Recently David J. Smith, global education and conflict resolution expert, visited Collin College. If you missed his talks, read on to learn how you can become a global peacemaker.
What makes Smith an expert?
Smith is a U.S. Fulbright Scholar with more than 30 years of experience as an educational consultant, lawyer, professor, trainer and former senior program officer and coordinator of national outreach at the U.S. Institute of Peace. A consummate speaker, he has given more than 500 talks on peacebuilding, conflict resolution and international education. He is the author of the book Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace and the president of the Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, Inc., a nonprofit company which offers experiential learning opportunities for students and professionals.
A Global Perspective
According to Smith, no matter what is going on in the world, we will increasingly be an interdependent, global community.
“Forty five percent of American college students are in community colleges. You will be the business and civic leaders of tomorrow. Global education changes your work-life trajectory. I encourage everyone to travel, travel, travel,” Smith said.
Smith acknowledges some students may not have the time or finances to take trips now. However, he does not believe that should limit these students in terms of global peacebuilding. He suggests seeking out and learning from diverse groups of people close to home.
“There are lots of experiences you can have in your community that are like going abroad. Language is the edge of international communication. Learning another language opens you to the culture as well as the language.”
What can you do now?
In addition to experiential learning, Smith suggests taking classes such as Model UN and volunteering as well as considering Fulbright Fellowships, Rotary Peace Fellowships and the Peace Corps.
Though Fulbright awards fellowships to those who have earned four-year degrees, he notes students can prepare for that experience by taking foreign language classes today.
“Fulbright is about world peace. It is not just sending people overseas but also bringing people here. By spending time here Fulbright Fellows enrich the whole campus. We have a foreign exchange imbalance. Overall less than two percent of Americans study abroad, but 30 percent of those studying in the U.S. are from China. We need more students going to Asia and learning Mandarin. Eventually there could be more English speakers in China than in the U.S.,” Smith said.
Rotary Peace Fellows
The Rotary Peace Fellows program promotes international education. According to Smith, each year, up to 100 professionals and students are sent to Rotary centers around the world to study.
Smith’s son, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering, is currently serving in the Peace Corps.
“He is teaching three classes a day. He has 60 students in each class, and people are sitting on the floor. There is no air conditioning, and there are broken windows, and he has the good room,” Smith said, laughing.
“Think of things that can advance your career. My son went to the University of Maryland and took a semester abroad in Turkey. He still has those connections, and he uses them today in the Peace Corps. You don’t have to have a college degree to join the Peace Corps. They are particularly interested in people who work in health care.”
Students Ask and Smith Answers
Q What is the demand for teaching English as a second language?
A It is tremendous. There is a big economy for teaching English around the world. You can get hired to teach English as a Second Language without knowing another language. You do not need an English degree to teach English.
Q How did you come to this line of work?
A I am from a multicultural family. I have a dual citizenship in Canada and America. My wife is half Indian and half German. My daughter is adopted from Korea. We are all on this planet together. I’m on my fifth or sixth career because nobody is staying in the same career today.
Q These programs [Fulbright, Rotary Peace Fellows, Peace Corps] are competitive. Do you have any advice?
A Some programs do not have enough people apply, but always prepare yourself in a competitive way. If you want to be a Fulbright Fellow, show that you are interested in international things. Show experiences in which you traveled, so they know you are not a risk. Develop relationships with people in the area you want to go to. Showing you are deeply interested is critical.
Q What can we do to make our children more culturally confident?
A That is easy — Netflix and subtitles. Why do Scandinavians know English so well? In Scandinavia they are listening in English, and the subtitles are in Scandinavian. In the 1960s and 1970s my mother was a natural French speaker. She was told to teach your kids one language because it would confuse them to learn more than one. There is no science behind this. One of the reasons other countries look down on Americans is because we are not that global. We are not culturally sensitive.
Students Reach Out
Emily Krupka, president of the student-led Collin College organization “Welcome to America,” and member Zack Vogt were excited to hear Smith’s lecture. It dovetailed nicely with their organization, and they want to extend an open invitation to those who might be interested.
Krupka, who plans to earn a degree in linguistics, says a recent meeting topic was food and families.
“We want to reduce apprehension about coming to America,” she said. “I love helping students, whether they are international or not, with any issues they have. I love getting them involved in Collin culture.”
Vogt is planning to earn a degree in geoscience.
“The reason I go is because I want to meet people from other nations,” he said. “I want to help and bring people closer together.”
“Welcome to America” meetings are held at 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Spring Creek Campus. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/1706435482979785/ or http://iws.collin.edu/kwilkison/America%20Welcome.html .