[APPLAUSE] MARIET WESTERMANN: It's really great to be here. And as you can see, from what I've said here on the first night of my PowerPoint, I may be speaking at the wrong symposium, because I realize this is really the Global Grand Challenges Symposium. But I thought I was speaking at the sixth annual symposium on international studies. And this is really interesting, and Wendy has assured me there were five of this kind of thing before.
So it's interesting how international and global are somehow interwoven. And I do think the question of international studies today is itself a global challenge. So this is coming together beautifully. So thank you very much, Wendy, for asking me to speak on a topic that has been central to my life and heart since 1980, when I came to the United States from the Netherlands to pursue a liberal arts education.
A few weeks ago, when I was speaking in another venue about a topic like this, I was told afterwards that I was a relentless internationalist. And I thought about us for a while. And since then, I've thought that I really rather like that. And so I'll talk about that.
So the symposium is asking us, in part, how our universities can cultivate global citizenship at home and elsewhere. Now, that is a bit of a painful question these days for a relentless internationalist, as many governments of countries with evolved university systems today appear to conceive of citizenship in nationalist, rather than trans-border or global, terms. So in this context, the aspiration to create global communities of learning, let alone global citizens, which seemed such a hopeful possibility of the early internet age, that aspiration now seems almost quaint.
I hope this is a reversible moment we are going through, rather than a period-- a long period. But we cannot be certain of that I think. Whatever the moment is that we're in, it has pushed us back in a position where the term "international," as in between or among nations, is again of our time, where only 10 years ago it felt old fashioned compared to the forward lean of "global."
But whatever this moment may be, it does not seem to me the time for universities to retreat from international exchange or the ambition to foster trans-border networks of learning. As a vital component of their missions, the heart of their mission is to foster free academic inquiry and conciliance. So I'm very happy that the Einaudi Center is for flourishing and keeps this work going forward. Our universities must continue to receive students and scholars from abroad with open arms, create cosmopolitan communities on their campuses, and they must support the interests of their faculty and students to study and conduct research abroad, and with colleagues from around the world. And I believe universities also have an obligation to lift up scholars and students who are at risk of persecution, violence, war, and displacement, even if some of these scholars and students cannot today come to our country on grounds of national origin that are often blatantly tied to questions of religious belief and identity.
So in my brief remarks, I want to do really two things. I want to recall a history of American conviction that international educational exchange is a source of peace and innovation. And then I want to suggest why and how our institutions of higher learning could defend and promote that work despite current headwinds.
To do so, universities will have to help maintain and reinvigorate historical compacts between themselves, international academic organizations, and where possible, US agencies. As the Mellon Foundation, where I work, is dedicated to the humanities and the arts, I will not say much about the sciences and social sciences, although the conditions that I will try to describe affect all curiosity-driven fields of study. We are all in it together-- the sciences, social sciences, and humanities in this moment.
So first a little bit of that history of American commitment to international educational exchange. Isolationism has such a pronounced place in American history that it can be hard to remember sometimes that the country has also known great periods of utopian international extension. Education has been at the heart of those ideals when they have popped up. And significant institutions and programs were created to promote it, often with the involvement and funding of the US government.
In 2019, in a few months time, the Institute of International Education, the IIE, will celebrate its 100th anniversary. It truly was a child of its time. The IIE was founded to create opportunities for scholars and students to spend time abroad so that they might work and learn with peers from different intellectual traditions.
The institute was a resolutely American product of World War I. Its founders, Nobel Peace Prize laureates Elihu Root, who had been Secretary of State, and Nicholas Murray Butler, the President then of Columbia University, were persuaded that international education would advance peace. And in the words that they cited of Alfred Nobel himself, it would advance the best work of fraternity between nations.
Today the IIE is flourishing still. It facilitates international education at remarkable scale, touching the lives of more than 27,000 American and foreign students and scholars each year through its Fulbright and other scholarships, as well as a host of younger programs, such as one that now helps Pell Grant-eligible students to study abroad. A brief disclosure-- this sounds like a promo piece for IIE, and I do serve on the board of the IIE. But I figured they are just too big a part of this history, and really the earliest part of this history, for me to leave them out. But many more such programs were created in America between 1918 and 1950. And many survive today, from the American Field Service to the Peace Corps.
