they were a student at Cornell. And they just happened to study abroad. And before they hopped on that plane to go home to see mom, they happened to be in the marketplace in Jakarta. And they had an interaction with somebody where they negotiated the price of a trinket. And that suddenly became valuable 20, 25 years later. It's difficult to manage that. Difficult to measure that, excuse me. But there is value in it.
What's the value-- you all may know. One of the hallmarks accomplishments of the Obama administration was the Iran deal. And I won't get into the details of it, but on a number of occasions, my colleagues at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department had mentioned that so many folks in sort of the upper echelons of leadership in the Iranian government at some point had studied abroad in the United States. And that experience on our college campuses helped them build trust, helped them find common ground that ultimately led to the foundation of a negotiations. There's a lot of hashing out to do. But that trust is so important. Not just in business, but in matters of national security.
And then even in our neighborhoods, and we'll talk about that in a little bit. So again, think about the skills required to advance. Sometimes you need those technical skills to get in the door. I'd never argue with you that a place like GE or Amazon or Apple or Boeing that you don't need technical skills. You may, absolutely. But it's not just that. There's more to it that needs to come out of our institutions.
So here in our neighborhoods, let's talk about this. Because oftentimes in this environment, you'll find a lot of practitioners sort of in management talking about, well, we need to talk about national security and we need to talk about business. And that's absolutely true. That's important. We can talk about ROI. But let's not forget about our neighborhoods, because there's an ROI in our neighborhoods as well that we have to consider.
So here in the United States our neighborhoods are so much more diverse. Some studies in 2014 showed that public school enrollment, for the first time, had turned that was 50.3% minority for students. 50.3%. So for the first time it tipped a little bit. And I asked folks as we think about training our teachers. I think you don't have a school of education here. But I know you do a lot of outreach. And I know you partner with other institutions.
So what does this mean for how we train our teachers? What does this mean for how students learn in this new, diverse environment with different experiences and different backgrounds? Certainly something to consider and not just something to glide over.
Again, I'm not going to get overly political, but I often tell folks that diversity is one thing. In my perspective, diversity is about numbers. And I think as institutions we have to go beyond diversity.
We have to cultivate pluralism. It's pluralism what we're after, not just diversity, not just numbers. It's making sure that those people with different backgrounds and different perspectives are talking and understand and have worked together and have collaborated and have built trust on the little things like a term paper or a project or a study abroad experience. So that 15, 20 years down the road when they're in the middle of a negotiation, that trust is established or some of those biases and barriers have come down, because they have an experience to draw from that was positive, that was perhaps facilitated by a faculty member or an administrator. Universities can play such an active role in this discussion.
You guys recognize this photo, right? From the Women's March. So a buddy of mine took this photo. So I always plug it for him.
So a little bit of a global perspective. If you're going to be a health practitioner-- do we have any anybody in here going to Med school or thinking about a career in public health or have family members? You know just a very simple example that health care practitioners, if you're going to go be a physician, you're treating patients from all over the world with different cultural and religious norms. And in order to deliver good bedside manner as a physician, you kind of have to be aware of that, of power structures and dynamics within homes from different parts of the world, different language needs. And like I said earlier, the movement of diseases around the world.
One of the coolest interactions I had-- you know Dr. Miyazaki mentioned the FLAS program. So when I was in government I spent some time at the University of Utah. And I met a student who was actually in the Med school. That was very early on, and I was like, I thought this is just for area studies students. And he said, no, I've actually studied abroad in Peru. And when I was there, I realized I knew I wanted to go to Med school, but I also realized I had to be able to communicate with people. So he came back and he had a FLAS for Quechua, which I thought was really cool.
If you go to the University of Washington-- well, get to this a little bit later, it's a different thing-- their biggest recipient of FLAS money is actually students from the law school. I certainly didn't expect that. But it underscores the need for these skills across disciplines.
So even if you want to start a business here at home-- because I recognize that some people, some of our students-- I grew up in South Carolina where a lot of my friends have not left a two hour radius of where I grew up. And this is a reality in America. And that's OK. Some people just want to start a business close to home. But here's what I say, these skills are still for you, even if you are not leaving Clemson, South Carolina.
