GlobalTransy: An imperative for our university in the 21st century

Interim President John Williams

The following article appears in the Fall/Winter 2019 issue of Third + Broadway magazine.

My mother was born in 1926 in China to missionary parents. My grandfather, William P. Hardy,  completed medical school in 1909 and was called to mission work with the Christian Church Disciples of Christ at the age of 19. He stayed in China for over 20 years, during which time he met my grandmother, who had taken up a similar call to go to China as a teacher at the age of 18. 

All three of their children were born in China and attended Transylvania University over staggered years beginning in 1932 and ending with my mother’s graduation in the ’40s. I remember so well the stories of life on the mission field, the family life amid the Chinese and Tibetan people and the dedication of my grandparents as medical and teaching missionaries. They were immersed and totally engaged in their global work.

Now 120 years later, we are even more keenly focused on a global experiential agenda, not just as those with missionary zeal, but as an essential part of a liberal arts education. My own professional global work has included projects in Kenya, Japan, Mexico and most recently Saudi Arabia, where I headed a project to improve oral health and dental education throughout the country.

We operate in a global society, and our students must be prepared to function effectively in it. In a 2019 report from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, prospective employers were surveyed and reported that students are career-ready when they can demonstrate global and multicultural fluency among the top eight essential competencies.

Transy’s newest initiative, GlobalTransy, offers every student an affordable opportunity to have a substantive, global-intensive educational experience. Studying, researching and interning abroad encourages Pioneers to think outside their purview, broadening their perspectives and intensifying the learning that begins in the classroom. And, of course, it enhances their skills and builds the confidence and competencies prospective employers desire.

Through Transy’s Office of Global and Intercultural Engagement, students are able to experience a traditional semester abroad, travel with their peers on a May term course, participate in a summer study program, including Transy in Ireland, or earn credit during an internship abroad that is tailored to their academic and professional growth. 

Whenever I travel to Japan (in about 12 hours by air one way), I am always reminded of my mother’s lament of the five months it took to send a letter one way from the U.S. to China! My, how times have changed, and so too have our global initiatives to enhance our students’ learning.

In my brief time as interim president, I find our students eager to embrace societal challenges and work toward a better world. I am confident that Transylvania will continue its innovation in curriculum and programs to advance our mission by graduating Pioneers who are motivated to serve and ready to address the needs of our global society in the 21st century.