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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

The Impact of Globalization on the Future of the University

Tecnológico de Monterrey
Monterrey, Mexico
February 15, 2011

Good afternoon. It is an honor to be with you today and to join my esteemed colleague, Michael Crow, in this meeting of Tec’s National Board. I am especially grateful to be spending this time among a group of leaders so deeply committed to the success of this extraordinary university.

We are here to discuss ´´what a university should be in the future…´´ and what I can offer today I owe to my friendship and work with Rafael. The defining issue of our time is globalization. No one has provided greater leadership in the Academy today in demonstrating how a university responds to the forces of globalization as has Rafael Rangel.

How we respond to globalization is the defining issue of our time. For too long, the logic of globalization has been shaped by terms and concepts of the market. When we hear the term, we immediately think of integrated financial systems, tariffs, trade rules, and transnational economic networks. Of course all of this is important. The forces of globalization have provided for extraordinary growth. But globalization is also blamed for increasing inequalities across nations. I think it is an urgent imperative of the Academy to engage this logic from the ethos, the characteristic spirit of the Academy, and to bring our own resources to this engagement.  

The characteristic spirit of the university is to seek the betterment of humankind. This spirit is captured in the words of the mission statement of your university: ´´To prepare upstanding, ethical individuals with a humanistic outlook, who are internationally competitive in their professional fields and become committed to the economic, political, social and cultural development of their communities and to the sustainable use of natural resources.´´1

How can we harness the forces of globalization in the service of developing young leaders with this profile? I believe first and foremost we must assert ourselves, animated by the values that are so present here in this academic community, and work to reshape the very meaning of the term ´´globalization.´´ 

I believe our understanding of globalization is too limited, too constrained. 

I don´t believe our understanding of globalization should be defined simply by economic terms and market considerations. Instead, globalization should be understood as a force through which we can further advance the betterment of humankind.

Globalization poses new challenges and new opportunities, and perhaps the most significant is how to interpret the reality we are experiencing.  Animated by our ethos, I believe our universities offer important resources for reframing our understanding. 

I wish to suggest three areas for reflection that resonate with the ethos of the university. It is my hope that by engaging these three areas of reflection we might open up and broaden our understanding of the meaning of globalization. 

First, as we explore and expand our range of global opportunities, as new technologies enable us to be more connected…we have to be that much more connected to our local communities. Because our first responsibility is the development, the formation of young people – we have a responsibility to them for the cultivation of their intellects and the forging of their characters. 

The ethos of the university includes, in the words of my colleague at Georgetown John O´Malley, a recognition of the ´´preeminence of truth and the dignity of the quest for it.´´2 We seek to instill the habits of mind that will sustain this quest. And we seek to ensure they are prepared to make a difference in our ever changing global context. 

The word that best captures the moral responsibility is the word cosmopolitan. The word captures the sense that the responsibility we have to one another is grounded in our shared humanity. We share a reciprocity of responsibility. 

But we learn this responsibility locally. First in our families, then in or hometowns or villages – our communities of origin, our ´´defining communities.´´

A noted cosmopolitan, Martha Nussbaum, traces this recognition of the importance of the ´´local´´ back to the very first to explicate this moral insight:

The Stoics stress that to be a citizen of the world one does not need to give up local identifications, which can frequently be a source of great richness in life. They suggest that we think of ourselves not as devoid of local affiliations, but as surrounded by a series of concentric circles.

The first one is drawn around the self; the next takes in one's immediate family; then follows the extended family; then, in order, one's neighbors or local group, one's fellow city-dwellers, one's fellow countrymen.

Outside all these circles is the largest one, that of humanity as a whole. Our task as citizens of the world will be to "draw the circles somehow toward the center" (Stoic philosopher Hierocles, 1st 2nd CE)3

We begin in the local. We have our identities and it is these very identities we ask our students to bring into the orbit of our universities. We need to embrace these identities and the communities that nurture and sustain them, as we move out in these concentric circles, recognizing our need to embrace the global, but never at the cost of these original identities. No one has entered the global arena with more profound respect for his people and his country, than Rafael Rangel.

Second, we need to embrace new technologies. And not for the obvious reasons. They are changing our world – both in how we connect and communicate, but more important – how we make meaning in our world. The emergent identities that we see unfolding in the streets of Cairo, mediated by new social networking technologies, are reflective of what is becoming in our world today.

But there is another way in which we must harness technology. We will not meet the needs of our societies with the infrastructure for education we have today. Anywhere you look in the world today there are asymmetries in the education people have and the education people need. 

Even in America, with one of the most sophisticated systems of higher education the world has ever seen, we do not produce enough postsecondary graduates to meet the needs of our economy. 

There simply is not enough higher education, and we will never be able to close the gap through the kinds of infrastructure that have defined our past.

We all need to ´´leap frog´´ and we have no better example of the creative development of new infrastructure and the use of new technologies, than that of Tec de Monterrey. 

