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Frederick Smith, the founder and executive chairperson of FedEx, will be visiting UNC on Thursday, Sept. 29 to speak about global relationships in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the FedEx Global Education Center.

The center was founded at the University to emphasize focus on the global economy, in which FedEx is involved every day, Smith said. 

“UNC produces such a high quality graduate, we wanted to, in essence, use it as a location for FedEx’s support of international trade and international relationships,” he said. 

To Smith, people are more intertwined with the rest of the world than they realize. He said this is true of products, energy and services that people take for granted everyday. 

“Now, we get on a jumbo jet in Los Angeles, and we can be in Australia in 15 hours,” he said. “You see people on an airplane playing a video game or watching a movie, eight miles above the Earth going 500 miles-an-hour, and people take it for granted.” 

In his upcoming lecture, Smith aims to highlight just how connected the world is. 

Smith was the CEO of FedEx for 50 years, and stepped down to executive chairperson this past March. After stepping down, he continues to remain involved in the company. 

“I had three Tar Heels but that wasn't the reason that facility is there at all,” he said. “The facility was put there by FedEx, as first a recognition of the state's support for us locating this major hub in Greensboro and secondarily, for the purpose of making a great university like UNC heavily focused on the global economy.”

Banu Gökarıksel, the chairperson of the curriculum in global studies at UNC, appreciates that so many programs related to global education are all centralized in one building. 

“I think having this building has been really important to signal the importance of global education,” Gökarıksel said. “It was built during a time when UNC recognized the importance of global education for universities as a whole and was a leader already doing a lot of educational activities related to thinking about the world as connected.” 

Jonathan Weiler, the director of undergraduate studies in global studies, said the building was also created to promote synergies between various global units on campus.The Global Center houses many programs including the study abroad office, the Institute for the Study of the Americas, the African Studies Center, the Carolina Asia Center, the International Students and Scholar Services and others. 

“I also think that bringing a lot of these global units together, at least has the potential for us to think together about our global mission,” Weiler said. “But the potential for us to think together about our global mission, so that we're not just working in our own little silos, but we're actually thinking collectively." 

Gökarıksel echoed Weiler and emphasized the importance of having multiple globally focused programs under one roof. She said it allows the programs to communicate, connect, coordinate and collaborate. 

Gökarıksel believes it important that students pay attention to global studies, as all issues are becoming global issues. 

“If you think about just the last two years, what the world has thrown at us, from the pandemic to climate crisis or catastrophe to all these issues about the economic crisis, these are all global issues that require also global solutions,” she said. “And, global education is very important to be able to first understand what the problem is, and how, actually, the scope of it is the whole world.” 

For college-aged individuals, it is important to understand these are not only local economies or national issues, Smith said. 

As trade accounts for about a quarter of the United States economy, standard of living and quality of life of every citizen would be "radically diminished" if the country was not engaged internationally, he said. 

“I'm going to tell the people that are at the talk some things that they may not focus on in their day-to-day lives — how intertwined we actually are with the rest of the world,” he said.  

Smith will be speaking from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Nelson Mandela Auditorium in the Global Center this Thursday. All are welcome to join, but registration is requested for either in-person or virtual attendance. 


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