Realizing Our Institutional Missions: Engaging Present and Past Heroes to Inspire Modern Global Leadership and Service

Published in:

A National Symposium

November 21–22, 2014

University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras
San Juan, Puerto Rico


In thinking about the “global imperative for higher education,” the authors explore the ways in which faculty, staff, and administrators can utilize institutional resources, especially historical legacies, to promote global education. As each of the following sections argues, we can identify international emissaries produced by our institutions and include these individuals in our curriculum. Using archival resources and interactive exchanges, faculty can construct lesson plans, course assignments, and university activities that foster intercultural communication and understanding. In particular, students must be exposed to library tools and international programs that equip them to be informed global citizens before aspiring to be international leaders.

Looking to an Institutional Legacy for Models of International Leadership, Civic Engagement, and Service

Hampton University has two alumni who were world visionaries. Combining a vocational foundation with the missionary-minded service that the leadership of General Samuel Armstrong had inspired in them, Drs. Alonzo Moron and William Sheppard helped shape the educational, cultural, and political outlooks of peoples in America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

In Civil Rights and Politics at Hampton Institute (2007), Hoda Zaki explores how race, class, and philanthropy played central roles in informing Moron’s career and leadership. In particular, she reveals how his background endowed him with a unique perspective (2). For Zaki, Moron’s immigrant origins compelled him to forge a theory of politics linked to education, democracy, service, and change (3, 84, 89). As a result, Moron adopted and transformed Armstrong’s mission for Hampton Institute (92-93). Considering the guidance he provided in founding the University of the Virgin Islands and his presidency of Hampton Institute, Zaki underscores that Moron’s actions mirrored his vision. Not only did he procure a grant to develop a site of higher learning in his homeland, but also he offered resources from Hampton Institute and rallied fellow Virgin Islanders to support the endeavor (88-89). The university succeeded because he and other Hampton alumni accepted a civic responsibility to create opportunities for others. Thus, in the life of Moron, we see how a person’s willingness to dedicate his life to service could not only benefit that person’s immediate community, but also incline others to support initiatives that would provide educational resources for others. His vision for the University of the Virgin Islands involved work undertaken in addition to his university presidency and civil rights activism (see Boyle 1962, Boyer 1982, Buni 1967, Dunbar 1981, Von Eschen 1997, and Woods 2004).

William Phipps delineates how “Sheppard’s legacy . . . had some impact on the Congolese government,” alleging that even “before he left the Congo. . . the [Belgian] policies became somewhat more humane” (2002, 196). Phipps also discusses the influence Sheppard had in providing a “Congolese education” that aimed to liberate the 19th-century native population (198-99). For Phipps, the “Sheppards’ educational work in the Congo continues to be honored . . .” due in large part to their ability to identify with the Africans they encountered (201). When they returned to the United States, he and his wife created some of the earliest African art collections in the States—housed in Virginia’s Hampton University Museum and Kentucky’s The Speed Art Museum (Phipps, 201-4; Cureau 1982). Connoisseurs of African art, William and Lucy Sheppard did much to awaken Americans to the beauty and craftsmanship of Kuba masks, fabrics, beading, metalwork, and storytelling. Thus Sheppard can be touted “. . . not only for his advocacy of African rights but also for his educational work among Americans” (Hultgren as cited in Phipps, 207; see also Sheppard 1917 and Kennedy 2002).

Current students can relate to Sheppard and Moron, especially since these individuals studied on the same campus. Visiting the university museum and archives, while having students read background articles, creates opportunities to discuss intercultural exchange—then and now. Moreover, students can examine consciences that motivated leadership within and beyond the United States. If these alumni could embrace global leadership in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, can today’s students not also welcome a chance to become contributing world citizens?

Building International Capital at Bennett College

A private liberal arts institution for women, Bennett College promotes international citizenship for all its constituencies. Guided by the mission statement, supported through the strategic plan, and acting upon their own initiatives, past and present presidents set an agenda for globalizing the campus that today is infused in four foci: communications, entrepreneurship, global studies/global education, and leadership. The third component, global studies/global education, is the linchpin in current president Dr. Rosalind Fuse-Hall’s vision to build global acumen among Bennett students, staff, alumnae, and faculty. For her, and for current Bennett students and educators, an international education requires one to look outward in order to connect with community members as you look inward. Such a gesture should maximize archival materials, incite students to study abroad, and foster international networks that privilege global understanding and exchange.

