Are we educating global citizens?

University of Western Ontario President Amit Chakma sees a need for the next generation of academics to educate students to become global citizens – a direction in which Western needs to go.

In his first public speaking engagement since taking over the role of university president July 1, Chakma spoke to academics and graduate students at the second annual Particle Technology Research Centre Conference.

Amit Chakma gave his first public talk in his new role as Western president at the second annual Particle Technology Research Centre Conference held on campus.

He says becoming more socially and globally aware, which he plans to live and breathe as president, is vital not only as individuals but as global citizens.

“The planet has truly become a global village in every sense of the word. It is complex, diverse and beautiful,” he says. “But it is also in distress, with population growth, environmental degradation and political conflict.

“The problems we face are complex, multi-dimensional and are truly global. We cannot find solutions at the local level. Local actions do produce local results, but in arriving at these local actions we need to think globally.”

He notes three crises facing the world today – energy, water and food. To address such concerns Chakma says we need a better understanding of these complex problems, social awareness and to participate in the political process.

“We need creative solutions, which is easier said than done,” he says. “This needs multi-dimensional thinking. And our education system, in my view, is challenged in educating our future citizens who are able to think that way.”

He says all of us can contribute in our own way, because there is no one solution to any problem. From a university and educational standpoint, Chakma says we need to be part of generating a solution.

“By doing all the things we do with our research at Western – scientific and policy research – we make important contributions,” he says. “But the single most important contribution we make is by educating our future leaders, both at the undergraduate and graduate level. We need integrated thinkers who are technologically savvy.”

Chakma adds while our education system allows us to focus on specific areas of research and knowledge, if we fail to expand our thinking we can become too narrow in our thinking.

Chakma says he is confident Western can begin producing the next global citizens in the years to come.

“Some of us, the professors, have been educated the old-fashioned way, and there is quite a bit of conservatism in the academy, but the new generation of academics can make a difference.

“Research is important, but you become a professor to teach. You have accepted the noble cause of educating our future citizens, and when you do that, get involved with curriculum committees, with faculty committees and you can make a difference.”

Chakma joked if the United Nations were to come up with a passport for a global citizen, he’d be first in line to get one.

“We should all try to be global citizens in what we do.”