Globalization on Campus: A Chattanooga Case Study – by Deborah Levine

Educating for Going Global

The International Business Council (IBC) of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a panel of educators who have much to teach us about globalization. IBC speakers often represent the international businesses that have flocked to this small Southern city. This month’s speakers spoke of how higher education is at the heart of our growing local-global connection. Their new initiatives, and in some cases, still emerging programs, aim to simultaneously bring greater numbers of international students to local campuses while globalizing Chattanooga’s students through study abroad.

The event’s facilitator was Dr. Robert Dooley, Dean of the Business College at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC). Dooley shared how globalization is changing Chattanooga area and introduced the panelists. Dr. Robert Denn is Dean of the Honors Program and Director of the Global Scholars at Chattanooga State Community College. Takeo Suzuki is the first Executive Director of the UTC Office of International Programs, which will is being expanded into a global studies center.

The Global Mindset

Denn talked about efforts to globalize the often insular students of Bledsoe County where many high school students have never gone beyond the county boundaries. In 2014, the expected number of students in the first cohort group of the Honors Program was twenty-five. The class was double that in size at sixty-two students. In the fall of 2016, two hundred students are expected to enroll. “A truly educated student has a global perspective. It’s especially challenging to give students in rural areas an understanding of the wider world, but future employees of international companies must have a global mindset.”

Today, holistic approaches and inter-disciplinary learning are key to globalizing students. Denn’s Honors Program develops global awareness both in the classroom and through study abroad. Relationships with faculty help overcome the fear factor so that students and their families are willing to participate. The audience asked how students without the finances to study abroad will be able to afford. Given the life-long impact of the experience, it was suggested that corporations and foundations invest in scholarships and internships that help students to travel and immerse themselves in diverse cultures.

Mingling for Impact

Suzuki noted that while one million international students come to the US every year, only a third of that number of American students study abroad. Therefore, as the president of the IBC pointed out, a vital piece of globalization can be ongoing contact with Chattanooga’s international students. Thirty-one countries are represented on campus. However, 60% of international students don’t make American friends while studying in the US. He suggested that we focus on mingling local and international students, a process that would yield better results by giving the internationals cultural awareness training.

The Economic Argument

As for the economic impact of international students, the Association of International Educators estimates that $288,538,640 was spent in 2015 by international students in Tennessee. The 151 students currently on the UTC campus add 5.4 million dollars to Chattanooga’s economy. In five years, Suzuki expects to increase the total of international students per year at UTC to 1,500, adding millions of dollars to the local economy.

In this competitive environment, neighboring Georgia has twice as many international students as Tennessee. Five cities in Tennessee have greater numbers than Chattanooga. Suzuki extolled the beauty of Chattanooga, the kindness of its people, its globalization, and growing economy. Yet, citing his own experience when relocating, Suzuki explained, “None of my contacts around the US knew anything about Chattanooga.”

Students do the Marketing

Suzuki suggested a marketing plan based on the international students coming here and local students studying abroad. “Human resources create the best promotion and students make a huge difference.” Good advice from a small Southern city.


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