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In these first six months on the job, I have traveled the schools of this university to learn about the range of missions to internationalize higher education. In both curricula and research, the variety of the world figures much more prominently today than it did only a decade or so ago. One significant example of this shift appears in the reorganization of the School of Music's core undergraduate curriculum. Coursework departs from tradition and its familiar start with European art music. Instead, world music begins the students' career and expands their tonal palette dramatically. Not every unit has infused the world so deeply in its scholarship of learning and teaching, but one aspect to internationalizing higher education appears nearly across the board: collaboration.
International collaboration is a vehicle for extending the reach of the paradigms and practices of globally ambitious expertise. Neither the ambition nor the form is unprecedented, of course. Many disciplines committed to generalizing theory have long struggled to escape the ethnocentric straightjacket of an exclusively American preoccupation. I am struck, however, by the degree to which many units recognize the internationalization of their scholarship and learning as a matter of fact necessity. The substantial investment of our faculty from the Medical School, LS&A and especially the Law School in international human rights has made collaboration across communities of inquiry and countries of residence a given. Those who study global flows of disease or patterns of health behavior in diasporas must work through international collaboration within international frames of reference. The Schools of Business, Engineering and others have put international research at the heart of their articulation with the globalization of business itself. To the extent one works in places whose everyday life and scholarly infrastructures defy direct applications of experience from elsewhere, collaboration with those who know that context becomes even more important.
Collaboration is of course not peculiar to international scholarship. It characterizes learning in the research university. As Provost Nancy Cantor notes, collaboration offers a way to develop "socially shared cognition". It provides scholars with one of the most important forms through which they can extend their own ways of viewing the world and their scholarly mission. This is especially true when it is combined with the challenge of difference and that may be one reason China appears at the heart of so many international initiatives on this campus.
Economic and political significance of course counts. China's size, military and strategic importance, economic growth and expansion of international commerce and vast intellectual capital in a number of domains make it very important for any research university. For instance, The William Davidson Institute at the Business School, committed to the study of economic transitions to markets and to developing the conversation between academics and policy makers, organized its last annual conference in Beijing. The China Data Center offers unparalleled access to geographic information systems data from the region. The School of Nursing has developed a sustained relationship with the Department of Nursing at Beijing Medical University and the College of Engineering has undertaken a substantial collaboration with Shanghai's Jiaotong University.
Nevertheless, at the heart of collaborations with China lies its difference. Americans' engagement with China sometimes is motivated by concern to understand its potential as a rival, or even as a political opponent, but difference can also serve as a motive for collaboration. One of the most compelling sites to test the generality of theories is in a place where similarities are least easily presumed. This was quite evident in a recent seminar organized by Patricia Gurin and the Department of Psychology to highlight their longstanding association with the Institute of Psychology of China's National Academy of Sciences.
Many enduring research partnerships have been organized through this inter-institutional collaboration and important research results have been obtained. During the seminar, Rick Price discussed how he and his colleagues have studied individuals' life course transitions in a radically changing Chinese economy. He also has worked with scholars and officials from seven cities to develop organizations that can help job seekers identify new opportunities. Denise Park contrasted American and Chinese patterns of memory, itself shaped, she proposed, by different interactions between socialization, language structure and cognitive brain functions. Gary Olson discussed variable efficiencies of audio and video media for research collaboration. It appears that video-mediated collaboration does not significantly enhance the efficiency of collaboration among native English speakers, but when English is a second language, visual cues become critical to productive exchange. The significance of China's difference was critical to all of these comparative exercises.
These important findings depended on effective collaborations, which are in turn enabled by the endurance of ties. In the research partnerships themselves, the psychologists emphasized the greater startup costs of this international work and the importance of friendship in enhancing their collaboration with Chinese colleagues. Underlying this more immediate endurance, however, is a sustained institutional investment in China studies on this campus. Harold Stevenson, a member of the Psychology department and associate of both Centers of Chinese (CCS) and of Japanese studies (CJS), recalled in his comments how CCS played a central role in developing the Psychology Department's association with Chinese scholars. While other units may have developed their initiatives independently of CCS, they too have drawn upon previously developed ties. For example, engineering professor Jun Ni graduated from Shanghai's Jiaotong University and the late Dr. Sam Wu and Daisy Wu established the Wu Manufacturing Laboratory in Jiantong several years ago.