The virtual community, the community learning centers, the expansion to 33 locations throughout Mexico. And together, I have learned being with Rafael as he has tried to show how the approach could be adaptive to addressing the urgent needs in the continent of Africa. 

Globalization demands the creative development of new technologies. Tec de Monterrey is a global leader in this work. 

Third, we must acknowledge our responsibilities for the full human development of all our peoples. 

There has been a development that has been underway now for the past two decades, a development that has the potential to transform the way we understand the nature of our responsibilities to one another.

Beginning in 1990, the United Nations has produced an annual Human Development Report. The intellectual father of this initiative is the Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen, who over the course of his career has developed a set of ideas that is transforming the way we understand our responsibilities to one another. We refer to this set of ideas as the Human Development and Capability Approach. This Approach seeks to address the underlying economic, social, and political conditions that enable each of us to fulfill our promise and potential. This is “an approach to development in which the objective is to expand what people are able to do and be….”4

The animating concepts were established in the very first Human Development Report. Human development was defined as “both the process of widening people’s choices and the level of their achieved well-being.”5 The core idea: “…The purpose of development is to enhance people’s capabilities…” What is meant by ‘capabilities?’ A capability is the “freedom to promote or achieve what [one] values[s] doing and being.”7 It is the freedom to engage in the practices and activities that one values doing and for which there is a value doing. 

The question that Sen asks and that is at the heart of the Human Development approach is: do you have the capability to engage in the activities, the practices, what Sen calls the “functionings,” that matter most to you? Do the social, political, and economic structures provide you with the framework to achieve this capability?

For so much of the modern era we have considered our responsibilities to each other within the poles of utilitarianism and duty-based theories. The Human Development and Capability Approach asks us to consider a different way.

This idea of human development deeply resonates with the ethos of the university. Can you imagine an account more focused on the betterment of humankind? It is a moral imperative that we embrace this new understanding of our responsibilities to each other for full “integral” development, allowing the university to play a deeper role in this work of human development.

This is a responsibility that is deeply embraced in the culture of Tec de Monterrey. In the words of the man we honor today, whether in your constructing social incubators or in your community learning centers, or through the vast network of campuses, you seek ´´… to play a more active and dynamic role in generating greater well-being in the country´s communities….´´8

You seek to educate ´´… individuals who become connected to the economic, political, social, and cultural development of their communities.´´9

Three Brief Reflections

As we accept our responsibilities for one another, regardless of our geography, nationality, ethnicity, race, color, or gender, we accept the responsibility of cosmopolitans, we must be ever more respectful of the local, of our defining communities;

As we deepen our connections through new technologies, we must recognize the urgent need to deepen and expand our opportunities for access – we must leapfrog, using technology to ensure all of our people have access to the learning necessary for participation in a global economy. 

As we broaden our engagement in the world, we must accept the responsibilities we have for the full, integral human development of all of our people. 

No one working in our world today has produced a better example of the engagement required in responding to the forces of globalization. 

If we are to bring our voice and impact the logic of globalization, in our characteristic ethos… if the betterment of human kind is to impact our understanding of our responsibilities in the face of these forces, it will be the witness of Rafael Rangel Sostmann that will be remembered for the transformative impact he has had during his quarter-century of leadership here at Tec de Monterrey.


1.  “Vision and Mission.” Tecnológico de Monterrey. Web 16 Feb. 2011. http://www.itesm.edu/wps/portal/english/!ut/p/c5/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3iLUOcwD6cgY0P3MCcjA0-TUH8fT4swIz8vQ_1wkA5kFSZhFgae_qb-7mbBIcb-rqYQeQMcwNFA388jPzdVvyA7O83RUVERAO2qUiw!/dl3/d3/L0lDU0lKSWdra0EhIS9JTlJBQUlpQ2dBek15cUEhL1lCSlAxTkMxTktfMjd3ISEvN184VUNWSEJSMzFHVkIyMEk0VU9MSThWMk5CNg!!/?WCM_PORTLET=PC_7_8UCVHBR31GVB20I4UOLI8V2NB6_WCM&WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/wps/wcm/connect/migration/ITESM.en2/Tecnol_gico+de+Monterrey/Vision+and+Mission/
2.  O’Malley, John W., Four Cultures of the West. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004) 79.
3.  Nussbaum, Martha C. “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism.” Boston Review. October/November 1994. Web. 17 February 2011. http://bostonreview.net/BR19.5/nussbaum.php.
4.  Severine Deneulin and Lila Shahani, eds., An Introduction to the Human Development and Capability Approach: Freedom and Agency (London: earthscan, 2009) 23.
5.  Severine Deneulin and Lila Shahani, eds., 26.
6.  Severine Deneulin and Lila Shahani, eds., 26-27.
7.  Severine Deneulin and Lila Shahani, eds., 31.
8.  “Vision and Mission.” Tecnológico de Monterrey. Web 16 Feb. 2011.
9.  Ibid.

 

 

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