Why? Because you're probably going to have to source a product from overseas. And how do you get that product to your shop? Do you guys remember when the earthquake hit-- when the tsunami hit Japan a couple of years ago? I'll tell you those folks at Best Buy were struggling. Because that event disrupted their global logistics network. So they had to think about different trade routes and different factories and different capabilities. So these skills are important even in those kinds of contexts.
What about competition? So you're building up a company, you have a startup, or you have whatever sort of idea that you've got and you're bringing it to market. Do you understand the competition what it looks like? What if you're looking to get acquired?
What if that's your exit strategy? It's I'm going to build this up and I want to sell my company out for a billion dollars. And maybe the guys in New York are not paying you any attention. What about selling your company off to a firm from another country, from Dubai or from Singapore or from India? There's a lot of private equity folks out there looking for companies to invest in. And do you understand that? Even from tiny Clemson, South Carolina?
What about trade and regulatory issues? Because maybe you're manufacturing your product in Tennessee or Alabama but you want to sell it overseas. Do you understand the trade and regulatory environments? What about global currency and how that affects the price of your product?
And then finally, maybe you're not doing any of that. Maybe it's just going to be a shop where you're selling t-shirts that you're printing out back. It's more than likely that you have a very diverse workforce with different holidays, different languages, people from around the world.
And as a manager, there is a bottom line implication to you retaining staff and not losing staff every three months because that's expensive. That's expensive. So there's a bottom line implication for having these skills if you're in the business community.
So a lot of my talk up until now has been about an outwardly focus, a little bit inward. And I want to drill down a little bit more. One of our guiding principles at the department when I was there was really thinking a lot about access and equity. Obviously a lot of our grant dollars were focused on promoting opportunity, getting students from challenged backgrounds to college, really increasing the high school graduation rate and making sure folks made it to college. I think we did a good job of that.
But I do want to talk about it as it pertains to language learning in international education because I think it's very important. It's something we often miss. Oftentimes we dismiss languages and international education as something just for kids who are going to be at a place like Cornell or Georgetown or Harvard or Princeton. That for kids at a community college, it's not really that important. You guys have heard that before. It's seen as a luxury.
I think that's a terrible way to look at this. It's completely silly. Why? Over and over, if you guys open up our newspapers, you'll find financially strapped school districts-- I'm talking K to 12 school districts here. And what do they cut? What kind of programs? They usually cut the arts. But they cut language programs and they cut social studies programs. And oftentimes in those language in social studies programs, that's the only place where these students are getting global exposure of any sort. Again, whether it's through language learning or some sort of interaction abroad.
Now I would challenge you to think about this that many colleges and universities still have a two year language requirement. So what happens if your high school cuts those language courses? And they don't offer it? Or they're full and you can't get in?
This happened to a friend of mine. He didn't take his language courses, not because they weren't available, but they weren't. But he didn't take them. And then he ended up at a community college. And that community college also didn't have a lot of language or learning opportunities. Community colleges are not all created equal. But it affected him because he wasn't able to get into the four year institution that he wanted to.
So let's backtrack a little bit and think about the kids who truly do not have an opportunity to learn a language. When we talk about one in five American jobs tied to global trade-- I showed you that number earlier-- for these students who may never get that exposure in high school and may not make it to a four year institution with a global perspective--
Again some community colleges, if you go to Miami Dad Community College, they do a great job of getting students to open their mind to global things. They do a lot of that on campus. Valencia college in Orlando does a fantastic job of integrating that into the curriculum for students who are not going to be able to go overseas. Average community college, student is 28 years old. They have a family. They have a job. It's tough to get overseas for six months if that's the situation you're in right. And that's a reality.
As practitioners, we have to think about how do we give those nontraditional students those skills? So again, let's back up. This is a question of access and equity. If our middle schools and high schools are not exposing our students, they're not preparing a pipeline for colleges and universities, then there's a disconnect. There's a disconnect. And again, it goes back to that question of access and equity.
So I always ask will our students be prepared? Are they going to enter the workforce with global competencies? Will they enter the workforce with language fluency?
And ultimately, let's be selfish for a minute, let's be selfish for a minute. One of my business school professors said let's take a perspective of enlightened self-interest, enlightened self-interest. What implications does this have on our national security? When we don't have a pipeline of people going to the Pentagon or the intelligence agencies, excuse me, or the Department of Commerce, or the Department of State, or USAID, who are not just fluent in-- or who don't just understand economics, who can speak languages and can put it in a proper cultural context? What does that look like from a skills gap for the country?
