April 23, 2014
“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:
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.