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College founds Institute for Global Engagement

David Cook-Martín spearheaded the Institute for Global Engagement. Photo contributed.

By Ronnie Ruse

Following recommendations that the College should foster and promote international education from the Global Grinnell Task Force and American Council on Education, the College has introduced the new Institute on Global Engagement. Under the leadership of Professor David Cook-Martín, Sociology, the Institute aims to create an integrated central hub to enhance global education at Grinnell.

“To do what we wanted to do, which is to really pull in everything international under one roof, we needed a different organizational structure, and that’s the Institute for Global Engagement,” Cook-Martín said. “When you have a central hub you can be much more effective in stewarding the resources that we have, making sure people are aware of them and have much more access to them.”

The new Institute will cover many areas formerly managed by the Center for International Studies, including course-embedded travel, off-campus study and global learning program tutorials. It will also work to offer a variety of new programs that will enhance a student’s global perspective in a more effective way, such as alternative language study options.

Cook-Martín hopes that exposing students to different viewpoints will cultivate a mindset of engaging with others.

“We want to push people to question parochial ideas, … ideas that you have because you are in one place and you assume that those ideas apply everywhere,” he said.

David Cook-Martín spearheaded the Institute for Global Engagement. Photo contributed.
David Cook-Martín spearheaded the Institute for Global Engagement. Photo contributed.

Furthermore, Cook-Martín seeks to curb the negative effects of perceived isolation on campus. At a small college like Grinnell, it is easy for a student to be caught in the “Grinnell Bubble” and forget about the outside world.

“One of the things I want to ensure that we do is that we make more visible the many ways in which we are connected to the rest of the world,” Cook-Martín said.

He accepted his new position this summer, noting that along with his new position comes numerous responsibilities.

“You can create an institute and say that we want it to do all of these things, but someone has to own it some point. Someone has to take charge of it and make sure that we stay on task and accomplish the many goals that were set out by the task force,” Cook-Martín said.

Cook-Martín believes the creation of the Institute and his full-time position as director will make it easier to develop programming that is fully engaged on a consistent basis. He also recognizes the role faculty play in encouraging global education, both through their curriculum and through research with students. He hopes his background as a faculty member will lend a new perspective to the position.“It was important that [the head of the Institute] also be a faculty member,” Cook-Martín said. “Global critical education is very much driven by faculty and the participation of faculty.”

Of course, Cook-Martín readily acknowledges that the hard-working staff of the institute make global education at Grinnell possible. At the Institute he will work together with eight other staff members to help students at Grinnell explore a full range of international options.

One of the major challenges students face is lack of information about global education. Despite a sometimes overwhelming list of travel options, there are many students who are still unaware of the various international programs offered at Grinnell. The Institute is one way to close the information gap.

Additionally, Cook-Martín encourages students to visit the Institute for Global Engagement and share their suggestions.

“A lot of the ideas that have turned into programs have often come from faculty and students working together on something and realizing that there’s a gap, or that they wanted to participate in something that wasn’t offered here on campus.”

Students looking for more information about international programs at Grinnell can stop by the Institute for Global Engagement, located on the first floor of the Jesse Macy House, or check out the Institute’s website at

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