Global Citizenship On Campus: A University's Global Responsibility

4 min read

Julia Sachs

Global citizenship has become a popular philosophy within schools and universities amid the growing climate crisis and during an age of technological innovation.


The idea of global citizenship involves removing the boundaries of borders, languages, and culture to apply an attitude that we are all citizens of one planet. Global citizenship applies community responsibilities to all of humanity, rather than looking at environmental and humanitarian responsibility as existing on an individual level. 

In academia, global citizenship can also mean crossing both figuratively and literally borders to expand one's knowledge and education about other cultures and historical perspectives. Looking toward the future, applying a philosophy of global citizenship means taking responsibility for the Earth as a whole to create a better future for all, rather than looking at environmental responsibility on an individual level. 

Schools and universities worldwide have expanded their application of the global citizenship philosophy to include classes, clubs, and study abroad opportunities that instill a global frame of mind. For example, at schools like Lehigh University, an entire program dedicated to global citizenship helps students apply a unique perspective to their post-graduation life as they navigate a rapidly globalizing world. The program is designed to bridge gaps between culture, language, and location to look at advancing beyond those traditional boundaries. 

On Campuses Today

"The Global Citizenship Program invites you to cultivate an ethical stance, a critical way of thinking, and a committed mode of intervening in a world populated by others with whom we must co-create a viable future," reads Lehigh University Global Citizenship program website. The program emphasizes leadership within the workplace and applies various philosophies to embrace expanding the framework of what it means to be a global citizen. 

Lehigh believes that global citizenship applies to any field, whether it be in medicine or technology. The concept can help solve problems on a worldwide scale and in a way that embraces peace, environmentalism, and inclusivity. However, the program also cautions that ideas of forced assimilation or the abandonment of one's personal beliefs are not integral. The program encourages students to think about ways to embrace the philosophy of global citizenship without forcing assimilation or forcing anyone to abandon their beliefs. 

Other schools, such as Santa Monica College, define global citizenship as expanding one's knowledge of different cultures, languages, and environments to foster a more sustainable world for everyone. The program embraces themes of human rights and asks that students apply their global citizenship knowledge to politics, environmentalism, community service, and entrepreneurship, as well as within interpersonal relationships. 

International Integration

For international students—which refers specifically to students that choose to start and finish their education abroad rather than study abroad for a single semester or school year—global citizenship means being allowed to get an education outside of their home environment. Robust international student programs, which include resources specifically designed to help international students acclimate to a new environment or culture without having to assimilate, embrace the idea of global citizenship in real-time. 

In the past, we've discussed ways that international students can be better accommodated on campus. Universities should consider how international students will acclimate to a new environment while also considering how that might impact their school work. Specialized services, mental health resources, and other sources of support should be put in place before schools consider taking on a large student body of international students. Additionally, each internationality—whether it be Chinese or Danish—should be given access to these resources in a way that gives them a source of comfort. 

Expanding international student resources not only embraces global citizenship on campus, but it expands opportunities for students that have studied global cultures and languages in the past. These programs provide ways for students with experience in various languages and cultures to embrace the philosophies of global citizenship in real-time by offering support to their international peers on campus and in their everyday lives. After graduation, globalized networks enable alumni to find new opportunities abroad, cross borders in their careers, or simply maintain international relationships. 

Embracing Climate Action

With climate change threatening to upend life as we know it, global citizenship has never been more important. The philosophy of approaching climate responsibility worldwide embraces the idea that countries need to work together to build a better world for the future. The Global Citizens Initiative offers a robust program of courses and resources to help embrace a global perspective on climate action, from embracing supply chain transparency to supporting communities worldwide. Universities can encourage these ideas on campus to embrace a philosophy of climate action in relation to global citizenship in all studies, from medical education to the humanities. 

Offering programs on campus, whether it be in the form of embracing language learning, culture learning, reading from different cultures, and integrating other cultural perspectives into every aspect of education, means that schools can integrate a proactive approach to global citizenship. How do different cultures approach problems? How do they approach topics like medicine, science, education, or even religion? Faculty members and educators can ask these critical questions when determining an educational approach and understand that global citizenship is as much a responsibility as it is a cultural philosophy. 

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