What about our businesses? What about our businesses if companies like Boeing, which account for so much, such a huge percentage of our exports, what happens when Boeing staff just doesn't get how to do business in the United Arab Emirates or in Doha, Qatar, or in China, or in Singapore where they're selling oodles and oodles and oodles of planes? Are they making the sales? Or are they losing them to Airbus? And what does that mean for the economy of the Pacific Northwest and states like South Carolina where they have a plant?
And then, ultimately, what does it mean for our neighborhoods when our young people don't have these skills? And I would say, look back at the last year and a half. That's a result of it. Sadly.
So on a positive note, on a more forward looking note, for those of you who are students in the room think about your toolkit. Because a lot of times folks will say well I don't know what to do. OK, I get it this is cool, but how do I do this? How do I get these skills?
So a couple of really simple things. Learn a world language in school or college. Make the room in your curriculum to prioritize it. Make the room in your curriculum to prioritize it. Study a region or study a country. You guys have a ton of area studies programs here. And you can reach out to other institutions around the country if you want that information and that knowledge. You can certainly talk about that a little more.
Think about your major plus global. So one of the things that I saw at BYU, at Brigham Young University, one of the coolest programs that I saw while I was traveling at Ed was they developed this program called whatever is the major plus global. You guys may have heard about this. So if you're an engineering major, they add in this language requirement for every student. So again, you can be an engineering major, you could be a pre-med major, but this is part of your toolset. You're not going to leave BYU without this. And likewise, if you're a language major, they supplement it with either a really technical skill or something business oriented so that you also have something else to stand on to help propel your career.
And then finally, hop on a plane if you can study abroad. And I know a lot of times that's expensive. And students are worried about the cost of it. But there is a lot of financial support out there, whether it's through the Department of State, a little bit through the US Department of Education. But there are pots out there, whether it's through your Rotary Club. Talk to your folks here on campus. Don't let the money be something that holds you back.
And in fact, I'll say one thing for some of the administrators in the room. I know you guys are tied to the development teams. One, love to see you guys go out and raising more money for this.
But from a college completion perspective, there was a study that was done a number of years ago that was actually commissioned by the Department of Education through the International Research and Studies Grant Program. It's called the GLOSSARI Study, if any of you are familiar with this, G-L-O-S-S-A-R-I, I think. And it was a study of the University System of Georgia, so a public system. And what they found was that minority students who studied abroad were graduating, were completing college, at a 30% higher rate than their peers. 30%, that's pretty significant. And for the general population, it was close to 20%.
So I would say this, a lot of parents are going to say, you know, what I'll take out a loan to pay for your tuition, but I'm not going to take out a loan to pay for a study abroad because they see it as a luxury. But for you as an administrator, as a faculty member, if you've got $5,000, $6,000, $7,000 to play with, and you're thinking of giving it to that student as a scholarship, pay for their study abroad, because it may pay dividends in your graduation numbers. It's something to think about.
And then, finally, you may have noticed I slipped in this little word right here. A little plug again that now more and more it is difficult for a lot of students to get abroad. But don't underestimate the power of a virtual connection with other folks. We have seen some data to indicate that students who are engaging on virtual platforms, virtual study abroads similar to what we do at the Stevens Initiative, these students are more likely to participate in other international activities. It's actually a great way to peak their interest in other things, in other activities. So just a thought.
And I will leave you with this parting thought. I love this slide. Because a lot of times I feel like-- and this is just a personal, personal thing-- I feel like in the United States, we've done this great job of building this machine, this higher end machine which is the envy of the world. And we have amazing researchers and amazing institutions and beautiful buildings and endowments. And we turn out these super smart people. But sometimes, just sometimes, we skimp on the wheels.
We've built this beautiful machine, but we forget just that little investment in languages, in study abroad, in areas studies. We forget about that, oh, because the budget's just so tight. We can't afford it. But you've built this beautiful car. You've built this beautiful Escalade. And you're just skimping on the wheels? These are such high ROI programs. So let's not forget about that, because the road ahead of us for our students, and for all of us, frankly, is windy, and it's bumpy. And to be quite frank, it doesn't really matter if you're sitting in a beautiful $60,000 or $70,000 car, because if you don't have good wheels on it, it's going to be pretty bumpy and you're not going to go very far.
