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University G7: education can break polarization - Freedman

Interview with provost of Fordham University

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Dr. Stephen Freedman, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, has been the provost of Fordham University since 2010. As a board member of the International Association of Universities (IAU), he will speak in Udine on the international debate on education for all and will participate in a panel on Global Citizenship.

Dr. Freedman, what do you hope to share with your colleagues attending the meeting? What do you expect to bring back?

I hope to share both the North American perspective and the broader international perspective with regard to how higher education institutions can work collaboratively and cooperatively in developing programs and curricula that provide context and perspective for a wide range of students in all parts of the world. I hope to share experiences related to programs in Africa, Europe, and Asia that indicate how important partnerships are in shaping global opinions and allowing education to be truly sustainable over time. I expect to learn from others' examples of partnerships and experience that can help shape and reshape the strategic plan for Fordham and, more importantly, the global economy.

2) By the year 2030, 400 million students will be enrolled in higher education. Do you think that the political message "College Education for all" can and should realistically be pursued in a globalized, yet polarized, world? Absolutely. The political message is significant. Most of that growth of 400 million students will result in the emerging countries -- India, China, and almost all African countries. I am particularly interested in shaping both undergraduate and graduate experiences that have relevance to move from the perspective of a polarized world to a more interconnected world.

3) The American model of higher education is primarily private. What does Fordham do to make it more accessible to all? What about free college tuition? Fordham provides an array of scholarships, fellowships, and financial aid. Need-based aid is a principal component of our financial aid strategy. There is much debate in the US about free college tuition. As the chief academic officer of a private institution, my point of view has been shaped by a number of considerations, and I would be happy to talk with you further about this in Italy.

4) E-learning opportunities, such as the "roadmap" developed by UNESCO, are a possible pathway to offsetting the high costs. Is your institution taking advantage of e-courses? We at Fordham are developing a wide range of online degree programs in our graduate and professional schools. We see this approach as a high-level delivery mode for hybrid and blended learning in the near and long term. We are developing online programs in the Graduate School of Education, Graduate School of Social Service, Law School, and the Gabelli School of Business graduate program. Online learning opens up new avenues for a wide range of student experiences.

5) What about study-abroad programs? They are a key dimension of Fordham's globalization strategy. In South Africa we have a program for undergraduate and graduate students from the US to engage in service learning in a wide range of sites outside of Pretoria and Cape Town. We work closely with the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation, the Jesuit Institute in Johannesburg, and the University of Pretoria. This four-way collaboration enables our students to grow as individuals as they gain a deeper understanding of some of the complexities that stem from our increasingly interconnected and interdependent world.