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Hoppe gives ‘geography lesson' during Fall 2006 Convocation address

Yesterday, during the annual fall Convocation for faculty and staff, Austin Peay State University President Sherry Hoppe discussed two books she recently read and their implications for the future of the University.

Both of the books discussed by Dr. HoppeThe World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman and Why Geography Matters by Harm de Blijaddress global challenges in a world flattened by economic, technological and cultural changes.
Yesterday, during the annual fall Convocation for faculty and staff, Austin Peay State University President Sherry Hoppe discussed two books she recently read and their implications for the future of the University.

Both of the books discussed by Dr. Hoppe“The World Is Flat” by Thomas L. Friedman and “Why Geography Matters” by Harm de Blijaddress global challenges in a world flattened by economic, technological and cultural changes.

In his book, de Blijwith the arrival of the new millenniumsaid, “We are crossing the threshold to a century that will witness massive environmental change, major population shifts, persistent civilization conflicts … Simultaneously, foreign policy and economic issues flattened the world at the dawn of the 21st century, requiring ‘us to run faster in order to stay in place.'”

The rapid global changes that occurred in the 1990s did not slow down with the arrival of the new millennium, said Hoppe. They simply shifted gears and increased speed.

“Is there a common thread running through all of these changes?” Hoppe said. “De Blij says it is ‘geography.'” But Hoppe stressed it's not your old-time stereotypical geography with its lists of countries and capitals. It's more scientific, more mathematical, more high tech.

She said, “Thomas Friedman…approached his brief history of the 21st century using an extended spatial metaphor to describe dramatic economic changes so powerful that he avows we have returned to the flat world we thought Columbus rounded.”

Like Columbus who went in search of the East Indies and discovered America and its inhabitants, whom he called Indians, Friedman took a trip to Indianot in search of spices and precious metals. Rather, on his trip to India, “he was seeking software, brainpower … knowledge workers, call centers, transmission protocols, breakthroughs in optical engineering.”

“Like Columbus, Friedman embarked on his voyage assuming the world was round,” Hoppe said. “What he found shook that belief to the core. The world is flat.”

Hoppe outlined what Friedman called the 10 “flatteners”recent global occurrences that have created a competitive playing field for everyone, that have empowered people from all parts of the earth to operate globally:

1. The fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, which ended the struggle between capitalism and communism and opened up untapped markets and knowledge pools and allowed standardizations in technology.
2. Technology revolution of the 1980s and ‘90s when technology moved from a PC-based computing platform to an Internet-based platform.
Hoppe said, “Making the Internet computing platform seamlessly integrated was a huge flattener, because it enabled so many more people to get connected with so many more other people. In about 10 years, 800 million people were using the Internet.”
3. Workflow software, which “'seamlessly connected applications to applications, so that people could manipulate all their digitized content, using computers and the Internet, as never before,'” Hoppe said, quoting Friedman.
4. Open sourcing, which involves people worldwide ”coming together online to collaborate.” An example is Wikipedia, a user-contributed online encyclopedia.
5. Outsourcing, such as the sending of an X-ray from a hospital in America to a radiologist in India to read.
6. Offshoring is moving the operation of an industry from America to another country, such as China, where laborers are plentiful and wages are a fraction of what they would be in America.
7. Supply chaining is a method of collaboration among suppliers, retailers and customers to create value. An example is Wal-Mart, which operates like a precision-machine.
8. Insourcing, which enabled small local or regional companies to see potential markets and operate worldwide.
9. In-forming, which is about becoming your own researcher for knowledge, through vehicles such as Google.
10. Steroids, which refers to new technologies that amplify and turbocharge the previous nine flatteners.

According to Hoppe, the convergence of these flatteners occurred around the year
2000. As this new playing field evolved, businesses and people began to adopt new habits, skills and processes to maximize it.

“Our students come to us every year more and more technologically sophisticated, often using devices we don't have or understand,” said Hoppe. “Most of our students don't remember the world before the Internet. Some think the only library they need is their handheld computer.
Some aren't concerned about human connections.”

Hoppe challenged faculty and staff not only to make that human connection themselves, despite the technology, but also “to help our students make the connections despite the physical isolation that is becoming prevalent with the newer technologies” by creating learning spaces that pull students together, not in a virtual reality, but in real time.

She also pointed out that the flatteners reveal that competition for prospective students is not local or statewide; it is worldwide. “Today…our competition is the thousands of schools in Americaand, indeed, worldwidethat are teaching students wherever they live and work.

“Even on ground, it we don't teach millennialsor the thumb people (a reference to text-messaging)using technology they live with daily, we will lose them to schools that do.”

When it comes to millions of bloggers, some of whom are APSU students, Hoppe said the faculty's responsibility as educators is to help them understand they must evaluate the accuracy and validity of the information they are finding on the Web. “We need to teach them how to think critically about what they read on the Web.”

Saying the flatteners point to APSU's initiative in globalization, Hoppe noted several of the recommendations that came from the International Council she appointed last yearfrom expanding the University‘s study-abroad programs to include China, Japan, Australia and Ghana to hiring a coordinator of international programs to implement the council's recommendations.

“The 10 flatteners dramatically illustrate that our students will be competing in a global economy when they graduate,” Hoppe said. “Our students must leave APSU not only with strong technical or professional skills, but they also must leave with problem-solving skills, critical-thinking skills and communication skills.”

Hoppe ended her remarks by urging a return to the study of geography by all students so they can know, not only the names of countries, but where our competitors are on a map, where terrorist threats originate and where opportunities are ripe. — Dennie B. Burke