Appendix G



Global Citizenship and Global Competency


Implementation: Upon Approval By the President

Introduction and Rationale

The Global Programs Committee’s Charge for 2017-18 included preparation of a report which identifies ways that Penn State might define “global citizenship” and “global competency” for the purposes of assessment.

The current Penn State Strategic Plan–Our Commitment to Impact: The Pennsylvania State University’s Strategic Plan for 2016 to 2020 includes global understanding in the mission statement, has enhancing global engagement as one of its foundations, and points to the importance of enhancing global competencies for students and global citizenship for students, faculty and staff.  This is in line with similar statements by peer institutions in the U.S. and around the world.  While the importance of global engagement is widely recognized, few institutions define what they mean by global competency or what they include in their concept of global citizenship.  This report presents a framework for conceptualizing global and intercultural competency that can be tailored to particular disciplinary needs, as well as the proposition that there are multiple pathways to global citizenship.

Major challenges, such as food, energy and water security, poverty, cultural and environmental sustainability, migration, climate change and loss of biodiversity, amongst others, are global.  They impact all of us, and they are interconnected.  Modern communication technologies ensure that knowledge is available instantly and almost everywhere, helping to drive an increasingly complex and integrated global economy.  Over the past several decades, it has become more apparent that we live in a globally connected world—from politics to the price of goods and services, and from potential pandemics to conflict and national security; our daily lives are increasingly touched by events in the global arena.  An understanding of global-scale processes and how the global links to the local is now an essential component of everyone’s education.  Learning how to function in an increasingly interconnected global environment is driving a push toward global competency as a major educational goal.

However, this highly interconnected physical and social environment overlays a world that is still divided into nation states, each with its own social, economic and political structures.  People and places exist in a physical and cultural environment conditioned by a particular history and the social landscape around them.  This profoundly affects the way in which people interact with the global environment (or even their ability to do so).  At the same time, the major global challenges manifest themselves differently in different places and how those problems and potential solutions are perceived is again conditioned by the local physical and cultural environment.  This represent both a challenge, but also a benefit–there is value-added in integrating solutions from diverse local, regional and cultural perspectives.

These factors point to the need for education that develops student understanding of global scale processes and the way in which the global interacts with the local; an ability to work and function in an increasingly global society (global competency) as well as the ability to understand, appreciate, and communicate across cultures (inter-cultural competency).

While there is considerable scholarship around intercultural competency, discussions of global competency and global citizenship are more recent, there is less agreement in their definitions, and they are often used interchangeably.  For our purposes, we present the following basic definitions that can stand as they are, or be enhanced to reflect specific disciplinary needs.  Note that what we define as global awareness, literacy and competency, others may group together as global competency.  Others, may also mesh global competency, intercultural competency, and global citizenship.  Separating them out allows units to expand their definitions in any area; more narrowly focused courses or programs (producing more targeted learning outcomes); and, for assessment, it allows differentiation of metrics and targets across the range from awareness to competency.


#1 The administration incorporates the following definitions of global awareness, global literacy, global competency, intercultural competency, and global citizenry in assessing progress in the university’s strategic plan.

Global awareness is being aware that we are part of a global community and that different countries and cultures have different perspectives, languages, values and expectations.  It implies a worldview that goes beyond immediate and personal experience. Global awareness is the first step in developing global competency, intercultural competency and global citizenship.

Global literacy goes one step further.  It incorporates global awareness but it also includes an understanding of global-scale issues.  For example, global climate change, ocean pollution, conflict and migration, or the global economy.  In addition, global literacy involves an understanding of how the global interacts with the local.

Global competency builds on global literacy by developing the skills necessary to function in a global society.  It involves the ability to communicate across cultural barriers, to work on complex questions and develop solutions that are culturally appropriate.  This anticipates careers where our students are likely to work in multicultural teams that are continuously reconfigured for different projects in different parts of the world—it does not assume in-depth knowledge of any particular culture or language.  Building global competency requires interaction across cultures.

Intercultural competency describes the “appropriate and effective management of interaction between people who, to some degree or another, represent different or divergent affective, cognitive, and behavioral orientations to the world” (Spitzberg, B. H., & Chagnon, G., Conceptualizing intercultural competence. In D. K. Deardorff (Ed.), The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence (pp. 2–52). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2009).  Like global competency, intercultural competency requires interaction across cultures.

Citizenship carries with it a certain degree of responsibility.  For our purposes, the concept of global citizenship evolves from our land-grant tradition and involves taking an active role in using global and intercultural skills to enhance the wellbeing of the community—recognizing that the community extends from the local to the global.  A global citizen always thinks globally, while acting locally.

#2 The administration endorses the following framework. Framework for Developing Global Citizenship:  The framework is illustrated in Figure 1 and incorporates four core principles:

  1. These definitions are not mutually exclusive. There is overlap between global awareness and global literacy and between global competency and intercultural competency. Courses and activities that focus on one are likely to help develop the other.
  2. Building global or intercultural competency requires some level of awareness and literacy, but while there appears to be a sequence from awareness to competency, this is an iterative rather than linear progression. This is a lifelong journey—there is no endpoint, and students will progress along all four dimensions in parallel.
  3. There are common attributes that cross several or all of these dimensions. These are described by Deardorff (2006) and used in the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Intercultural Knowledge and Competence VALUE Rubric. Attributes such as empathy and self-awareness, knowledge or verbal and non-verbal communication are cognitive, behavioral and affective skills that underlie global and intercultural competency.
  4. Here we use citizenship not to denote status, but to recognize conduct. Anyone, at any stage of their development toward global or intercultural competency can begin to act as a global citizen. As a university, we can provide opportunities to act as global citizens, but this is not a skill that we teach—it is a behavior promoted by our culture and what we value as a community. Unlike ordinary citizenship, global citizenship is a journey, not a destination.

As described below: March 13, 2018 Senate Agenda, Appendix G, Image 1, Pathways to Global Citizenship


  • Michael Adewumi
  • Augustin Banyaga
  • Mark Brennan
  • Joanna DeFranco
  • Beth Farmer
  • Sam Finn
  • Dennis Jett, Vice Chair
  • Jyotsna Kalavar
  • Loukas Kalisperis
  • Brian King
  • Michael Krajsa
  • Dena Lang
  • Jacqueline Markle
  • Willie Ofosu, Chair
  • Peter Rinehart
  • Martha Strickland