I first came to this country to Massachusetts as a 17-year-old high school student on a summer program-- a summer school exchange program that was supported by the Rotary Foundation. When I returned home afire with what I'd seen on these incredible American campuses, from the little community college in Lowell to Tufts to Harvard, I was so excited to think what I could learn in the United States that I could not in Europe. And so I spent many afternoons in a very cozy, capacious State Department office on an Amsterdam canal that helped American universities recruit Dutch students and opened horizons for students like me to think about life in America I'd be like.
I savored flipping through these course catalogs from Abilene Christian University, over to Yale and Xavier at the other end of the room. And it was inspiring. It seemed an obvious thing to me, but also to my parents, that I would go study in the country that had liberated my parents when they were teenagers from occupation in the Netherlands and Indonesia-- and the country that then rebuilt our economy through the Marshall Plan. That was another major moment of international educational extensions in the 1970s.
So international education is in and of America. And the journey that brought me here belongs to a history of confidence in international education as a bulwark specifically against war. That's sometimes hard to remember now, but that's where a lot of this came from.
And of course, International Educational Exchange and all these programs haven't quite panned out completely in that way. Even if there has been no World War III, that is cold comfort to people in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, whose international knowledge networks and institutions have been destroyed, along with so much else into our lives, by new forms of warfare. But still, nevertheless, the experience of the European Union and its knowledge systems over the last 40 years suggests that educational exchange has a role to play in maintaining at least a hope, and perhaps a reality, of liberal European cohesion.
And countries reap other benefits that are not all about peace, perhaps. One of Britain's biggest worries about Brexit today is its potential loss of eager continental students, and of the possibility of its own talent studying in European universities at a favorable rate they had enjoyed. That's all about brain drain and bringing innovation into your country, and getting it from elsewhere.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the United States famously boosted its intellectual firepower, thanks to dozens of refugee writers, scholars, and scientists, whose names you know. And something of that still remains in this moment. Even though today, the language of xenophobia is spoken at the highest levels of government, Congress has continued to fund some of the most vigorous education exchange programs in the world. Every year, 4,000 international Fulbright students come to American universities, and almost 2,000 American Fulbright students learn abroad. More than 1,900 advanced Fulbright scholars receive teaching and research awards.
And many of these come back to the US as outstanding teachers of language and culture, investing in their communities and young people. More than 40 Fulbright scholars to date have received Nobel prizes in literature, the sciences, and of course peace. The Fulbright programs represent perhaps the most disinterested federal investment in international education. It's all relative. There are obviously benefits. But it is a relatively disinterested free economic program.
But the greatest total allocations for international research and education in this country grew out of acute national security interests. I'm speaking, of course, of area studies, well-known to all of you at Einaudi Center. Under the National Defense Education Act of 1958, and then the Higher Education Act of 1965, the government for decades poured Title VI resources, massive resources, into programs for area studies and language training that could create cadres raise of experts in world affairs who could operate and understand in key theaters of the Cold War.
Now, while not all social scientists were comfortable with the chopping up of the world into spheres of US political interest, or with the [INAUDIBLE] of foreign policy, national security, and regional academic inquiry, not everyone was excited about it. But many people were. Many people were, because the investment basically built the modern social science infrastructure of major universities, and some smaller ones. And it gave the academy the enduring form of the interdisciplinary research center that still thrives today.
There is, by the way, a very interesting new telling of this history in a very nimble way in a book by Mitchell Stephens, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, and Seteney Shami, formerly of the Social Science Research Council, called Seeing the World. I think for those of you plotting Cornell's global education forward, it might be a good read. It's very focused on the area studies question. Now, the heyday of Title VI funding has of course passed. It's hard to imagine these numbers today. If Title VI funding today was what it was in the Johnson administration, it would be about $500 million in 2018.
Now, between the National Resource Centers and Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships, that still are the vestiges of this, total funding is about 10% of that-- maybe some $60 million. And in government circles today, indeed, international education is losing some of its shine in other ways. Although the Fulbright Program, as I've said, is still well-loved and keeps its funding every year somehow-- not without pressure, but it keeps it. The outgoing US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has been indicating in various group conversations that universities should be careful about what they teach foreign students and how, suggesting that many of these students-- especially from China, she will intimate, are tasked to steal American intellectual property, and walk off with vital security secrets.
