Syracuse University Magazine

Educating Global Citizens

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Margaret Himley

When Margaret Himley was an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she created her own study abroad program by enrolling in the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. By the end of the semester, she had been bitten by the travel bug and stayed on to explore France, Spain, and Germany before returning home to finish college. “I remember vividly sitting in Edinburgh’s St. Giles Cathedral every Sunday and feeling a miniscule part of history in a way that was completely liberating,” says Himley, associate provost for international education and engagement. “I discovered the world is much bigger than me and that I could touch history across time.” 

Himley began her career as a professor of writing and rhetoric in the College of Arts and Sciences in 1983 after completing a master’s degree in English at her undergraduate alma mater and a doctoral degree in composition and rhetoric at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A Midwesterner by birth and upbringing, she was attracted to the high energy of the East Coast and has made Syracuse her home for the past 30 years. Although Himley continues to be a member of the writing faculty as a Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence, she took on a new challenge in 2011 when she assumed the helm of SU Abroad, which was moved from Enrollment Management to Academic Affairs to reflect the broadening scope of international education at SU. “I was charged with addressing the challenges all higher educational institutions face, which is how to prepare people to live in an increasingly transnational world,” Himley says. “Study abroad is central to that, but we also need a strategic plan for how to produce globally prepared students who know about the world, who care about it, and who engage with others to address urgent issues that cross borders.”

For example, Himley is working with SU faculty to develop a reconciliation program based in Wroclaw, a Polish city (formerly Breslau, Germany) with a complex and contentious past. Students would be provided with coursework and action research opportunities to explore the history, struggles, conflicts, and practices of peace and healing enacted in this region. “The kind of learning students  need is what I call ‘metonymic,’ which means that you go deep to learn a great deal about a place, go deep into another place, and then figure out how the two are alike—and not alike—each other by connecting the dots,” Himley says. “This global analytic learning is not only about developing knowledge of the world. It is about learning how to learn about the world—a transnational spirit of inquiry and action.”  

One thing Himley likes most about her new job is visiting SU’s eight study abroad centers around the world. Back home, she enjoys learning about the faculty’s scholarly interests and their commitment to international study and research. She also is working with colleagues to determine which pedagogical assumptions need to be reimagined—assumptions about knowledge itself, what is being taught, and what constitutes a globally prepared person. “We’re having an exciting conversation, and we will have an opportunity to do that all over campus,” she says. “There are probably some common features to being globally prepared that we need to highlight in all disciplines.”

A typical day for Himley starts by checking and responding to e-mails at about 4:30 a.m. because someone on her staff is always awake somewhere around the globe. Now, thanks to a new videoconferencing system, she can meet with all of the study abroad center directors at the same time. “I feel that ‘face-to-face’ interaction with the directors is important, even if for some it is in the middle of the night and they are in their pajamas,” Himley says. “Educating global citizens for the world, in the world, is a huge collective undertaking, but well worth the effort—especially when wonderful, hardworking, and caring people are completely focused on students.” —Christine Yackel

Photo by Susan Kahn