These enduring ties, derived both from the international origins of our faculty and the institution's strategic investments in international expertise, have constructed conditions of collaboration that minimize the obstacles resting in difference. The process of collaboration itself also reduces obstacles posed by difference. American partners recognize their intellectual kin abroad through common disciplinary backgrounds or substantive interests. With English as the lingua franca of world business and science, even the differences of our mother tongues can appear slight as colleagues from the around the world manage translation.
The challenge of difference thus varies in its recognition. Those who translate bear disproportionate responsibility for handling the nuances of meaning and ambiguities of intention and presumption embedded in the course of collaboration. To the extent a language of science is shared and to the extent the objects of inquiry are distanced from cultural formation, difference appears to be reduced.
For many who work in area studies, where investment in the language, culture and interdisciplinary understanding of particular places is prized, difference is centered. The problematic associated with area studies makes it difficult to imagine conditions in which linguistic difference doesn't matter. It's hard to recognize objects or frames of inquiry without their cultural formation in particular times and places. This focus on "grounding", that cultivation of contextual expertise which thrives in recognizing the challenge of cross-cultural interpretation and the localities of inquiry, sometimes appears quite distant from that mode of internationalizing scholarship that rests on a collaboration grounded in transnational circuits of expertise.
C.P. Snow might recognize the two cultures of international scholarship I describe here. Some probably presume that the two modes of international scholarship, which I might code here as collaborative and contextual, are disparate worlds of inquiry whose distance defies bridging. Not only would we miss a great opportunity for embracing diversity with that conclusion, but we would also miss that opportunity for collaborative learning already underway. The value of these collaborations is most readily recognized within the USA, however.
When diversity organizes our scholarly engagement with America, the importance of combining contextual expertise and collaborative disciplinary expertise becomes readily apparent. Paula Allen-Meares, Dean of the School of Social Work, emphasized that such a fusion is recognized as increasingly necessary in her school's curricular and scholarly focus on the USA. Sherman James has built this combination of competencies at the heart of his Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health. There are other examples, of course, but these two should suffice to illustrate my point about the value of the scholarly bridges built by centering diversity.
The challenge of difference is slightly different in international collaboration, however. Responsibilities of citizenship oblige us to take up the most challenging differences in America, but the success of international collaboration can rest on minimizing those obstacles posed by difference in order to focus on the particular variations disciplined partnerships are prepared to address. Where difference is too great, collaborations can be sought elsewhere, with other partners in that nation, or in other nations altogether. Nevertheless, through enduring collaborations, it becomes more possible to articulate those initially inadmissible differences within the global form of expertise organizing inquiry. Thus, the values of contextual expertise are more likely to become embedded in global partnerships when institutional and individual collaborations endure. International collaborations become more grounded as ties endure. This is important to recall as we consider collaboration across cultures of international inquiry within the university.
Investments in interdisciplinary understandings of particular regions of the world are more likely to produce collaborations directed by questions that emerge from the scholarly and broader cultural complex of that world region. This deep internationalization of scholarship thus helps us appreciate not only the generality of our theories, but also the limits of our questions. Area studies should contribute the contextual expertise necessary for helping outsiders to that region recognize that context's challenge of difference. When that contextual expertise remains within its own frame of reference, however, outsiders have greater difficult appreciating the significance of its challenge. When we assemble these various initiatives in comparative studies, as we have through the International Institute, the challenge of difference can be articulated with a theoretical language that makes the resonance of area studies with commitments to diversity more recognizable. This particular collaboration is not only valuable, however, for those who privilege the grounding of expertise.
This address to the variety of the world's vernaculars can also contribute to those collaborative missions that have less regional focus and that animate a wider range of international inquiry. As our experience with China suggests, collaboration across the cultures of inquiry mobilizing international studies provides a critical foundation for more enduring ties of international collaboration, which in turn makes the production of global expertise more feasible and rewarding.
In the end, however, I don't believe that productive conversations across the cultures of the world, or across the cultures of the university, can yield what they should if we think only in instrumental terms. To be sure, we must think more ambitiously and creatively about the kinds of services we can provide to facilitate the internationalization of our university's mission. At the same time, however, these services and collaborations, should be grounded in those fundamental values of scholarly learning, teaching and research on which our university is based. For certainly the collaborations I have seen not only expand the generality of our theories. They expand our capacity for learning and make our tonal palette much richer.