So that being said, I would just like to say thank you for being here. I'd also like to say, one final word, international education is important for me very personally, it is very, very important to me. And I've chosen to make a career out of this
But I want to thank you guys because for the students in the room, you have committed yourself to these courses. You have sat through these classes. You have hashed through papers and the homework. So thank you for that. Know that this will benefit you in your career. At some point, you will see the benefit of it.
And for those of you who are faculty members, thank you. Your work is often thankless. So thank you so much. Your work is making a difference. I was one of your students. I was that kid who was like, what is this? What's going on in this class? But I persisted. And I had some great faculty members who said, nope, come with me. This is what's going to happen. So thank you to the faculty members in the room because your work does make a difference.
And for the administrators in the room, thank you for supporting them. Thank you for supporting your area studies programs. They do wonderful work, wonderful work. And the world needs more of this. So thank you all for having me.
Happy to take any questions. How much time do we have?
HIROKAZU MIYAZAKI: This was such a reflecting and powerful speech for international studies. I would like to actually hear it again. But-- I'm sure we have some questions.
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Well, thank you. I'm happy to stick around if you guys have any questions. Yes, ma'am.
AUDIENCE: I may have come a little late, but you alluded in the end to the ways in which you became interested in this. And I was just wondering if you would tell us a little bit about what brought you to these conclusions.
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Yeah. Well to the conclusions or to the field?
AUDIENCE: And to the field.
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: So the field is easy. I mentioned earlier in the talk that my had family immigrated from Egypt. I was born in New York and spent a little bit my childhood going back and forth to Egypt during the summers to visit families. And my family and I quickly noticed that there were these gaps where people just didn't understand each other. But they really weren't-- people weren't all that different. And when they had differences, like it wasn't that big of a deal to explain and to understand.
So I found myself at an early age kind of explaining it. And I just really took an interest in sort of cross-cultural dialogue. And it just kind of grew from there.
I had a point in college where, as most political science majors do, I thought about law school as a career. And I opened up a constitutional law book and quickly realized like I don't know that I want to do this. And I actually thought about a career in national security as well.
But you know. I think ultimately what I realized was given sort of the political dynamic in the world and sort of the realities in Washington, that-- I think every 20, 21, 22-year-old wants to save the world. And what I realized was to really affect that sort of supply chain, if you will, that I had to kind of go to the source. And to go to the source meant that I wanted to support institutions that were going to give young people a global perspective.
So for me, my first job out of grad school was at George Mason. And they had a campus in the UAE. And I helped them establish that and another one in South Korea later, and then, obviously, Georgetown. It made sense that I wanted to devote my life to make sure that young people were getting these experiences so that later, 20, 30 years down the road, when they were the decision makers, they weren't saying stupid things and they were making good decisions. That's all. Thanks. Yes, sir.
AUDIENCE: Thanks for this stirring defense of language programs. As the director of a language center here, I certainly agree with you.
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Good. Woo. Validation. Get
AUDIENCE: But the hegemony of English around the world is a serious issue that people in foreign languages have to address. An awful lot of business and activity does take place in English. But it seems to me that people aren't following what's going on with this non-native speaker English. What is it exactly? And who owns it? And what does it have to do with the way we speak anyway? I think there's a whole other challenge that's developing that people aren't attending to. Have you looked in that direction?
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: A little bit. But I think, to be frank, the need is so great for our young people to still have these skills that I think for me I sort of look at it as there have been times in my career where I was out working for-- wherever I was working for. And I had to sometimes flip into other language that I speak. So I speak Arabic fluently and a little bit of Spanish. And not that-- my Arabic is good. It's fluent. I grew up speaking it. But there were times that just sort of flipping into that language gave the other person that I was working with a little more comfort that I'd done my homework, that I went the extra mile to show a sense of respect, to show a sense of I know where you are. And this isn't just a one-sided negotiation or a discussion.
