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2021 Morton L. Margolin Lecture

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Media, Film & Journalism Studies

Featuring Karin Fischer

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Karin Fischer

The 2021 Morton L. Margolin Distinguished Lecture was held virtually on Friday, April 16, in conjunction with the 2021 Internationalization Summit. This year’s lecture was presented by Karin Fischer, a senior report on international issues with the Chronicle for Higher Education. Her lecture focused on the future of international higher education. 

Fischer spoke first about the tight connection between journalism and international education, stating that she had in fact chosen the field as “journalism was a way I that I could learn about people I hadn’t met.” 

She said that while it’s always complicated to talk about the future of international education, “this last year has been a year of enormous challenge for international education.” Mobility has always been at the heart of international education, she noted, and the ongoing pandemic has disrupted mobility in ways that we could not have expected. This lack of mobility has forced higher education (and most other industries) to adapt and to adopt more technology. 

Using Zoom for everything has been difficult, Fischer said, but at the same time “Zoom has also enabled us to bring all of these voices here today, and I think that has really enriched our experiences.” She argued that while nothing will replace in-person interaction and in-person learning, “technology, when used intentionally and smartly, can enrich the classroom experience, and even the global experience .” With online classrooms, students who otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go abroad can gain international experiences and learn about other cultures, which improves accessibility both here in the US and across the globe. 

In addition to improving accessibility, Fischer discussed the impact of online learning on sustainability. Sustainability has long been a topic of discussion among international educators, as a high volume of international travel puts a massive strain on the environment. “The pandemic forced everyone to reckon with what international education looked like without mobility,” Fischer said. If mobility ceases to be the main metric on which international education rests, then a lot of those sustainability issues that arise from such high carbon usage can be addressed. 

“The pandemic has been an accelerant of change, of innovation,” Fischer said. “Will all of these new approaches work? No. But many of them will.” 

Fischer also took time to highlight “the reckoning we’re facing about racial inequity and justice.” She said that while social justice work and anti-racism conversations are not necessarily tied to international education, “it’s flawed to think that they exist in separate vacuums.” She said that when international students witness the discrimination and bias that People of Color in America experience it feels personal, especially considering the recent murders in Atlanta and the fact that 70% of international students in the US are from Asia. 

“There’s a crisis of race here in America,” Fischer said. “How will you listen to and support your students?” 

Fischer concluded by saying, “I remain a believer in journalism and I remain committed to the ideals that guide the field.” She said that international education has a similar power, especially as students take it on at an incredibly impressionable time in their lives. “So while the means and mechanisms may be changing, your commitment and your power does not.” 

Karin Fischer is a longtime higher-education journalist with a focus on international education, including American colleges’ activities overseas, the globalization of the college experience and study abroad. Her extensive reporting on international student recruitment and the experience of foreign students in the U.S. has been collected in Chinese Journey: Student Migrations, Family Dreams and What Happens Next. Her work has appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times, EdSource, the Washington Monthly and University World News. She publishes a weekly newsletter on global education, latitude(s).

Fischer is also a research associate at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California at Berkeley and an international education leadership fellow at the University at Albany. She is a recipient of the East-West Center’s Jefferson Fellowship for reporting in Asia and the International Reporting Project fellowship. Her work has been honored by the Education Writers Association, the National Press Foundation and the Poynter Institute

Beginning in 2015, the Morton L. Margolin Distinguished Lecture has been given each year in honor of renowned Colorado business journalist Morton Margolin. During his distinguished 35-year career as a journalist with the Rocky Mountain News and the Colorado Business Magazine that he co-founded, Margolin received many awards, including a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize. His series of news stories exposing controversial U.S. reclamation projects in the Riverton, Wyoming area in 1952 won him that nomination.