Thomas Friedman reminded us in his best-selling book called The World is Flat that global interdependence is a reality that our nation and our business, government and other enterprises cannot afford to ignore or not to embrace.
This is true for colleges and universities as well. Moreover, the flattening of the world has increased greatly since the first edition of Friedman’s book. As such, one of my goals as president of Fort Valley State University is to design and deliver a global engagement strategy.
Our land-grant status, and especially our College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology and College of Arts and Sciences, position us to sustain and extend the international linkages that currently are episodic as a university.
Our global strategy will be both intentional and strategic. It will extend the perimeter of engagement in all the areas critical to our mission: teach, research and community service. Being strategic means having to assess current strengths, leverage those strengths to meet desired mission outcomes and create networks to benefit our students and faculty in particular and the citizens of Georgia in general.
In this respect, we need to build on the initial linkages by our agriculture school with industry and governmental officials in Belize, Nigeria, Jamaica and other nations. But we also have to pursue new opportunities. One such opportunity relates to connections with the Bahamas.
Later this semester, we will be hosting a delegation from the Bahamas where the state university is launching an agricultural and marine sciences program. While in the Bahamas this past June to speak at a conference celebrating their 40th independence anniversary, I heard the prime minister announce that initiative. Sitting in the audience when the announcement was made was the chair of the university’s governing council.
As fate would have it, the head of the council, who is a former minister of education and attorney general, is a friend of mine. I offered to host a team to come and formalize a partnership to share Fort Valley’s research expertise, build a pipeline for students to come and study for undergraduate and graduate degrees and more. This visit will occur this fall.
Beyond this, we will be making fuller use of the wealth of research expertise in the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology and in the College of Arts and Sciences. One way this will be done is by establishing a research center on homeland and global food security, to meet teaching, research and community outreach goals and benefit both our nation and the flat world. This initiative is in the planning stages.
Moreover, we must be intentional and inclusive — beyond one or two of our colleges — about our research engagement and our global design. It is for that reason that I’ve launched a university-wide Undergraduate Research Program, tapping a professor with an illustrious record of leading and facilitating research experiences by undergraduate students nationally and internationally.
The new Undergraduate Research Program is being headed by Dr. Sarwan Dhir, professor of plant science in the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology, with Dr. Andrew Lee, associate professor of speech in the College of Arts and Sciences, as associate director.
As well, we’re developing an Honors Program, led by Dr. Meigan Fields, associate professor of political science. Together, these two pursuits will help to take Fort Valley State University to new heights as we pursue excellence in teaching, research and service, taking our local and national expertise to places beyond our national borders.
Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith is the new president of Fort Valley State University. He previously served as a political science professor, provost and senior vice president at York College of the City University of New York and holds a bachelor’s, two master’s and a Ph.D. in political science.