Hamilton played host to a conversation of critical importance on the nature of higher education as it relates to concepts of growing multiculturalism, inclusivity and difference, titled “Considering Global Education in an Interconnected World.” The Sept. 23 talk featured Hamilton president David Wippman and David Kyuman Kim, an associate professor of religious studies and American studies at Connecticut College.
The core theme of the evening quickly became the role of higher education in a world not only marked by the effects of globalization, but also in a time when anxieties surrounding multiculturalism and pluralism seem to be mounting. In 2005, noted Wippman, when the landmark popular analysis of globalization, The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman was published, “if students were going to be involved in an international system, it was assumed that they would have to communicate across boundaries of all kinds.” More than 10 years later, he claimed, assumptions of that kind are becoming less universally accepted than they once were. He pointed to the historic “Brexit” vote in June as the flagship example of the effects of growing discontent with expanded internationalism.
Through this historical lens, however, both Wippman and Kim claimed to be seeing student bodies that are demanding more than ever an environment that is welcoming to all in an increasingly diverse country. “Students,” said Wippman, “are keenly aware of what’s going on in the world and want to embrace difference.” He added that a distinct feature of the current generation of undergraduate students is the “intensity and urgency” of activism on campus.
Kim concurred, notng that there exists a key distinction between merely living with difference, both in the collegiate setting and beyond, and “living well” with said difference. “What are we going to do given the challenges of our time, which are not going away?” he said.
Those challenges, though, have trickled down from the global stage to life on campus, noted Wippman, referencing not only calls for increasing diversification of the student body and faculty at Hamilton, but also the larger national discussion surrounding “safe spaces” on college campuses. That discussion, the speakers agreed, has engendered positive discourse in the community, and great progress has been made toward the goal of a more diverse Hamilton College. However, even with both students of color and international students making up a larger share of the student population than ever before, Wippman noted that “it’s not just about the numbers,” but also about providing a welcoming environment for all students.
“I think also though,” Kim added, concluding, “it’s a question about hope: how do we inject a note of hope into our roles as teachers?”
Wippman and Kim’s discussion was followed by a Q&A with Hamilton community members.