It’s a small world, but not without large-scale problems that require individuals with a global perspective and understanding to tackle – a theme that will emerge from the two keynote speakers at the upcoming "Deans' Forum on Global Engagement: Developing a Community of Excellence" at Virginia Tech.

Mitchell Reiss, a senior American diplomat currently serving as the president of Washington College in Chestertown, Md., and Harriet Fulbright, the unofficial ambassador for the Fulbright program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, are featured speakers for the event which spans from March 25-27. They gave a preview of their talks in recent telephone interviews.

Reiss’ talk, "Engaging the world: Old threats and new challenges for America" will be held on Wednesday, March 26, at 7 p.m. at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center.

“You might not think you are involved, but the world is involved in your life. From commerce and trade, to national security and the threats we face, and other trends such as environmental issues and water safety,” said Reiss. “If there are problems in a distant country, it can impact things in the United States. I hope to show the interconnectedness of it all.”

Reiss will share some of his perspective as an American diplomat, particularly in creating international policies. “I hope it’ll give people a greater appreciation of the complexity and difficulty of developing any policy and implementing it. There are so many sources of friction and opposition – in the government and with our friends and adversaries – to have a successful policy,” said Reiss. “It’s not that people are incompetent. They are very smart, but this is really hard to do.”

He hopes to emphasize the significant role the commonwealth has played in global relations and how the university community can support those efforts. “The country, especially Virginia, has played an outside role in our country’s history. We won’t be able to deal with these challenges unless we get young people committed to it,” Reiss said.

Fulbright, the former executive director of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities under President Bill Clinton, will present her talk, "Value of international education and the Fulbright program," on Thursday, March 27, at 10 a.m. at Haymarket Theatre in Squires Student Center.

Fulbright began traveling the world as a young woman. Her father sent her to Columbia for a summer when she was just 14. He sent her “to improve my Spanish, but also to learn there are very different ways of thinking,” Fulbright said. “That was the beginning of my interest and realization of how travel is really important.”

Since then, she has championed for Americans to travel, especially as part of an educational experience. “If you live in a tiny world surrounded by people who have only your system of experiences and beliefs, you can become either frightened or hostile to a different way of thinking and being. It’s unnecessary,” Fulbright said. “It’s important we realize we are all law-abiding citizens, interested in self-improvement and maintaining this quite magical world we live in. We can learn from each other.”

Through her message at the forum, she hopes the audience will be inspired to explore and embrace different cultures. “Understanding is the beginning of the development of a tolerance of different viewpoints, ideas, and ways of being and learning,” Fulbright said.

In addition to the featured speakers, the forum will feature panel, poster, photographic, and session presentations by faculty, staff, and students from all colleges on campus. The goal of the forum is to bring awareness and recognition to the university’s work in global engagement.

Faculty, staff, and students may register in advance by visiting the forum website or attend as space is available on the day of these events.

Also part of the forum, international hip-hop artist, social justice advocate, and former South Sudanese child soldier Emmanuel Jal will perform on Tuesday, March 25, at 7 p.m. at the Moss Arts Center. The Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech is co-sponsoring the performance. The performance is free, but tickets are required. Tickets are available online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, noon to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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