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Globalization and the Importance of Understanding Cultures

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America has been accused by many of being insensitive to the importance of cultures.  Eugene Burdick and William Lederer’s1958 book The Ugly American argued that America was losing the struggle against Communism in Southeast Asia in large part due to its inability and /or unwillingness to understand the local cultures there.  There clearly was a disconnect between Burdick’s and Lederer’s thesis at the time and U.S. foreign policy as evidenced by our involvement in Vietnam.  Pockets of the population remain today that reinforce the notion of the “ugly  American” but America’s colleges and universities have responded by increasing the number of study abroad programs available to students.  While culture is a topic that is broader than a blog post or two, I think it’s important to review how we’ve looked at understanding cultures at our institution.

As our curriculum advanced from the study of warfare and military history to the study of strategic and military intelligence, our faculty pointed out the importance of having an area studies program available to students in multiple degree programs.  For the active duty military student, an area studies program could provide an edge in understanding an area of the world where he/she was being deployed.  Our area studies programs consisted of a course on the history of the country/area, its geography, and an introduction to its language.  At one point in time, we had courses in the history and geography of over 20 countries.

More recently, our faculty decided to examine the area studies programs and align them with the “strategic” positioning of the U.S. State Department.  We have 5 minors that focus on specific geographic regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.  Each requires a course which compares the political structures of the various nations within the region as well as a course that examines the broader political system impacting the region as a whole.  In addition, each minor offers courses on the geography, foreign policy, economy and history of the region.  Through courses that examine the philosophy, religion and popular culture of each region, students are able to gather a more thorough understanding of the region’s people.  By providing the student with a solid background combined with a modern-day perspective on each region, I believe we are contributing to a more fundamental cultural understanding and combating the notion of the “ugly American.”

Colin Powell said, “The more we know about each other, the more we learn about each other, the more we engage on differences that we have between our societies and between our social systems and between our political points of view, the better off we are.  The more dialogue we have at every level, and especially at the academic level, where opinion-makers are located…the better off we are.”  Secretary Powell was correct.  The internet is globalizing the world and America and collectively, we must begin to understand other cultures and languages for our continued standing in the society of nations.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity by the U.S. Secretary of Education in 2019. He also serves as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), as a Trustee of The American College of Financial Services, as a member of the board of Our Community Salutes - USA, and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

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