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The Journal of the State Comprehensive University

Educating Globally Competent Citizens: An AASCU Red Balloon Project

Educating Globally Competent Citizens: An AASCU Red Balloon Project

Martin S. Sharpiro
California State University Fresno

Shala Mills
Fort Hays State University

In 2006, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and The New York Times initiated a joint project entitled “Seven Revolutions: Educating Globally Competent Citizens.” The primary goal of this project was to design a specific program to promote the study of issues with global importance in hopes of creating students who are more knowledgeable and engaged global citizens. This program, centered on the Seven Revolutions framework developed by CSIS, focused on seven important categories relevant to global citizenship as well as significant future trends: Population, Resources, Technology, Information, Economic Integration, Security/Conflict, and Governance.

Over the last six years, the joint project has undergone a variety of important changes, emerging as one of the AASCU Red Balloon projects. The authors’ campuses have been involved in the AASCU project during this evolutionary process, both serving as scholars for the project and one serving as the national coordinator. They have both taught courses using the Seven Revolutions framework, have helped lead several national and regional workshops and institutes related to the project, and have helped develop the national blended learning model course as well as the forthcoming eBook. This paper will describe the project in its “Red Balloon” context, describe teaching tools and resources, present the results of a cross-institute survey of students, and share this collaboration as a powerful model for other initiatives aimed at re-imagining higher education.


The Seven Revolutions framework was originally conceived at the Global Strategy Institute (GSI) at CSIS, a non-partisan public policy think tank in Washington, D.C. It was developed to identify and analyze the key policy challenges and trends that leaders and policy makers will face to the year 2025 (today CSIS sets that future date at 2030). It was an effort to promote strategic thinking about the long-term trends projecting into the deep future. In 2006, Erik Peterson, then the Director of the GSI at CSIS, gave a Seven Revolutions presentation to a gathering of AASCU institution administrators. AASCU’s Vice President for Leadership and Change, George Mehaffy, and others in attendance immediately recognized the framework’s potential for academic programming. From this inspirational presentation, a partnership formed, including not only AASCU and CSIS, but also The New York Times, which had partnered with AASCU in 2003 to form the American Democracy Project whose related mission was to create programs to prepare the next generation of informed and engaged citizens. The collaboration united several valuable resources: CSIS provided expertise in policy and trend analysis, The New York Times provided hyper-current news resources as well as archived material dating back more than 150 years, and AASCU provided the disciplinary and pedagogical expertise of teaching faculty as well as the resources of over 430 campuses representing more than three million students. A more comprehensive description of the project’s history can be found in Hamlin & Whitaker (2010).

Eight AASCU institutions, including the authors’ campuses, joined the original project in 2006. Initially referred to as the Seven Revolutions Project and the Seven Revolutions Scholars, the project eventually took on a new name – Global Challenges—and the scholars became the AASCU Global Engagement Scholars. During the first four years of the project, the scholars developed a wide range of curricular and extracurricular programming designed around the Seven Revolutions framework and using the rich resources of the partner organizations. They developed teaching materials such as PowerPoint presentations, assignments, syllabi, and a repository of on-line and in-print resources. In addition, scholars presented talks at the American Democracy Project Conference each summer and conducted institutes and workshops sharing strategies for incorporating Seven Revolutions material into college curricula.

The partnership between AASCU and its scholar campuses, CSIS, and The New York Times led to the production of two initial publications: 1) Teaching Seven Revolutions: A Tool Kit for Educating Globally Competent Citizens, and 2) Seven Revolutions Student Guide. The Tool Kit ( was designed primarily for faculty and administrators interested in incorporating this material into curricula. It contained a description of the different revolutions by Erik Peterson, the former director of the GSI and creator of the Seven Revolutions framework, including interesting statistics concerning the revolutions. The AASCU scholars contributed syllabi from freshman level, honors, and capstone courses. The Tool Kit also included a section on activities and assignments and a list of in-print and on-line resources including the rating and use of each resource. The Student Guide contained interesting facts and descriptions of the Seven Revolutions.

Global Challenges: Promise & Peril in the 21st Century, A Blended Learning Model Course

At a scholars meeting in Washington D.C. in April 2010, George Mehaffy shared his call for “re-imagining higher education” and asked the scholars to take the curricular pieces they had been sharing via institutes and workshops, the Tool Kit, and the Student Guide, and turn them into something that could serve as a Red Balloon model. Over the next several months the scholars worked to develop a national blended learning model course. The scholars developed the eCourse collaboratively, making full use of the varying areas of disciplinary expertise among the scholars in the group. Eight teaching faculty from five of the AASCU Global Engagement Scholar campuses, collectively representing seven distinct academic disciplines, contributed to the development of the course. They chose resources based on experience across several campuses and employed activities well-tested in classrooms. The partnership with The New York Times proved pivotal. The New York Times’ collaboration with the Epsilen eLearning Environment, a comprehensive web-based course administration and professional and social networking system, provided a platform for the blended learning model course. Through Epsilen, students and faculty would have access not only to course materials, but also to the entirety of The New York Times digital content repository.

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