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Stanford Partners with Community Colleges to Internationalize Curriculum

Kate Holt/AusAID (CC 2.0)
Apr 8 2015

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How does a community college instructor begin to tackle a lack of global awareness exhibited by her students?  She spends an afternoon at Stanford with leading faculty and experts, as well as other community college faculty, to discuss issues of importance to the global community.

The Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) and Stanford Global Studies are offering exciting professional development opportunities to help community college instructors internationalize courses by incorporating recent area studies research and materials.  The Education Partnership for Internationalizing Curriculum (EPIC) is funded by the National Resource Center Program of the U.S. Department of Education under Title VI.

Held on Friday, March 6, 2015 at Stanford, the first EPIC community college workshop focused on Global Food Security.  Twenty community college instructors attended from 16 community colleges, with disciplines ranging from English composition to math, economics, nutrition, sociology, anthropology, biology and political science.   EPIC and SPICE organizers choose food security as the topic of their first workshop because it combined interdisciplinary appeal with international content.

At the half-day workshop featuring lectures by Walter Falcon, an agricultural economist at Stanford, participants learned how every individual’s access to an adequate supply of high-quality food—that is, the individual’s food security is affected by very complex processes of production, distribution, and consumption.   And how, despite decades of progress in agricultural technology, economic development, and poverty relief, food security continues to elude hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Some topics covered and highlights from Dr. Falcon’s lectures include:

  • Two world problems: the need to double food output this century without destroying the environment; and providing economic access to the billion plus people who are food insecure, not because there is a general lack of food, but because they are poor.
  • Supply and demand issues: the importance of the green revolution’s significant impact on the supply of grains. The GMO debate: there are legitimate controversies and important arguments along with irrational extremes, and there is an important discussion to be had in the middle.
  • The importance of development strategies in poor countries to reach the poorest half.
  • Imports and exports: an international orientation on the part of a nation-state is generally good; often the worst thing is to close an economy, particularly in a badly governed nation.
  • Redistributive land reform: it is not done usually in an evolutionary way, but usually revolutionary and the results are varied.

The second half of Dr. Falcon’s presentation was an in depth analysis of Indonesia, the world’s 4th most populous country, and the focus of his work for 30 years.  Some of the insights from his experience include:

  • Good advice often starts with the word “Don’t.”  It’s easy to write a catalogue of the things that would be nice.  In a good year you can do two or three things.  Policy advice turns out to be finding a sequence of good things that should be done to improve various aspects of food systems.
  • There are good folks in bad governments and there are bad folks in good governments.  You can sometimes do good things even within corrupt governments.
  • Most of what food policy is about is adjudicating the tension between producers, who want high prices, and consumers, who want low prices. It involves improving storage and roads and keeping consumer prices down while still benefiting producers.

The final part of the workshop, led by SPICE Curriculum Writer Jonas Edman, discussed how instructors can incorporate more international content into their curriculum.  All attendees were given online access to a copy of the curriculum unit developed by SPICE, Feeding the Poorest Billion: Food Security in the 21st Century, and a copy of the book, The Evolving Sphere of Food Security, edited by Rosamond Naylor. 

Through group activities, participants then collaboratively explored pedagogical practices for incorporating the material into their particular courses.  Some of the ideas shared included:

  • A creative fictional short story writing assignment demonstrating the connection between agriculture and health
  • “Make a Meal” food security card game incorporating math and nutrition
  • Having students share about the cities and countries they come from followed by a multicultural potluck for community building in the classroom
  • Having students survey their families

As the workshop concluded, an English instructor with 40 years’ experience expressed her concern about students’ lack of global awareness, even basic geography, and Edman answered that this is the reason we have Title VI funding.

The next EPIC workshop for community college instructors, to be held on Friday, May 8, will be focused on Global Health.  More information on this and other Global Studies community engagement activities is available at