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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain
Indulge me on this posting as the subject matter is one of my favorites: international education.
My first trip overseas was with my parents to visit Greece. Dad was a professor of education at the University of Iowa and he taught the senior reading course at the University High School. The anchor to the course was an intellectual journey through Plato's Republic; it was a popular but challenging course. So when the short-sighted administrators decided to close U-High, all Dad's students from years past organized, raised funds, and presented my parents with two plane tickets so that they could visit the very sites from Plato's Greece that Dad had taught about so many years….. Of course, they needed someone to carry their bags and I was the lucky one to go along.
I'll never forget the fabulous Greek food, the honking cars, the dusty roads, and the fascinating history. And then there was Greek mythology, which I devoured.
From these memories, I knew that the entire overseas experience transformed my perspective on life and would form an important pillar in my philosophy as an educator. And when I learned, as a candidate for the provost position, that RIT had overseas campuses, I knew that RIT had an "unfair advantage" for my attention.
Now I hope few would argue that our approach here at RIT to international education has changed over the years, in an intentional way. From student learning outcomes focused on international and multicultural awareness, to faculty-led study abroad trips, from student exchange agreements, to international co-op experiences, from faculty international research collaborations, to hosting international university visitors, and from global campuses in Croatia and Dubai, to the position of Associate Provost for Global Programs and International Education - RIT now has what is best described as a tremendous foundation as an international campus.
If you need more convincing, here are just a few examples:
- Rwanda: Tony Vodacek and Brian Tomaszewski have been conducting externally funded research in Rwanda related to educational development, spatial thinking and geographic information systems.
- Peru: Dr. Maria Helguera from the Center for Imaging Science is spending spring semester at Pontifica Universidad de Catolica del Peru (PUCP) conducting medical imaging research, while Professor Alex Lobos from Industrial Design spent spring break conducting a workshop for over 100 ID students from PUCP.
- Sweden: Our partnership with Malmӧ University took another giant step forward when Rector Stephen Bengsen visited our campus back in December and committed, together with Dr. Destler, to expand our symposium and research opportunities.
- Japan: Hiroko Yamashita regularly takes about 15 students for an immersive summer experience in Kyoto, Japan and we continue to regularly send RIT students to Kanazawa Institute of Technology - by the way, we celebrated our 20 year anniversary with them this past fall.
- Ireland: The College of Applied Science and Technology has signed exchange agreements with similar institutes of technology in Ireland and the first CAST student is studying in Ireland this semester.
- China: We continue to forge deep partnerships with various universities in China and the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences has established a Center for East-West design studies to foster student exchanges and project-based learning.
- Korea: Dr. Tom (Tae) Oh in the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences has led the development of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between RIT and Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU). The MOU supports the collaboration between RIT and SKKU in education and research, including Dr. Oh’s work on “near vehicle communication.”
- Taiwan: Dr. Jay (Shanchieh) Yang, Chair of the Computer Engineering Department in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, has led the development of an MOU with National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) and the creation of a related “3+2” model that will allow exceptional NTUST students to complete their undergraduate and graduate degrees at RIT.
But the story gets better.
Our population of international students here on the RIT campus continues to grow; this year we have exceeded 2,100 students on campus and since 2010 this population has grown over 34%. While the number of RIT students going on a study abroad experience is astonishingly small (about 325 per year), the number continues to increase each year. And since 2010, the number of students at our overseas campuses have risen 24%.
On top of this, we have been deeply engaged with the RIT trustees to map out a strategic direction for international education at RIT. With the help of a group of committed faculty working together with Dr. Jim Myers, there has been great progress and I am extremely pleased with the emerging goals for RIT.
But the story does not end here because we have a lot more work ahead to truly make RIT a leading global university. We need to make study abroad experiences more affordable to our students, we need to internationalize the curriculum focusing on the key student learning outcomes our faculty have identified, we need to answer the question why RIT graduates are not required to be proficient in a second language, and we need to be in a variety of contrasting but strategic places across the world in order to maximize the impact on our students.
We have all seen the changes that occur to a student who discovers the world is both a small and large place through a thoughtfully-designed set of international experiences. With dedication and hard work, we can make RIT a stellar international institution and our graduates will be exceptional global citizens. Let's do this.