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International education finds another home at Lehigh

Alex Wiseman

In the fall of 2006, Alex Wiseman was leading a faculty search committee for the University of Tulsa’s School of Education when he came across a job posting at Lehigh University. Within weeks, he would find himself on the flipside of the interviewing process.

Lehigh’s College of Education had begun its search for a program coordinator for the newly-announced Comparative and International Education program (CIE). The timing couldn’t have been better for Wiseman, who was making a name for himself in such fields as the comparative analysis of national educational systems.

His interest in the complex policies of international education wasn’t a primary focus for Tulsa.

“They supported my interest in international research and were enthusiastic about the topic, but it was not a fundamental part of the University of Tulsa’s education program,” Wiseman said. So he chose to pursue the opportunity here at Lehigh, ultimately becoming an associate professor with the College of Education with the charge of starting up the CIE program.

It was a bold gesture and a leap of faith but, nonetheless, a perfect fit.

According to Wiseman, CIE is about being “multicultural, multinational, multi-everything. It’s not western-centric because that’s not what comparative and international education is all about. It’s about exploring the bigger picture and the impact of global context.”

“Meshes perfectly with Lehigh’s global initiatives”

CIE places additional emphasis on international education at Lehigh and complements the college’s commitment to social justice issues. The program looks at education’s influence on a blend of cultures and focuses on the systems, policies and programs that affect education internationally.

“The College of Education is very excited about the Comparative and International Education program in general and about having Alex here to lead it in particular,” says Gary Lutz, interim dean of the College of Education. “The development of the program was the next logical step in the evolution of global efforts spearheaded by our Office of International Programs, and of course it meshes perfectly with Lehigh's global initiatives.”

While CIE isn’t a teacher training program, it does put the spotlight on education across different cultures and the impact it has on society. Graduates of the CIE program will initiate research-based educational policy reform and program development in foreign Ministries of Education, multinational development organizations, and research institutes.

Wiseman says the future includes a Masters-level program for CIE and hopes to have the program approved in time to welcome the first cohort of students in Fall 2009. Eventually, CIE will expand to include a Ph.D. program.

Currently, the program is collaborating with both educational leadership and the Office of International Programs in the College of Education to offer an M.Ed. in Global Leadership program. Wiseman and his colleague, Iveta Silova, an assistant professor of transcultural, comparative and international education who is also new to the Lehigh community, began teaching some of the classes this semester.

CIE is unique because it looks at the layers of socio-, cultural- and economic- negotiations that schools have to address. Wiseman’s own research interests lie with comparing American education with schooling that occurs in other nations and investigating global trends in education. He is already working on a cross-national study of youth political socialization in schools and an internationally comparative study of gender-segregated national school systems.

One of Wiseman’s specific research interests is gender inequity in the classroom, which he says begins at the early educational level. He questions international gender equality, explaining that in many cultures, girls are only allowed to go to school two days a week while boys are offered a full slate of educational opportunities. The opportunities for more education after primary school are often not available to girls and women in a variety of cultures.

Because CIE is a developing program, Wiseman will continue to explore financial opportunities and faculty recruitment. “We’re still in the formative stages of the program, but we’re really breaking ground on something special here because only a handful of institutions do comparative international education well,” he says, mentioning Stanford and Columbia Universities as benchmarks.

“The College of Education has a highly-collaborative culture and is the perfect environment for this type of effort,” he added. “We’re already making substantial progress because the college—and Lehigh’s administration—has been incredibly supportive.”

“The educational landscape here and abroad is going to change dramatically over the next generation,” he says. “It’s incumbent on us to anticipate those changes and prepare educational leaders who can contribute to and influence those trends.”

--Natalia Krepak

Posted on Monday, October 01, 2007

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