So I was in fundraising. So certainly in those types of discussions, you need to let the other person know, look, this isn't just a transaction. This is a partnership and I'm here to build trust. That certainly is the case in the business world, certainly in the case of national security and in foreign policy. So you know, yes. Are there debates within the language community about the prominence of English? Yeah, absolutely. It doesn't mean you don't need these skills. Doesn't mean you don't need the skills. Just because you have good welders doesn't mean you don't need a good carpenter as well, or somebody who could do both.
And I think the relative investment here is pretty small for a pretty huge payout. So that's kind of how I tend to look at it. I think sometimes we tend to look at these things as binaries. And rarely are things really binaries. So. Yes, ma'am.
AUDIENCE: You alluded to this, but could you amplify it a little bit just some the issues less and least commonly taught languages and also why they are in a sense of even more importance than some of the major languages of the world?
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Jeez. Where do I start with that? So a couple of things. I mean one on the ROI thing. I think as a lot of young people think about what languages to study, I think we're seeing certainly more enrollment in Mandarin, more enrollment in Arabic, obviously post-9/11 and then Arab Spring. And that's been encouraging. Not to say that I don't want people learning French or Spanish or German.
But when it comes to languages like Wolof or Zulu or Hausa, there is an issue of, one, do students know about these languages? Because are we really talking about them at the middle school and high school level? Like I don't know of any high schools in this country that are teaching a lot of LCTLs beyond maybe Russian, maybe Portuguese, maybe Arabic and Mandarin, like maybe some Korean, sort of with the rise of k-pop. And I'm not kidding. Like a lot Asian studies faculty sort of say that we see a lot of enrollment because of that. So that's certainly one thing.
There are a lot of discussions around ROI like how much money should we invest in these languages where we have enrollments of two or three or very few people in the world that speak it period, what's the value of really investing in it? And I would say, look, I get that as a business person. I totally understand. I get the ROI discussion. But I would also say this that from a national preparedness need, when the earthquake happened in Haiti, folks at AID were calling a lot of our Latin American National Resource Centers and saying who do you have that speaks Haitian Creole? Or who has graduated? Let us know.
And those little examples are important. I mean for a while, enrollments in Russian and Ukrainian had declined for years, for years. But in the last few years, there is suddenly a lot of interest at the Pentagon, within the national security establishment, of people who not only have the language, but the cultural understanding as well. So I would say, yes.
Are there tensions around the financial aspect? Absolutely. Are there issues with ROI? Yes. I think we need to make the case for languages. And not just the emotional case that we love Russian literature or we love Farsi poetry from the 1400s. That's all beautiful. But we've got to go a step further to pull students in to show them the value of how this is going to help their career, why this is important for our national security, just as we've said it with the sciences. Right?
What's the difference? It's another subject. We've said it with the sciences. If you guys remember a couple of years ago, there was-- and this is just anecdotal so just don't mind me-- but there was a January that I remember. I think might have been like 2006 or 2007. It was January 2nd or January 3rd. And I was wearing shorts outside in Washington DC. And it sufficiently freaked me out. And that's when I started to think about climate change. And I noticed within the coming months that's when you would think that all of the energy companies-- so Shell and BP and Exxon-- they were all putting these commercials out about how they were so green and like the environment and climate change. And I was like, wait a minute.
But all these companies started to talk about it. The business sector started to talk about climate change and science. And then we hit the financial crisis, how all these STEM careers were going to drive the economy forward. For me, that's not just about who is saying it, it's about the incentive structure. That's what's making young people think about things like climate change. Because if ExxonMobil's saying it. And if Apple is saying it. And you know my computer is 100% recyclable, well then why is that important? And it connects the dots a little more.
So I want to tie that back to languages. We need to do a better job of getting out of our silos and starting to think about how we talk about languages and how we talk about these skills. So it's a little bit of a roundabout way of getting to your question. Yes, ma'am.
AUDIENCE: You asked at the beginning of your previous answer, rhetorically, whether students know about the less visible languages. You asked at the beginning, of the last question--
AUDIENCE: It's off.
AUDIENCE: Do I need it?
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Nah, just yell.
AUDIENCE: OK. I'm a librarian in old library here. And sometimes it's hard to get people to pay attention. And it's a classroom for everyone. One of the things that usually gets people's attention is if I ask them how many languages are represented by the collections in Cornell University Library? And no one gets it right. No one comes near to getting it right. The answer, last time I checked, was 409.
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Wow. That's amazing. That's amazing. Well to your--
AUDIENCE: I thought you might enjoy that.
