Though just back from his Dartmouth Foreign Study Program in Beijing (and still mentally on China Standard Time), Zachary Cable '09 met with his adviser Michael Mastanduno, associate dean for the social sciences, to discuss his research on the politics of the Chinese economy. A James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar, Cable is examining what might happen if the international community increased pressure on China to adhere to stricter environmental standards, revalue the Yuan, and crack down on counterfeiting and piracy. "If this were to occur, what would happen to a country whose prosperity is so dependent on its nearly limitless inexpensive manufacturing?" Cable asks. "How would it affect other Southeast Asian countries that currently compete with China?"
"These are precisely the kind of problems today's students will be tackling," says Mastanduno-who is also the Nelson A. Rockefeller Professor of Government-"problems that may involve one defined place, but that require a global outlook." In 1946, Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey '29 said, "The world's troubles are your troubles," and in a recent presentation on the world economy, Mastanduno outlined the characteristics today's students need in order to take up President Dickey's challenge. "The economies of the world have become more interdependent, more competitive, and less regulated. The United States, which 25 years ago dominated as the key player, is less insulated and more challenged by other, emerging economies."
To be the next generation of leaders in a global economy, says Mastanduno, students should graduate from Dartmouth possessing five "qualities of mind": an international perspective, a cross-disciplinary perspective, the ability to solve problems creatively, the ability to think critically, and a social conscience. Regarding international perspective, he says, "The world is not simply a projection of American values." Dartmouth strives to foster this perspective in many ways, such as through its top-notch study abroad programs, in which over half of students participate.
Students should think in a cross-disciplinary manner, adds Mastanduno, because "ideas, intellectual thought, and solutions to problems cross departmental boundaries." The world's problems don't respect geographic boundaries, either.
Amy Flaster '08 is taking advantage of Dartmouth's cross-disciplinary flexibility and its international outlook to formulate a career path designed to tackle one such problem: pandemics. A geography major, Flaster took classes on global health and was the Class of 1966 intern at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, where she used her research, science, and mapping skills to help track new cases of the avian influenza virus. "Geography and medicine-I'm getting the best of both worlds," says Flaster, who is currently researching an honors thesis on the spread of dengue fever in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In today's world, Mastanduno says, the ability to be a creative problem solver on the one hand and a critical thinker on the other is essential. "The globalized economy rewards creativity, innovative thinking, and a willingness to try different approaches." At the same time, students need discernment. "Assessing evidence is a key liberal arts skill. With all the information out there, this may be the most important thing we teach."
Students can put both skills to the test through independent projects and undergraduate research, and the one-on-one work with a faculty member that this involves often has a side benefit-the formation of lasting relationships. Ambassador Kenneth Yalowitz, director of the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, worked closely with David Wolff '07 as he researched his senior honors thesis on nuclear proliferation and also interned at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament. Wolff says, "Professor Yalowitz did everything he could to help me pursue my dreams, and I continue to rely on him for advice."
Finally, Mastanduno says, "In a world of great disparities in life chances, leaders must have a social conscience." With a history of nurturing students' sense of service, Dartmouth offers a range of global service opportunities through the Dickey Center, the William Jewett Tucker Foundation, and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center. And the number of alumni who dedicate their careers to world issues as ambassadors, members of Congress, political figures throughout the world, leaders of nonprofits, or those who contribute to global understanding in many other roles, is a continuous thread in the Dartmouth tapestry.
Speaking to some of those alumni-members of the Class of 1957 who had gathered for their 50th reunion last winter-Yalowitz said, "As we help make Dartmouth students the globally conscious citizens that President Dickey envisioned, the world can indeed be a better place." No doubt many that day remembered Dickey's words at their Commencement: "The quality of your caring is what Dartmouth is all about. Remembering this you will fail neither her nor yourself and you will grow in grace."
By STEVEN J. SMITH
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Last Updated: 5/30/08