Oct. 22, 2019
The University of Missouri may sit – as we like to say – in the middle of the middle of the country, but the reach of our campus and community is global. Our students, faculty and staff represent six continents. And every year, we send more than 1,000 Tigers abroad to gain vital learning and scholarly experiences that connect us even more to the world. Here and abroad, the boundless ambition of our people drives our boundless potential.
In this week’s Inside Mizzou podcast, Chancellor Cartwright talks with Jay Sexton, professor of history and the Kinder Endowed Chair in Constitutional Democracy, and Faramola Shonekan, a senior McNair Scholar and history major who completed the University of Oxford Global History course last year as a 2018 Kinder Institute scholar. They discuss the many other ways Mizzou’s global reach shapes our community’s education and impact.
Moderator: [00:00:12] From the classroom to the cornfield, journalism to SEC athletics, the University of Missouri works 52 weeks a year, every year. This is Inside Mizzou – real stories, real discoveries and real impact of the Mizzou community. Today’s episode is called “Tigers Abroad.” The University of Missouri sits in the middle of the middle of the country. But each year, you can find more than 1000 Mizzou students studying abroad all over the world — from Costa Rica to New Zealand. Not only that, the university also draws students and scholars from six continents who come to Columbia for world-class learning and scholarship opportunities. So how does a university that’s connected to the world help shape our community’s education and impact? Joining Chancellor Cartwright to talk more about this are Jay Sexton, professor of history and the Kinder Endowed Chair in Constitutional Democracy, and Faramola Shonekan, a senior history major and McNair Scholar who completed a course in global history at the University of Oxford in England. Thank you all for being here.
Everyone: [00:01:13] It’s great to be here. Thanks for having us.
Moderator: [00:01:15] Faramola, I mentioned that you had the chance to study at Oxford through the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy. So why was it important for you to have this international perspective?
Faramola Shonekan: [00:01:24] Yeah. So I’ve always lived in the Midwest. I would say I’m used to being sort of landlocked, in a way. Born in Indiana, we lived in the Chicago area, then I’m going to school here in mid-Missouri. So I’ve always been used to being landlocked, as I said. And to me, I’ve always had, I’ve always been compelled to go on an adventure and to not only go on an adventure, but to learn while going on an adventure. My parents, they are from Nigeria. And so they’ve always had an international perspective. We’ve always discussed politics and history from a lens that’s not merely American and not just Missourian, but also internationalist in a way. And so when it comes to my education, something that’s very important to me, because it’s something that I intend to continue even after being an undergraduate, it was important to me to get an internationalist perspective when it comes to history in particular. You can learn everything you want in a classroom, and that’s great. But I feel like the things that we might learn about when it comes to imperialism or global Atlantic history, oftentimes it doesn’t really set in and the impact of these historical narratives until you actually go abroad to places such as Oxford, England and the University of Oxford. And also, I am a student-athlete. I train and run and compete yearlong. So it’s oftentimes hard for me to go to drop everything and to study abroad somewhere. My coach, I don’t think he’d like that very much. So this particular program, it was a week. It was during spring break. And spring break happens to be the time in which for track we don’t always have to compete. So I was lucky enough to take this week and drop everything to study abroad in Oxford. And I was actually doing independent research with Dr. Sexton last year, and my research had to do with someone who was actually located in the UK. And so I was like, kill two birds with one stone sort of thing. Study abroad for the heck of it, for my own development, but also to advance my own research.
Moderator: [00:03:53] Okay. No, no, that sounds great. And so, Professor Sexton, you’re from Salina, Kansas. And like Faramola, you first went to Oxford with an undergraduate study abroad program. How did that experience change you as a student and an individual?
Jay Sexton: [00:04:07] Oh, it changed me in all sorts of ways. Though, when I look back and listen to Fara tell about her experience, my first memory is that it was an adventure. And I arrived – this is in 1997 – I arrived the week of the Blair Revolution. It was an exciting time to go to England and the change of the guard in British politics. But my first memory is that I couldn’t find my way out of London Heathrow Airport. So that’s sort of part of the adventure and there’s lots of elements of that. But you know what really mattered looking back now is that this is a chance to immerse myself, someone who is also a Midwesterner, immerse myself in a different culture, take on different perspectives, the stuff that Fara was talking about. But when you do that, when you do that, it’s like holding up a mirror and looking at yourself in a different way and not just yourself, but also where you’re from – the Midwest and America itself. And it looks different. It looks different when you’re abroad. And I think the most important thing about study abroad is that’s a lesson that you can take back with you. It’s not just when you’re over there. It’s a part of a lifelong journey. So that’s what I hope the study abroad experience gives to the students here at the University of Missouri, and it’s certainly what it gave to me.
Moderator: [00:05:24] And so after college, you stayed in England for almost two decades. How has that extensive international experience shaped your vision for the Kinder Institute?
