February 13, 2004
In the 21st century, it is truer than ever that the world is at our fingertips. Oral and visual communication are almost instantaneous, and even the remotest parts of the globe have become accessible. The education Baylor students receive must prepare them to enter an increasingly pluralistic and interdependent world.
The 11th imperative of the 2012 Vision -- to emphasize global education -- addresses the University's desire for students to understand and be able to impact the global environment. "The importance of global education is very clear to all of us," says William Mitchell, the Jo Murphy Chair and director for the Center for International Education. "From a practical perspective, we need to learn more about other societies and cultures beyond our borders and understand how we are perceived by others. We do that by going abroad, bringing international students and scholars to Baylor and having an exchange of ideas."
In December 2002, Baylor was ranked second in the nation among doctoral universities for the number of students who studied abroad. Also that year, more than 800 students -- or more than 5 percent of the student body -- did so. The University offers 52 study abroad and exchange programs in 24 countries and seven area studies programs, in which students can get on-campus, in-depth education about a specific geographic region.
Likewise, more than 400 students and scholars from 70 countries are enrolled at Baylor this year. "International students offer a wealth of perspective, contribute to international awareness, add diversity, promote intellectual understanding and bring high academic standards," says Linda Klatt, coordinator of international programs.
Last year, the University hired Jessica King as adviser for international students and exchange programs. She helps students connect with programs that best suit their educational needs. "Studying abroad gives students an opportunity to explore themselves and their world. It helps them put their own culture in perspective by contrasting it with others," she says.
Baylor's Center for International Education is planning to add another student exchange program at the University of Cairo in Egypt in the next few years. Last fall, several faculty members traveled to Iraq to assess higher education needs and visited universities in Dohuk and Mosul. More than 20 faculty members and administrators went to Iraq in early December. In September, Baylor hosted its first Mid-Atlantic Universities International Conference, a gathering of deans of international education from Big 12 schools who discussed how to further global education on their campuses.
Recruiting international students in higher education is becoming increasingly competitive, Klatt says. As a result, Baylor is revamping its orientation programs to include more pre-arrival information and assistance in securing financial aid and immigration materials. The University also offers programs that link American families and students with internationals -- an attempt to provide mentoring relationships and extend hospitality. A semester-long orientation class and an English language class are being considered.
International education is a win-win endeavor, Mitchell says. "By developing friendships and understanding, and by behavioral examples, Baylor students actually become ambassadors for their school and their country." The University wants its students to graduate, he says, "with an understanding of and appreciation for peoples of the world, and the skills needed to successfully interact in our global environment."