Research conducted in the recently opened archives reveals how internationalization developed at the college. The Methodist Women’s Missionary Society supported international exchanges through missionaries and the encouragement of students from mission sites to continue their education at Bennett. The college also played a pivotal role in equipping its students to share their educations with others. Similar to Moron and his relationship with the University of the Virgin Islands or the Sheppards and their cultural contributions to an American understanding of Central African art, partners at Bennett College have been instrumental in applying their academic training to world-changing initiatives. For example, the college played an important role in establishing Africa University in Zimbabwe, and the friendship between president Dr. Willa Player and Sue Bailey Thurman (wife of theologian Howard Thurman) promoted global awareness for students; she even donated a collection of international dolls to encourage international travel. Tantalizing references such as these are noteworthy and provide students with a treasure-trove of insights about the history of their institution, hopefully inspiring them to consider what their own contributions can be. Moreover, having the Steele Hall Gallery, which displays objets d’art from around the world, students can relate to global issues, seeing themselves in the artifacts produced by visitors to—and by students, faculty, and staff from—Bennett College.

Arguably, such exposure can provide the incentives needed to promote study abroad. Supported by a Mellon Foundation grant, some students have participated in the “Global Seminar on Citizenship” in Salzburg, Austria, and last summer a group of honors students, faculty, staff, senior administrators, and a board of trustees member traveled to South Africa. Team members connected with alumnae living in South Africa, and recruited potential Belles, while forging relationships with colleagues at the University of Western Cape and the University of Witwatersrand. The goal of this networking is to develop international service learning projects, so more students can be induced to learn and work in a global context. Documentation of these activities are archived in our library for future reference. Tools such as these—archival material and international exchange—build an institution’s international capital.

International capital is also built through area studies and academic centers. Employment of international staff and faculty and support for language instruction must be fostered. At Bennett, the Centers for Global Studies and Entrepreneurial Studies, along with the Africana Women’s Studies Program, provide examples of entities that encourage international awareness through the abovementioned programs, curricula, workshops, and attendance at symposia that emphasize global education.

The Role of the Library and Information Literacy in Fostering a Global Imperative for Higher Education

Important to this discussion is the impact the library and information literacy have on higher education and any global imperative. Information literacy is fundamental for learning in our contemporary environments, especially because of continuous technological change and the pursuit of lifelong learning. As posited by Crane et al. (2009, 219), “Global engagement, no longer limited by time or space, is enabled by worldwide information communication and technology networks that are instant, non-hierarchical and dynamic.” Libraries provide the synergistic nexus needed to develop these skills and variables.

Essentially, the library should provide the resources—including specialized staff—to select, organize, and provide intellectual access to works that must be readily available to members of its community. In particular, libraries must preserve the integrity and ensure the persistence of collections, and especially of digital resources, as they are the dominant data-source for material in the new millennium. To meet this end, the library of Xavier University provides students and faculty with services, instruction, and resources that position them to be global citizens.


Irrespective of location, users can access 197 databases that represent all disciplines: Project Muse, JSTOR, Academic Search Complete, Statistical Abstract of the USA, Statistical Abstract of the World, and Films on Demand all have streaming media that facilitate learning across disciplines. There are also subject-specific databases, such as ICPSR for the social sciences, Medline Complete for the sciences and health sciences, Mergent Online and Hoover’s Online for business, Philosopher’s Index, Eric for education, Dissertation and Theses, Artstor for the art students, ATLA Religion Database for the theology majors, and Mango Languages Database for language students and those planning to study abroad. These tools provide for international studies and avail faculty of information they can include in any curriculum geared towards global events—current and past. The library also subscribes to 164,281 ebooks and 17,486 pieces of other digital/electronic media, all of which enhances academic study that can and should be related to world issues. In addition, the library can play a seminal role in digitizing archives and special collections, which Xavier’s library is currently undertaking; in so doing, this historical information becomes readily accessible on- or off-site.


Libraries also offer a variety of services; particularly helpful are reference services. In addition to face-to-face and telephone conversations, librarians must take advantage of smart technology, such as texting and virtual chats. Such modes enable communication beyond the campus perimeters, which can be useful for students studying abroad and opens pedagogical possibilities for real-time exchange with international faculty, staff, and students. Imagine, a lesson plan that entails faculty and students accessing library resources during a classroom lecture, or a collaborative endeavor between stateside and international campuses in which students research a postulation and then engage in an inter-(or intra-)campus conversation.

In addition to conventional services, like Interlibrary Loan (ILL) and document delivery services, libraries can assign a library liaison to each department or division. Library liaisons, similar to those at Xavier, can provide outreach, offering specific assistance to students enrolled in distance learning. They should also use their expertise to equip departments or divisions with data that can globalize curriculums. The latter should be central to their agenda and an aim when working with faculty and administrators.