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: I appreciate that. It's pretty impressive. That's pretty impressive. Any time I went to a campus, their always like, oh, we teach like 45 languages here. And then the other campus would be like, oh, we teach like 47. And they were always trying to one up themselves. So I love hearing that.
I will say this though, I will say this. So one of the coolest parts about working with the National Resource Centers so closely at-- everybody knows what the National Resource Centers are, right? When I was working with the NRCs, one of the coolest parts of it was-- you know, my position in the legislation had a mandate that I had to think about K-12. But unfortunately, Congress didn't give us a lot of money to think about K-12 so we had to be creative about that. And my team had the good sort of really good sense-- before I got there, I can't take credit for it-- of putting some what they called priorities in place that were attached to points in the grant competition that you essentially had to do some K-12 outreach out of your National Resource Center or out of your international business center out of your language resource center.
And that was actually one of the coolest parts of this because I kind of think about it why is it that we expect a student to show up at a college campus when they're 18 or 19 years old and just suddenly like now is when, A, for some people maybe now is when they're starting to think about a language, unfortunately. Maybe now is when they're being exposed to a global issue. Like why isn't that happening in middle school and high school? Why isn't that happening earlier? And we have to think about this as a pipeline. Why is that we're teaching these languages, especially LCTLs, less commonly taught languages? Mean It's so difficult to teach that starting at 18 or 19. Maybe you're not even taking your language until your sophomore or junior year. So by then, you're already into your 20s. Like that doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
So I think in some ways, universities can play a role in building a pipeline for themselves. And that's I think also good business. And I'll say this to give you an example. When I was at-- so I know you all have a campus in Doha in Qatar. When I was at Georgetown, we opened our campus a few years after yours, I think in '05. I joined in '07. And one of the things that they were talking about was a lot of students who were sort of in the local neighborhood who were coming to SFSQ didn't have the all of the skills. And they weren't sort of at the right level to start as freshmen. So one of the things they did was they started working with local high schools to offer, essentially remedial classes, to get these students up to speed.
So these students could have gotten into any college, but to still be at a Georgetown level, it was pretty rigorous. So what they did was they worked with, I think, middle schools and high schools to start prepping the students so that when they were seniors, they were ready to apply and they were in good shape. And that's not just good for the community, that's also good business. You're building a pipeline.
So as language practitioners, like we should think about that. I know outreach is often sometimes not popular with deans. I met with a dean who straight up just said, it was not my priority. My priority is sort of thinking about tenure for my faculty and research and publishing. And you know, hey. I appreciate the honesty. I disagree with you, because I don't think it's good business. I think if you have a healthy pipeline of kids, that's really good.
You know what Utah is struggling with? You guys may know Utah is the country's-- many people say the leader in the dual language immersion movement. I've seen literally like kids who are in the third grade who were fluent in Mandarin. And it's mind blowing. Mind blowing. It's really cool. And then let's not even talk about the cognitive side of this, like the cognitive impact of kids at that age being able to speak two, three languages. It's really cool.
But what Utah is struggling with-- University of Utah and BYU is what happens with these kids who are already fluent? They're in the 10th grade. And they're already fluent in Mandarin. What do the universities do? Like they're coming in already at like a graduate level. That's a good problem to have. Right? Like that's a problem. And we need to think about that. But that's a good problem to have.
And part of that is there has been a strong relationship between the State Department of Education and the two flagship universities to help build that, to provide expertise. The areas studies faculty go into the schools. They provide workshops, teacher support, teacher training. And it makes their jobs a little bit easier. And now, I don't think it's any secret or any coincidence that all these businesses, these multinationals, are relocating offices to Utah, because of the language capability. There's a lot of-- the Mormons who are going out and doing their missions are coming back with so much like rich language and cultural experience, that's an asset. That's an asset. So we're looking at it with one population that way.
The other thing I'll say is I've appreciated the shift nationally towards looking at people who are heritage speakers. Initially we used to see them as it was a deficit, right? Like they didn't speak English well. Now there's been a shift where we're starting to see that as an asset, where those folks are being brought to campuses to teach language, brought into the K-12 schools to help teach language. So I think that shift will be really, really good for the field. But universities have to play a role in cultivating that pipeline. So, yeah.
