When people talk about Semester at Sea, innovation is always at the heart of the conversation. So when our President Les McCabe was asked to speak at TEDxUCIrvine he was eager to share his vision for helping students develop a global perspective.
TED is a non-profit dedicated to spreading great ideas. It started out as a conference focused on bringing together people from the three worlds of Technology (T), Entertainment (E), and Design (D). It has now grown to become the quintessential conference for big thinkers and innovators who specialize in a variety of fields from business to science to global community building. TED continues their mission of connecting people to ideas through sharing online videos of the TEDtalks that have reached and inspired millions of people. TEDx is another extension of their concept of sharing, bringing the program to communities, organizations and individuals at the local level.
The TEDxUCIrvine conference took place March 3at the University of California, Irvine where President McCabe attended college. “Returning to my alma mater 32 years after graduation, seeing colleagues, and friends, brought back fond memories of my college days and also revealed how much the University has grown and change,” he said. “Students at the TEDx event reminded me of the energy and enthusiasm I had as an undergraduate. I was impressed by their passion and commitment to positive social change and to making a difference.”
The theme of the conference focused on the concept of “Under Construction Indefinitely” which the University has had the repetition for and attended to address. “The theme of TEDxUCIrvine represents two things for me. One is a University literally under constructive for decades, having grown from 8,000 students when I was there to about 25,000 now, but metaphorically is relevant to the TEDx event change is constant and requires continual adaptation. The image of a campus under construction parallels the indefinite construction of our thinking and learning.”
President McCabe’s talk focused on the concept of what it takes to achieve a global perspective and how it is an essential part of student’s undergraduate education. “I believe every college student should leave their undergraduate education with a global perspective and I have dedicated my career to this pursuit.” He recalled examples of his first experiences abroad, how it challenged his preconceived notions and radically changed his perspective. He emphasized the power of students being exposed to different people and different cultures. “Experiences like studying abroad can push students out of their comfort zones forcing them to challenge their beliefs.”
President McCabe believes it is essential, especially in our interconnect world, that we encourage students to take part in understanding the problems of our world from a global perspective. “We live in a world today confronted by major issues that don’t recognize geopolitical boundaries… Unfortunately, it hasn’t been until recently the reality of our interconnected world has focused attention on the need for our system of higher education to make the development of a global perspective a priority.” Because just over 1% of all U.S. students enrolled in higher education participating in study abroad, he stated the importance of taking a proactive approach to obtaining a global perspective. “As you go through a lifetime journey of education you make a conscious decision to expose yourself to things… people, experiences, places, that are different from yourself…. you are opening yourself up to understand and appreciate those things that are make us all the same.”
President McCabe concluded his talk referencing the concept of Ubuntu, which is an African word meaning “I am because you are.” He said, “Ubuntu speaks to the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It is based on a premise of interconnectedness.” He strongly believes that to solve the problems of our interconnected world it begins with understanding the people who live in it.