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Faculty Profile: Professor Debra Picchi – The indispensible triangle of global citizenship

June 28, 2010

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Ask Dr. Debra Picchi, Professor of anthropology and Coordinator of the global citizenship certificate program, what is the most valuable thing she teaches her students and she will say “the cross-cultural perspective; that there are different ways of doing the same things in each society and that can be respected. That’s my big meta message for every course.”

Never in the history of the world has there been more international travel, commerce and communication than there is today. And yet most of us are totally unaware of the many similarities that bind us together. What is always highlighted are the misconceptions, prejudices and politics. Born in Japan and schooled in Germany, she is no stranger to travel and to the benefits gained from these experiences.

Picchi came to Franklin Pierce in 1982 because it had a small but very viable anthropology department. “I knew I would have the potential for making a real contribution,” said Picchi. “This was important to me as opposed to getting a job at a large university where there would be a large number of anthropologists and I would be lost in a crowd.”

Tom Desrosiers came to Franklin Pierce right out of grad school and was a faculty member until 1969, and then worked in a number of different offices including enrollment, academics and admissions. Like Picchi, Desrosiers is both comfortable and fond of traveling having attended boarding school in French-speaking Canada at a young age and having led January trips to Austria during the 1971 to 1975 years at Pierce. Read about these trips in Memories of Januaries in Schruns Austria.

Both Picchi and Desrosiers agree that global citizenship is going to become a more vital skill for the next generation as they work to develop relationships with global partners. “Language learning, cultural study and international travel, that triangle, is indispensible with the creation of what we call a global citizen,” says Picchi. “International travel is a good way to learn that there are other ways of doing things and everyone doesn’t think the same way,” says Desrosiers.

“Global citizens are interested in both their travels and making a difference in the world,” adds Desrosiers. They recalled an anthropology student, Alison Knox, who after she graduated joined the Peace Corps and went to Zimbabwe and then went to Geneva and worked for the U.N. She later came back to Franklin Pierce to share her story with current students. “This is a small place in a rural area and these students do extraordinary things,” said Picchi.

Picchi and Desrosiers do more than just talk about the importance of a study abroad experience. They started the study abroad scholarship because during this past year and a half, with this recession, they saw interest in study abroad decrease because students were saying that they just couldn’t afford it. They wanted to encourage and support people who really had an interest but could not go abroad. “We’re hoping to expand on that in coming years to make more scholarship money available,” said Picchi. “If the student wants to travel, the scholarship makes the difference,” says Desrosiers.

Picchi sums up her feelings about teaching Franklin Pierce students with, “In general, this is a story that repeats itself again and again - meeting a student their freshman year and watching them over the next four years just blossom,” says Picchi. “It’s an amazing transformation to see. That happens a lot and I think it’s a source of pride for the faculty and staff to work with the students here.”

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