Quantitative Literacy, Social Justice and Global Citizenship

Knowledge growth in higher education relies heavily on topics researched, philosophies engaged, questions asked, methods used, etc. Depending on who is involved in knowledge growth, be it the empiricist, the theorist, or the technocrat, the yield may be either a large or small edifice in which diverse communities of learners may browse. Since the goal of higher education is to expose students to multiple methodological approaches and since research on education tends to be more qualitative than quantitative (Castellan 2010), quantitative literacy presents pedagogical opportunities that need to be analyzed and discussed (Madison 2001). Such analysis leads to critical thinking on social justice issues and may invite the adoption of an ideal: global citizenship.

Quantitative Literacy as Antecedent Variable

Contemporary interest in higher education tends to be more concerned with the objective realities of education (why individuals teach/learn in a particular way) than with the subjective construction of social realities (how individuals teach/learn in specific communities). Therefore there are opportunities for the student-learner to employ analytical skills via a focus on empirical data (Madison 2001). Since knowledge growth assumes building on the foundations of understanding already in place, quantitative analysis allows for the construction of knowledge with a laser-like expertise that critically reviews past literature, past research designs, past models. This path encourages the instructor to be innovative in building knowledge by teaching for an open mind rather than to a tabula rasa.

Practical Benefits

Numerical data are used in quantitative analysis, resulting in reports based on variables that are operationalized and measured using quantifiable coding (e.g. counts, frequencies). Because this approach analyzes numerical data, any inferences drawn from findings can be reported impersonally and objectively (Sons 1996; Steen 2001). Once the information is published, it gives rise to further investigation, which then allows for growth in understanding within larger communities of learners.


Higher education benefits from the application of generalizable principles (Steen 1998). Observe, for example, the difference between when a student presents arguments for a positive correlation between international studies and the defense of global justice, and when a student is inspired to pursue an international career because s/he has embraced the ideal of global citizenship after evaluating global data. Think of how encouraging quantitative analysis on a theme such as environmental justice might help students adopt healthy environmental practices and pursue careers in environmental stewardship within the global arena. Could our institutional missions of global outreach not then be better realized?


Higher education has not reached the pinnacle of its capacity to grow knowledge, despite our institutional missions to do so. One way for us to realize our missions, then, is to help our students become more literate by enriching their studies with diverse methodological approaches to learning so that they may take full advantage of library and archival resources, and subscribe to the objective realities of leadership and good citizenship that foster a more just and humane world.


Boyer, William W. 1982. Civil Liberties in the U.S. Virgin Islands, 1917-1949. St. Croix: Antilles Graphic Arts.

Boyle, Sara Patton. 1962. The Desegregated Heart: A Virginian’s Stand in Time of Transition. New York: William Morrow.

Buni, Andrew. 1967. The Negro in Virginia Politics, 1902-1965. Charlottesville: U Virginia P.

Castellan, Catherine. 2010. “Quantitative and Qualitative Research: A View for Clarity.” International Journal of Education 2(2): E1.

Dunbar, Anthony P. 1981. Against the Grain: Southern Radicals and Prophets, 1929-1959. Charlottesville, USA: U Virginia P.

Crane, N., C. Downes, P. Irish, I. Lachow, M. McCully, E. McDaniel, and K. Schulin. 2009. “Leadership Imperatives of the Information Age.” Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management 7(2): 219-226.

Cureau, Harold G. “William H. Sheppard: Missionary to the Congo, and Collector of African Art.” The Journal of Negro History 67 (4): 340-52. Accessed January 4, 2013.

Kennedy, Pagan. 2002. Black Livingstone: A True Tale of Adventure in the Nineteenth-Century Congo. New York: Viking.

Madison, Bernard L. 2001. “Quantitative Literacy: Everybody’s Orphan.” Focus 6: 10-11.

Phipps, William E. 2002. William Sheppard: Congo’s African American Livingstone. Louisville: Geneva P.

Sheppard, William H. 1917(?). Pioneers in Congo. Louisville: Pentecostal Publishing. Accessed 4 January 4, 2013.

Sons, Linda, et al. 1996. Quantitative Reasoning for College Graduates: A Supplement to the Standards. Washington, DC: Mathematical Association of America.

Steen, Lynn Arthur, ed. 2001. Mathematics and Democracy: The Case for Quantitative Literacy. New Jersey, USA: National Council on Education and the Disciplines.

—. 1998. “Numeracy: The New Literacy for a Data-Drenched Society.” Educational Leadership 57(2): 8-13.

Von Eschen, Penny M. 1997. Race against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957. Ithaca: Cornell UP.

Woods, Jeff. 2004. Black Struggle, Red Scare: Segregation and Anti-Communism in the South, 1948-1968. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP.

Zaki, Hoda. 2007. Civil Rights and Politics at Hampton Institute: The Legacy of Alonzo G. Moron. Chicago: U of Illinois P.

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Spring 2015: The Global Imperative for Higher Education