Passport to the World
It doesn’t matter where you grew up. The sprawling suburbs. A small town in the Delta. If you are a student at Jackson State University, the message is the same: You are going places.
By Bette Pearce and Tammy Ramsdell
This summer, 72 students are participating in Jackson State University’s new Passport to the World program, a nationally groundbreaking, condensed study abroad approach designed by JSU Global to prepare a workforce equipped to both succeed and lead in what is now a highly competitive, global economy. Whether they choose to stay in Mississippi, move to one of the nation’s sprawling metropolises, or end up in another country, they are part of a global marketplace. And JSU is bringing that message home with unprecedented clarity.
“We live in an global, complex, interdependent world without borders,” said Dr. Priscilla D. Slade, special assistant to the provost for JSU Global and Community Colleges. “As an institution of higher learning, we are creating a pipeline of graduates with global competencies that will empower them to compete and make viable contributions as global citizens.”
Statistics bear this need out. According to the latest numbers available from the U.S. State Department, international trade supports more than 320,000 Mississippi jobs with customers in 194 countries buying Mississippi-grown and manufactured goods and services, resulting in $12.2 billion goods exported in 2012. From manufacturing, including global automakers Nissan and Toyota, agriculture, high-tech start-ups and the military to the growing healthcare industry, global markets and applications are already a part of the landscape.
“To remain competitive we need a workforce with global competencies,” said Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson.
Carl Newman, as Jackson Municipal Airport Authority CEO, sees firsthand the role both Hawkins Field and the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport play in global economic development. It’s crucial, he said, that JSU help students “develop global competencies and learn to live and work with individuals throughout the world.” Newman, because of such expertise, is part of a 10-member JSU Global Board of Advisors being formed “to help determine future study abroad destinations and course topics,” said Slade.
Carly McKie, marketing and trade assistant at the Mississippi World Trade Center — one of more than 300 World Trade Centers in 100 countries — said Mississippi “is never going back to being a state economy.”
Regardless of location, in fact, she said international experience is a growing focus of many companies as they recruit.
“It’s absolutely imperative that students today have an international education, and personal communication with people in other cultures is something you really can’t teach,” McKie says. “You have to experience it.”
Traditional study abroad programs last several months and cost thousands of dollars. Jackson State University wanted a more affordable alternative, Slade said, with exposure to cultures beyond predominantly European destinations. And it wanted to reach a greater number of students. The Passport to the World program delivers just that. It offers intense, abbreviated study opportunities, created and led by JSU’s own faculty, first two weeks overseas, then two weeks on campus. A groundbreaking partnership with the Council on International Education Exchange, announced in January, brings that organization’s site expertise into the mix.
Offerings this summer include France (Paris); Spain (Madrid); China (Shanghai); Brazil (Rio de Janeiro and Salvador da Bahia); and Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo). The unique arrangement offers students six credit hours and allows the program to be incorporated as part of tuition, with many students eligible for financial aid to cover the $2,000 price tag. Dr. John P. Pellow, president and CEO of CIEE, which operates international programs at 140 universities across the U.S., expects the approach launched at JSU to be “emulated all across the country.”
Ever mindful of the costs associated with international travel, JSU and CIEE went a step further, pledging, as part of its partnership, to provide 100 students each with passports. To showcase the partnership, CIEE kicked off its Passport campaign — aimed at getting 10,000 passports to students nationwide — at JSU in February. According to the National Institute for International Education, less than 10 percent of the 300,000 students earning degrees in the U.S. in 2013-’14 studied abroad. By comparison, more than 800,000 international students attended U.S. colleges and universities.
Jackson State University’s Passport to the World program serves as its pledge toward NIEE’s goal of doubling the number of U.S. students with study abroad experience by the end of the decade. Jasmine Harvey, a 22-year-old social work major from Macon, Ga., appreciates the effort underway at JSU. Because of it, she signed on to study in Paris.
“I hope to gain a further understanding of a foreign country, its people and its culture,” she says, “and gain a cultural competence to be able to travel anywhere and adjust.”
Slade has no doubt that such a goal will materialize for Harvey and others.
“All of the students traveling abroad this summer will have a definite edge and a higher level of marketability,” she says, “as well as experiences that will last a lifetime.” ONEJSU
Help them take flight
Tax-deductible donations for student airline and related Passport to the World travel expenses can be made to: Crowdrise.com/jsupassporttotheworld
JSU Global, 1400 John R. Lynch St.
PO Box 17103, Jackson MS
Make checks, money orders payable to Jackson State University Foundation.
For more information, visit www.jsums. edu/global or call (601) 979-1611.