Globally Minded

In March, University of Central Oklahoma’s first nine global competency students were awarded their certificate in a graduation ceremony for a program that launched four years ago.

The UCO Centre for Global Competency (GCG) brings international students to UCO by marketing it overseas and taking care of admission and immigration paperwork, as well as supporting international student activity. The Centre also sends UCO students to study abroad and promotes global experiences for students within
city limits.

“Upon completion of the program, students receive a certificate testifying that they can handle cultural and global situations related to their jobs,” says Dennis Dunham, executive director for International Services at UCO. Dunham, a former Peace Corps member who has visited more than 80 countries, developed the program.

Completing the program requires participation in international experiences in the local community, study of a foreign language, having a global experience (preferably a semester of study abroad), setting academic goals with an international focus, and telling the CGC about their transformative experience.

To send UCO students overseas and bring foreign students to UCO, Dunham establishes relationships with universities all over the world. He then strives to get a student (and sometimes faculty) exchange program running. UCO currently has more than 200 Chinese students, a significant increase from the approximate 20 it had three or four years ago. A relationship with the Saudi embassy brought more than 150 students to UCO. “We now have students from over 100 countries,” says Dunham. “We’re proud of that. It brings in wonderful culture.” UCO students also travel and study abroad through the CGC, to places like France, China and Africa.

One of UCO’s attractions to foreign students, said Dunham, is its affordability—not often seen in a college of its size and advancement. Additionally, the student-to-teacher ratio is excellent, so foreign students know they will get the attention they need.

“There is no other university in America that offers over 112 undergraduate degrees, over 54 graduate degrees, a beautiful and centralized campus in one of the top 15 safest cities in the heart of America, class sizes averaging 25 students, and costs less than $18,000 a year for everything: tuition, housing, food, insurance, books and miscellaneous items,” boasts the UCO homepage.

Plus, “Edmond is just about as friendly as it gets,” says Dunham.

To build the program’s framework, Dunham invited several local industry leaders to UCO for an all-day symposium with students, faculty and corporate leaders. Leaders discussed what they would like to see in college graduates applying for global employment assignments. Dunham found that they didn’t want students who simply majored in global competence, but globally competent graduates who majored in a field related to the work they apply for.

According to Dunham, one of every four Americans who are sent abroad for various job assignments are sent back. “Cultural differences” cause an inability to work successfully with the locals. “These are Fortune 500 companies we are talking about,” says Dunham. “(Creating globally competent graduates) is not just about fun. This is cultural enrichment, to be sure, but it’s economic advancement as well.”

While extensive experience in a foreign language and culture is sure to benefit job candidates in assignments abroad, the benefits of a well-rounded globally competent individual go beyond just working abroad. Graduates who experience some type of global competency course, Dunham says, are shown to be more flexible, be better team players, have a good sense of humor and be more creative.

“These are the global leaders of Oklahoma,” said Dunham.

According to Dunham, only three other universities currently offer a global competency or similar course. “Ours is unique because a transformation is required,” says Dunham. “We don’t want our students to have just an experience, but an adventure. Because with an adventure, you’re transformed.”

Students taking the program can expect to complete it in about 18 months. The certification is open to all full-time UCO students, though they are not required to complete the certification to participate in its programs.

For more information, visit UCO’s website at

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