The Hoya’s editor-in-chief, Danny Funt, sat down with Thomas Banchoff, Georgetown’s first vice president for global engagement, last week to discuss Banchoff’s new role on campus.
Below is an excerpted transcript of the interview.
What does a global university look like as you and Dr. DeGioia envision it?
We are already a global community and a global university in many ways. But we are also in a competitive global context. In the context of globalization, with the world more interconnected, the higher education sector is becoming much more competitive and the competition for the best students, the best faculty, for research grants on international topics has grown more and more intense, so being a global university has to be positioning us in that space, strengthening our existing global programs and initiatives and finding ways to support our faculty and administrators as we deepen and strengthen our global profile.
Was there anything specific that prompted creating this position now?
We are already a global university, we’ve emerged as a leading global university under PresidentDeGioia, but we can’t rest on our laurels. There is a lot of competition out there. This position is designed at this moment to strengthen our overall efforts to support faculty and students and connect their efforts as well so that we can collaborate more effectively as a community.
How does Georgetown’s religious identity play into how it approaches global engagement?
The idea that we are training students not just to be successful professionally but to give back, to serve the wider community, to be skilled in ethical reflection and intercultural communication. That is really the heart of the Georgetown identity and experience. I think it should and it does infuse everything we do not in a doctrinaire way, not in a narrow way, but in the way we have seen over the last couple of decades, in particular under President DeGioia and his predecessors. Georgetown is a Catholic and Jesuit institution open to other religious traditions and the wider world.
The elevation of Pope Francis brought a lot of global attention to the Society of Jesus. Does his global popularity affect the way that Georgetown proceeds in developing its international ties?
There is definitely some impact, or I should say there will be some impact. Things move slowly with the new papacy. These are large structures like Georgetown that have been around a long time and how this specific Jesuit identity will play out as supreme pontiff and how that will play out for Georgetown, we’ll have to wait and see. So far, he has made a point of emphasizing Jesuit spirituality in his own life and in his reflection on world affairs and the challenges of his office. In there already you see a great connection with Georgetown and the role that Jesuit spirituality plays in our community and in the wider tradition.
Is there any worry that the university’s attention is being diverted from that undergraduate experience?
It’s critical that this new role and everything we do around global engagement strengthen our core academic enterprise — the teaching and the research mission of the university. Georgetown is a student-centered research university. So it is a kind of a litmus test. If we are in China or Latin America, if we are expanding our partnerships with universities abroad, we’ve got 250 or more [memorandums of understanding] with universities in some 40 countries. We have to keep asking ourselves how does this benefit our students, how does it create opportunities.