What Is a Worldwide "Community?"

Hi all –

As I mentioned in my last post, I was fortunate to attend the inaugural Latin America HEUG conference in Bogota, Colombia two weeks ago. My trip was rewarding, and it is always a pleasure to witness the expansion, partnering and sharing between our fellow HEUG members as president.

As you may be aware, the geographic term "Latin America" disguises, in fact, a regional reality of very great diversity. And, the variation in education across the region is so enormous that at first you’d think it would defy the very concept of community, or common anything; however, that would be incorrect. Let me explain.

There are higher education institutions for which the language of instruction is Spanish, of course, but also those teaching in Portuguese (primarily in Brazil) and English (in the Caribbean). As in the US, there are public and private options to choose from, the latter affiliated with religious organizations or private for-profit educational companies. The student bodies they serve range from the urban centers in Sao Paulo, Bogota, and Lima to extremely rural areas like those bordering the Amazon in northern Brazil. (The distances across rural areas of Brazil alone are awe inspiring.) Students there, as elsewhere, are looking for comprehensive as well as technical or vocational training, and they have many options for either one. So, there are many complexities in serving the needs of these communities but ironically, they have many of the same challenges as each other, as well as institutions in other countries, and in the US.

A quick digression: I recently had a meeting with the Chief Information Officer of a university in Saudi Arabia. We spoke in English—his was perfect—and the challenges he worried about on behalf of his institution were so similar to what I hear from CIOs when attending our annual Executive Forum during Alliance. "What does student success mean and how can we deliver services to increase it?" "How can we measure it?" "What are the trends in higher education around the world, and how can we benefit by collaboration and sharing?"

These were the identical questions posed by the Latin American university leaders I met in Bogota last week. The observation showed me a lot about what it means to be a global community, despite differences in educational mission, language, and other supposed barriers.

A global community takes a commitment to communication, partnering, and sharing; and I know this is what makes the HEUG so wonderful. I am optimistically looking forward to more expansion in our advocacy and outreach in different regions with many shared common challenges and opportunities.

Hope I see/meet you at the SCHRUG Conference July 23 at UT Arlington.

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