She surely knows things that I don't know. I accept that. And while no one should be blind to the possibility that countries may deploy students as spies and thieves-- it's entirely possible, of course. There is a history of this.
Nevertheless, the ambassador's implication that faculty should teach foreign students differently from American students on that same campus is deeply disturbing. Moreover, it seems very willfully ignorant of protocols of academic freedom and governance. So the atmosphere is not so good for international education, and European academic leaders are [INAUDIBLE] on to this deteriorating climate for higher education in the country.
At a recent conference last month of European research funders, I was asked to speak about the implications of American politics for our funding of universities and international exchange. I said, are you sure you really want me to do that? Because it could take a very long time. And so instead, I decided to keep it very simple, and I told them this.
So the US has seen a decline of citizen trust in the institutions that have formed the bedrock of American democracy, despite all its problems, including universities. You know a lot of this story, but the Europeans didn't necessarily. So just to recap here. So this is one poll of many that shows a rapid decline in public confidence in the higher education system.
Today, as you can see there, 2018, less than 50% of Americans trust that universities are doing well by this country. Among Republicans, it's less than 40%. And more troublingly, the changes-- look at these changed numbers, not just for Democrats, of course. But they have changed rapidly in the last three years even among Democrats.
Now, higher education still is doing a lot better than other institutions when it comes to confidence. It's fourth. We're behind the police. I found it a little upsetting, but anyway.
But listen, we're beating Congress at rock bottom here.
Of course, those numbers may be changing. Well, let's hope. The situation is not good. We are witnessing-- again, you all know this. But I'm speaking to these European funders and academic leaders.
We're seeing unprecedented attacks on the value of free speech, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, and most critically to universities the possibility of evaluating any truth claims at all. Significant segments of our population view the country's demographic changes and immigration with suspicion and fear. And these suspicions are spilling over onto university campuses, as we all know, where academic freedom has seen erosion. For the first time this year, 2018, the report "Free to Think," which is issued by Scholars at Risk and documents attacks on academic freedom around the world, for the first time, it has a four page section dedicated to threats in the United States.
Now, the interrelated problems of democracy and higher education are not unique to the US, of course. From Brazil to India, from Russia to South Africa, around the world, nativism and nationalisms are on the rise, and borders of all sorts are closing. I still believe that international academic exchange can be a powerful counter to these trends, in part because it can fly under and over governmental borders, but also because it is mostly enacted by young people and oriented to the future.
And there is some good news still on this score. Students are not shrinking back from educational opportunity abroad. If you look at the numbers around the world, here you see a trend line-- this is all student mobility that's been a trend line since 1990 rapidly going up. The latest data here, 2014. But around the world, it continues to go up.
Here, too, you still see that arc. Two years ago, there was a 4% increase in US students studying abroad. So that continues apace as well.
What we are seeing, however, that is more troublesome, I think-- and I think you noted, if you follow your admissions numbers here at Cornell even, we see that new enrollments of international students in the US are going down. And these are the data. You see them in different categories of education, but you see the little bend in the curve there around 2015. And these are data from just before the election of 2016. So already, the sinks have been tailing off a little bit in terms of students coming here.
The new numbers that [INAUDIBLE] year will be published next week. And I've seen them, and they will show a sharper downturn last year, occasioned by a combination of factors. Heightened capacity in sending countries, like China and India, but also, of course, the actual atmospheric effects of the visa ban on six countries.
We just don't look as shiny and welcoming as we used to. And we have already the data imported for Cornell, I think, of graduate school applications from last fall. And you can see here, the blue there is final applications, the orange is grad students actual enrolling. And as you can see on the right, both those numbers were down last fall. And I am fearful that they are down further this fall.
Now, in this moment of nativist discontents, then around the world, what can the Mellon Foundation do? Well, one thing we do is step up support for international collaborative frameworks in the humanities. We believe that such exchange mechanisms are particularly key to the health of the humanities at home and abroad.
We support exchange through organizations that have wide reach across continents, such as the Consortium for Humanities Centers and Institutes, CHCI, a too-little-known institution in many ways. CHCI was created in 1988, and it is today a flourishing organization of more than 250 humanities centers, mostly based in universities around the world. Although we all know the stereotype of humanities scholars sitting in libraries and pursuing their research alone, CHCI is bringing them together in new formations and frameworks, such as the Global Humanities Institutes that you see announced here.
