Scholars from around the world meet at ECU

Higher education professionals from 20 institutions around the world met at ECU this spring for the 10th annual Global Partners in Education Conference. The conference brought together representatives from colleges and universities participating in ECU’s award-winning Global Academic Initiatives, which allow students in different countries to virtually meet and learn

from each other. The programs introduce students to the idea of studying abroad and provide ways for them to have a global experience without leaving campus.

Jami Leibowitz, ECU’s interim director of GAI, said the Global Partners in Education programs help students better understand themselves and their place in the world, including how to understand, be respectful of and effectively communicate with individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Attendees came to ECU from countries such as Russia, Algeria, France and Lebanon to explore global education and regional economic development.

Collectively, approximately 17,000 students worldwide have participated in Global Partners in Education programming since it began 10 years ago. It started with three countries outside the U.S. and now includes 62 institutions in 33 countries. Twenty of those institutions were represented at the conference.

Femi Olufunmilade from Igbinedion University in Nigeria brought five of his students to the conference to expose them to different cultures. “We are in an age of globalization. You can’t be an island. We have to reach out to reach our fullest potential,” Olufunmilade said.

One outcome of the virtual learning experiences is an interest among student and faculty participants to pursue study-abroad opportunities at institutions they have come to know virtually. Olufunmilade said one of his students has shown an interest in coming to ECU for a graduate program, and another is pursuing study-abroad opportunities in France to broaden his experience for a career as a diplomat, both because of experiences through GPE.

During the opening ceremony, ECU Chancellor Cecil P. Staton said studying abroad had a profound impact on his future. “It changed my world and my perspective. It eventually led me to dream about going to Oxford University; otherwise, I would have never thought about the possibility,” said Staton.

Globalization has been one of Staton’s areas of focus since becoming ECU’s chancellor in July 2016. Twelve to 13 percent of graduating students at ECU have a study-abroad experience. He told conference attendees he hopes to increase those opportunities but realizes not all students will have the resources to travel abroad. “We’ve got to bring the world to ECU. We’ve got to make sure we are a gateway to the world for all of our students whatever their background—and you are a part of that and we are so glad,” said Staton.


Attendees came to ECU from countries such as Russia, Algeria, France and Lebanon to explore global education and regional economic development.