Jay Sexton: [00:05:33] Well, I always joke with the students that come to the England trip with me that they may think they’re only signing up for a week or for for a month, but be careful. They might wake up 20 years later as as I did. But hey, the experience over there absolutely shapes my vision of American history and the Kinder Institute. What we do is we study American history, the American founding, American political thought. And my starting point for that is that you cannot understand the United States in isolation, that America as a country — our Constitution, our democracy, our economy, our social relations, everything — took root and has evolved in an international context. And so that’s how we teach American history. That’s how I write about American history. And I think it’s true not only of the past, but also of the present and the future that we think of our our challenges today in national terms. But they’re actually global challenges and our solutions, therefore, need to be global as well. So I think that the intellectual basis for the Kinder Institute, at least how I see it, certainly can be traced back to time abroad and study abroad. I just make one more point here. And the last point would be that, you know, an international metric is also used for how we might measure our success, our goals, our ambitions. And that, of course, we want to be a regional player here and we want to make a difference in the Midwest. Of course, we want to make a difference in the United States. But our goal is to be a global leader in the study and teaching of American history and politics.
Moderator: [00:07:09] And I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t take into account when they think about American history, is that you can’t fully understand it in isolation. I think you can’t fully understand anything in isolation.
Jay Sexton: [00:07:18] Absolutely. Absolutely.
Moderator: [00:07:20] So Faramola, now that you’re back, how has your time at Oxford changed the way you approach your education and your future?
Faramola Shonekan: [00:07:27] Yeah. So I would say that studying in Oxford was like a, I guess a little mini intellectual enlightenment period for me. It was a week long, but it was very much life changing and going back to, coming back to Missouri after being at the University of Oxford, it was a bit eye-opening in the way that I can no longer see even Columbia, Missouri, in the same light that I used to see it. And I started to think of my education and how we talk in the classroom from an international perspective. And I really think that studying from a global standpoint added another layer to my education and to my own intellectual growth. And that’s something that cannot be taken away. Even though it was only a week at Oxford, I feel like a week was just enough to be able to experience that. So, yeah, I would say, like Jay said, I can no longer think in an isolationist sort of way. And even before going to Oxford, it wasn’t something that I thought I was thinking in. Like, I didn’t think I was so isolated in this way. But after, now after going, I feel like my world view has expanded and it’s still expanding. I want to continue studying. I want to continually, continue going on these adventures. And it’s, it’s very encouraging to me that I’m no longer sort of isolated in this way. I can go beyond borders that, beyond the Missouri borders, beyond the Midwestern borders, the U.S. borders, and even beyond the Western borders as a whole. It’s something that I look forward to and it’s something that cannot be taken away or reversed.
Moderator: [00:09:15] Awesome. No, I personally never had the experience of studying abroad, but just hearing everybody that has had the opportunity talk about it makes me wish I did one. But it also reminds me that those are things that you can keep with you for a lifetime and everybody doesn’t have the opportunity that they do.
Faramola Shonekan: [00:09:30] Certainly, yeah.
Moderator: [00:09:31] So Chancellor Cartwright, we’re talking a lot about sending MU students abroad to study. But I said earlier that Mizzou also has a rich international population of students who come here from over 100 countries. Why do you think an international or intercultural experience is so important to a college education overall?
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:09:46] You know, I think both Faramola and Professor Sexton have said it really well. It is this concept of how do you learn from other people, the economy being global, all of the things that we’re trying to understand from our history, from the future, the grand challenges, these are all global concepts. And so having, certainly having students here from I think we have them from about 108 different countries now. And that adds to that knowledge base. It helps us to teach better. It helps us to learn more about what’s happening across the entire world, but bringing it here, here locally, to Columbia. When I think about what it takes to learn, there’s a lot that we sometimes forget, right? And that is, if you try to understand even just another discipline, the language is slightly different, the culture is slightly different. So even at a university, we have these little pockets where, you know, maybe if the historians want to come and talk to the engineers, the language is different, the culture is different. And having the opportunity to be able to practice that – either going abroad or with students who are from different countries here – that strengthens your ability to then translate into that situation. So I think there’s that huge benefit to us, all of us, to be able to work in that type of multicultural environment where we’re going to all find ourselves as international partners.
Moderator: [00:11:27] And so how do you think Mizzou connects students from all different backgrounds and communities to the world, going off of that point that you just mentioned?
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:11:34] You know, we have a lot of programs. We have partnerships with other universities. We mentioned the one with Oxford and having a week-long opportunity there. We have others where people go and study for an entire semester. We work with our Honors Program to send students abroad and again to learn about different institutions, learn different languages. There’s all of these things that we do here with helping our students to get as many of those opportunities as possible. And it’s for all of the things, and again, I won’t repeat it because I think it was said so well by both Professor Sexton and Faramola, that that experience changes you, right? I was fortunate enough – and I do consider it being fortunate – that, you know, I was born in a different country. And even though we spoke the same language, English, if you listen to English in the Bahamas versus English in England versus English here, you may say the same words, but they have different meanings. And that’s hard for people to understand, right? And I think that’s an important part for us to understand about about how we communicate with each other and what those words really may mean. And it gives you a sensitivity to that. So it’s something for us, for this institution, to be able to think about how do we give that experience to more students? It does change your life. And, Steven, I hope you get an opportunity to do that pretty soon.