The outcomes of these very nimble summer institutes are intended to have a long life. They produce curricula, publications, documentaries, and exhibitions that flow new knowledge back into departments, back into centers, but also out to the public. CHCI is a major driver of public humanities activity internationally.
The institutes also, very powerfully I think today especially, allow for comparative research-- comparative approaches. My favorite one in concept, for example, the one on Crises, plural, of Democracy, is convened by scholars from Ireland, Brazil, Croatia, India, and the United States. So this is an example of nimble center-like work producing new kinds of consiliance and collaboration among scholars, and stealing each other, basically, in this work.
How else can the international humanities community make common cause of the kind that produced the Institute of International Education and the Fulbright scholars programs? In 1945, the Constitution of UNESCO proclaimed that, "it is in the minds of men that the defense of peace must be constructed," and "that peace must therefore be founded upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind." We would like to adjust the gender a little bit today. But still, noble thoughts.
And again, these inspiring words may now seem a little naive. Transnational solidarity has proven to be extremely fragile. And if the humanities are to contribute to it, humanists probably need to start amongst themselves.
To this end, we are working with a completely different organization than CHCI, an organization that also too few people know, which is called the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences, which was created in the 1950s as a classic product of the UN era after World War II. It is in fact an affiliate of UNESCO, and is known by its French acronym CIPSH. Sounds very chirpy, CIPSH. And CIPSH has sunk to a low ebb of activity in the past few decades.
But initially, it really had some of the leading minds of Europe in it-- Claude Levi-Strauss very importantly. It's really a federation of international societies in the humanities of all sorts in the disciplines. CIPSH became less active, I think, in the '70s, '80s, because universities themselves became so international.
But now it has been revitalizing itself, aware of the need for common compact. And so together with funders in Europe and Asia, we intend to support a new effort to have underway to map and connect global humanities activity better through something that sounds very bureaucratic, a "World Humanities Report." The report would not be a mere bureaucratic tabulation of who [? plants ?] the humanities fields where. But it will seek to draw out what scholars in different regions think about the place of the humanities in their countries and in the world, and perhaps reach some consensus of what the humanities can be for today.
It will be coordinated by an independent editorial committee vested in that other organization, CHCI. So bringing the two organizations together for the first time. And it aims to bring forth its findings and recommendations in 2020.
I think the enterprise is likely to be messy. Success is far from assured. After all, this is a bunch of humanists working together.
So it's going to be hard. But I do think the initiative has a chance of modeling the hard intercultural work together that is, in a way, at the heart of the humanities. And that perhaps may generate some fresh attention for these disciplines, and in its very mode of working for the value of international exchange itself.
So my talk here has been high on aspiration, low on evidence. Sometimes, I think it is important to say what we believe, because it has a high chance of being right, and because it is under attack. Mobilizing education for intercultural understanding and for human flourishing, rather than deleterious competition among institutions and among states,
I think this must be a joint priority for universities if we are going to create a planet habitable for human existence. If the specter of World War III no longer motivates international education at scale as it did in the 20th century, today we have environmental threats and economic inequality as drivers of mass migration and enmity to take the place of that specter of World War III. International education can be a bulwark against these kinds of threats today.
To give humanity a chance at bending back the growth curve of these very challenging global phenomena that will affect us all, we must develop more equitable terms of interdependence among the world's peoples. It's very hard, but we must strive to find acceptable terms of interdependence between humans, the other species we keep defining, and our shared planetary environment. And I still believe that universities are actually very good at thinking together-- the sorts of thinking together across borders and disciplines that's going to be needed, and that obviously this Global Grand Challenges Symposium is about. For my part, I cannot see how any country or nation-bound education system can make any progress on this work by going it alone. Thank you.
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Mariët Westermann, executive vice president for programs and research, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, spoke about “International Education in an Age of New Nationalisms” at the Cornell Global Grand Challenges Symposium in November 2018. Her talk was a history lesson, a report on the state of democracy and higher education, and a call to action.
During the 2-day symposium, panelists and keynote speakers laid out some of the most pressing issues of our times, as well as possible paths to solutions. One of the goals of the symposium was to identify themes to be considered for Cornell’s first Global Grand Challenge initiative, a dedication to a topic through new curricular, scholarly, and engaged work across campus. In October 2019, the
Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs announced the theme of the first global grand challenge: Migrations.