AUDIENCE: So I think you probably can tell from all the nods in the room that many of us work on international programs and we work on internationalization in the university. What are other strategies to get our messages beyond our silo, like you were talking about?
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: You mean within the university or outside of it?
AUDIENCE: Within the university. And also I think you've done a good job of telling us how you kind of do it outside, you know K-12. But within the university, how can we really make sure that that message is going through and that other people understand the return on investment? And what strategies have you seen that work?
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: So a couple of different things. I would say a couple, several, things. My frame of reference sometimes is around federal relations and development, so the fundraising folks and the federal relations folks, just because resources are tied to those. And I mentioned this to some of the center directors earlier is build a strong relationship with your development team.
And I say that because sometimes if you just look at the profession, oftentimes, folks accidentally fall into development. So maybe they're like journalists who are recovering. Or they're like a lawyer who didn't want to be at the law firm and they want to do something to give back. Or they were an administrator who fell into development or somebody from a sales background. And they may not necessarily know about the subject matter expertise. They may not they may not have the subject matter expertise to really understand what it is you do.
I remember being at George Mason early in my career, and people were like, oh, like he's like the international guy. I was like really? Like that's it? I'm the international guy. I think sometimes you have to take that extra step and be like, hey, let me take you out to coffee. Or if you're having an open house, or if you're having like in my case now at the Stevens Initiative, we invite our partners in to observe what we're doing.
Because a lot of people are like virtual what? Like I don't get it. So like our folks like Skyping? Are they talking on there? I'm no come on. Let's show you. I want you to be a part of it. Allow people to experience it just like we would with our students. Don't assume that if someone's 35 and they're a professional-- they're still learning. Bring them in. Have them experience it. Have them understand what you're doing. Have them maybe sit in on a classroom. That's always helpful. Have them talk to students.
But sometimes you need to lead. You need to articulate these are the skills that we're developing. This is why our program's important. And not just in that academic context, speak their language. So if you're talking to a development guy, like this is why your donors will care. Right? If it's your talking to your federal relations people or your state relations folks who are focused on Albany, this is why legislators should care. This is why local businesses should care in our programs, because this is a healthy pipeline for them of talent.
So I used to always tell folks on the Hill, one of the earliest conversations I had was with a guy who was a director of international relations at basically the biggest medical device manufacturing company in the world. Shows up in my office and says where can I recruit students who speak Mandarin and Hindi? Why? I was like that's odd. I wouldn't expect that from a medical device manufacturing guy. But he said, I need people who speak the language because I need people to sell in those markets. It was like, oh. It was like I need a bench.
When you flip it like that, you're like oh, this makes sense. So you better believe I was telling that story up on the Hill. That this is about a workforce bench. This is powering America's businesses forward. And if you've noticed, obviously the political conversation has shifted a little bit in this country, yeah, but it makes sense, right? It makes sense. So that's what I would say is think about your audience.
The other thing I would say is find champions. So that's maybe kind of one universe. We had, I remember, gosh, being at Georgetown. And a lot of times there are silos at every institution, but find a champion who will work with you. And then show some successes and show them publicly. So I remember working with a faculty member and he would come with me to New York. And none of the other faculty members were like I don't want to talk to this kid. He's going to take my donors. I was like all right, whatever.
So I would take a guy up to New York. And we'd come back with like a $500,000 gift. And you better believe I told everybody about it. I did. I'd tell the dean. Everybody knew about it. Why? Everybody else then was like, hey, listen, when are we going to New York? I said, yeah, because I raised that money for their program.
So what I'm saying is from a programmatic perspective is think about somebody else who's sitting in another silo, what are their tensions? What's their incentive to collaborate with you? What do they need to succeed at? Right? And help them accomplish that so it becomes a win-win. Find that intersection. That's a great way to break silos. So great question. That's a really good question. Yes, sir.
AUDIENCE: I'm an undergraduate engineering student. And you mentioned your virtual study abroad. I found myself in a position where I couldn't really study abroad with the program I was enrolled in. Can you speak more about the virtual study abroad?