Moderator: [00:13:12] I hope so. I hope something goes along that I get the chance to do that. So we’ll start with Professor Sexton, and then we’ll go around the room. So, people might hear the phrase “Mizzou is everywhere” or “Mizzou is boundless.” What does that mean to each of you?
Jay Sexton: [00:13:25] Okay. Well, I’m going to have to nerd out since I’m a history professor here and maybe expand that a little bit. I would say Missouri — Missouri has mattered an awful lot to world history. This is a place that was coveted or claimed by indigenous empires, by France, by Spain. It was fought over by both the North and the South in the days of the Civil War. It’s been a magnet for migrants from around the globe. So it’s a, it’s an international place here. And what is more, is that Missouri has mattered to the world. So, who’s the most important president in world history? I would say is different than the most important president in U.S. history, which I think would be Abraham Lincoln. In world history, it’s Harry S. Truman, the formative president in the days of the early Cold War. And you think about literature, you think about Mark Twain has mattered an awful lot. And how about this one? How about culture? Chuck Berry. Chuck Berry, the father of rock and roll. My favorite music. My favorite music is the British rock from the 1960s and 70s: Rolling Stones – you know – Led Zeppelin. None of that happens. None of that music happens without Chuck Berry’s tours to the UK in the 1950s and 60s. So think of that next time you’re at Arrowhead Stadium and they’re playing “Start Me Up.” Chuck Berry is behind that. That’s Missouri being everywhere.
Faramola Shonekan: [00:14:55] What is “Mizzou everywhere” mean? Well, whenever I studied abroad and whenever locals in Oxford would ask us students where we were from, we would say, “Oh, Missouri.” And they would be like,”Where is that? We have no idea where that is.” And which is funny, and not surprising at all. But, and we would say, well, you should stick your finger in the middle of the map in the U.S., and that’s literally where Missouri is. But even though it’s just like a point on a map that a lot of people don’t know about, I would say Mizzou is everywhere in the fact that it is being represented by so many people in so many places doing so many different things. And that might not be recognized by locals or people who live there, but it’s something that I believe enhances Mizzou, enhances the State of Missouri. And I think that Mizzou isn’t only everywhere, but everywhere is Mizzou. Like, you know what I mean? Like, there’s a lot of international students here and there’s a lot of Missouri students internationally, a lot of people from Missouri internationally. So we might have these campus parameters and we might say Providence Rd., and Stadium Blvd., and College Ave. is what Mizzou is. But I think that’s completely false. I think my experience has taught me that we are also Oxford University, we are also in China, we’re also in West Africa, we’re in the Caribbean. And I think that’s what makes Mizzou, like, I think that’s what makes Mizzou awesome is because we’re everywhere. We’re not just on this, no doubt, beautiful campus. We’re literally everywhere and everywhere is Mizzou.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:16:39] Wow, again, I’m not sure how to follow that up. I will say this, I love the phrase that “Mizzou is everywhere and everywhere is Mizzou.” There are so many things that make that true. Right? If you think about some of the things we do in our Mizzou Alternative Breaks. We go to other countries. We work in other countries. Our alumni are around the world, right? And those networks you know, when I went to Thailand last year, they were the Thai-gers, T-H-A-I, Thai-gers. So they really are connected to this institution. And Faramola’s right, it isn’t like it’s just an opportunity where they come to this town, right? If you think about what Mizzou is, we have MU Extension that is across the entire state. Right? And it’s all the counties of this state. And our research, that our faculty are conducting impacts not just Missouri, but the world. The scholarship that Professor Sexton talked about and how you’re looking at the entire world in the context of what Missouri means to the world and what the world means to Missouri. That is what it means to be boundless. It is that we don’t think about just this local place. We think about the fact that we are an institution that has the intellectual capability — the faculty, the staff, the students — who actually can make a difference around the entire world. And we want to be, as Faramola said, we want Mizzou to be everywhere, and everywhere is Mizzou. That’s the concept of “boundless,” is making sure we demonstrate our value to society. It connects to the entire concept around what we’re doing. What do we do things for? We do things — all of our research, our education, our outreach, Extension, engagement — all of the things that we’re doing are about what we’re doing for society. And society is not just limited here, and it’s not just impacted by the things that are local, but they’re impacted by the things around the world. And so we have to have that view. We should be thinking very big because we are Mizzou, right? And we have so many great people that impact the world. And we should always be thinking that way, that everything we do has an impact on this world, and the world has an impact on everything we do.
Moderator: [00:19:10] And I think that’s a great place to end it. I want to thank you all for being with us today. And now, there’s just one more thing to do before we leave. So why did the pony need a glass of water?
Everyone: [00:19:28] (Silence)
Moderator: [00:19:28] It was a little horse.
Everyone: [00:19:30] (Laughing)
Moderator: [00:19:38] Our audio engineer is Aaron Hay. Our featured music is composed by MU master’s student Niko D. Schroeder and performed by the Donald Sinta Quartet. You can find more information about Niko, the Quartet and their piece on the Inside Mizzou webpage. Make sure to join us next time to stay on top of what’s happening at Mizzou. Thanks for joining us on this episode. See you around the Columns!