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Changing World Requires New Skills

For The Heights

Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

On Tuesday, Alberto Godenzi, dean of the Graduate School of Social Work, gave a talk on globalization as part of the Sesquicentennial Dean’s Series at the Cadigan Alumni Center on Brighton Campus. The talk was sponsored by the Boston College Alumni Association and was titled, “Putting our Heads in the Sand Won’t Make the World Go Away.”  
“I want to talk about three assumptions and three recommendations,” Godenzi said. “The assumptions are that globalization is real, it has transformed our lives, and we are, by default, global citizens. The recommendations are that we better shape up and increase our awareness of global issues, we need to become multilingual, and we need to be humble about these achievements.”
Godenzi, whose graduate school is the highest ranked school at BC according to U.S. News and World Report, noted that there are 500,000 people traveling on airplanes at any one time and that there were over 940 million international arrivals in 2010.

“The world really has become much smaller,” Godenzi said. “Being at Boston College, you can think about when St. Ignatius of Loyola said to his good friend St. Francis Xavier, ‘Go set the world aflame,’ or in other words carry the Gospel to the East, he probably knew that he would never see him again. And, in fact, he never saw him again.”
Godenzi made sure to emphasize that globalization is a broadly defined word. It has multiple meanings and connotations that depend entirely on context and the topic being discussed.

“You have on one hand organizations like the World Economic Forum, and on the other hand you have the World Social Forum,” Godenzi said. “And they have very different ideas about what globalization is. The one in the first place is all about jobs, growth, economy, open markets and so on. Other ones are all about the health and well-being of the entire planet. These are very different concepts.”
Because of these nonspecific definitions, Godenzi said that people measure global performance differently. He mentioned gross domestic product (GDP), the World Happiness Index, and the Happy Planet Index as three competing global measures.

Godenzi suggested that to live in our globalized world we must become more globally aware and try our best to learn about other cultures and ways of thinking.

He said that now, because of the Internet, other global perspectives are more accessible than ever before.

“How many people read on a regular basis a media outlet not from the western world? Al Jazeera, Japanese newspapers, maybe something from China? Very few, I guess,” Godenzi said. “You will see the world in very different ways. The perspectives of the world from outside [the western world] are just so different that it’s really worthwhile to do that kind of exercise.”
Godenzi said that language versatility is also an area global citizens need to improve on. He noted, however, that, for English speakers, much of the world is open for dialogue.

“There is a huge competitive advantage that you all have and that is that English is your first language, because it is the most popular second language in the world,” Godenzi said.  
His third recommendation is the one he thinks is the most challenging–having global humility.

“You have to try to get away from the feeling that we are the dominant race or the dominant culture,” Godenzi said. “Study, listen, be respectful. Look for commonalities when you go and travel the world. At the same time, enjoy the differences but address social injustices. Then if you build relationships, nurture them, make sure they are reciprocal and that they are sustained over the long run. These are standards that we use in international relations. They help you to be a competent global citizen as opposed to an ignorant global citizen.”

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