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Yeah. So great question. This is sort of a new and emerging field. What we do at the Stevens-- and I'll tell you a little bit about Stevens and I can talk a little more broadly. So we are a public-private partnership. We're funded by the State Department, a few foundations, some of our partners are like Microsoft, Twitter, the MacArthur Foundation. And essentially we kind of do two things. We give grants to folks who are going to implement person-to-person exchange programs virtually. A lot of these are project based learning, some are language learning.
So institutions like UC Berkeley is a partner, Wofford College, SUNY COIL. You guys may be familiar with SUNI, their Center for Online-- what is it-- Online International Learning, something like that? Right. So COIL is a grantee as well. I mean they facilitate these essentially like people-to-people exchanges through a computer screen. Sometimes it's synchronous. Sometimes it's asynchronous.
And then the other side of our work is actually seeding the field. So it's not the grants. It's thinking about how do we support teachers, K-12 teachers? How do we build the professional development knowledge base, the scholarship around this? Really turning it into a field and giving it acceptance, because the reality is there's a lot of skepticism. They all like, ah, that's just they're Playing on Facebook. Well, it's not true. But those are some of the challenges when you're seeding a field.
So it's kind of two things. I would say are you looking for opportunities to get involved? Or what do you--
AUDIENCE: Oh, yeah, I'd like to have more of a broad experience.
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Yeah. So let's definitely talk. I'd love to get a better sense of like your major and kind of experience you want to have. And I can plug you in maybe with one of our grantees that's doing some work. We've had some conversations with the folks here about what involvement with the Stevens Initiative, what that might look like. But let's-- I'll give you my card and we'll definitely chat afterwards, get into the details.
HIROKAZU MIYAZAKI: One more this
So I enjoy your talk a lot.
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Particularly the kind of why language matters.
I hope next time when you come, if you come--
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: I will come back.
AUDIENCE: You will. OK, when you come, the title will be the time commitment to language learning matters more. Because my feeling is, as a language teacher, after one year, a lot of people disappear. After two years, more people disappear. OK. Three and four, they're hanging there and you can count them, like a handful. So. But learning a language is at least five year or six year or lifelong commitment.
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Sure.
AUDIENCE: Yeah. But not many people have that patience or persistence.
MOHAMED ABDEL-KADER: Well, you pointed something out. I think you pointed something out. You said it was maybe a five year or six year or lifelong commitment. And we're trying to jam it in to what usually is like three years, maybe max four. There's an incongruency there, right? So that's why I sort of advocate for we really have to think about the K-12 piece, also for the students' success.
And we have to be real about this. How many times do you hear students say, like, oh, I tried to learn this language. It was just too hard, so I quit. Oh, it was just too hard. It isn't worth it. Like I got through 202 Spanish and that it. It was too hard.
Yeah. I mean if you're starting in college and you have 50 million things going on, of course, it's difficult. But like I took some formal Arabic classes. But part of why my Arabic, I think is pretty good, is because my parents started with me very early. Part of why I think my Spanish is like decent is because I had a third grade teacher who introduced Spanish in the class. Right? So maybe my grammar isn't perfect, but there are certain things I can pronounce pretty well. And I think part of it is because, yeah, like I started in the third grade.
So I think universities can lead in this in terms of advocating at the state level. I mean a lot of steels have-- states, excuse me, have adopted the seal of biliteracy. So a great resources is ACTFL. If you go to ACTFL, the American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages, they write a lot about this issue. The report that I referenced has a lot of that on there as well. But, yeah. I think a lot of it really comes down to starting early, starting early. I don't think we'll see as much of a drop off, because students won't be as frustrated.
And unfortunately, we are in an environment where everybody wants instant gratification. Right? Sometimes the tenacity or the like the grit isn't there that-- a lot of people give up, because they're like, oh, well everything's like instant and it's all my phone. But if you're starting early and you build up enough of a base, then by the time you get to college, then there's enough of a foundation to where you're like, OK, this is making sense. So. That's my thought. Thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you.
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Multilingualism and the ability to understand cultures helps in solving global crises such as climate change and military conflicts, said Obama administration official Mohamed Abdel-Kader May 10, 2017 as part of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies’ Distinguished Speakers Series. An expert in international education and philanthropy, Abdel-Kader served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the International and Foreign Language Education (IFLE) Office at the U.S. Department of Education's (ED) Office of Postsecondary Education. The talk was co-sponsored by the Southeast Asia Program (SEAP) and South Asia Program (SAP).