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International focus part of 2012 goals

March 26, 2003

By Dana White

Baylor is looking to break out of the bubble by emphasizing global education, which will include sending more students and faculty abroad and bringing international students and faculty to campus.

The current war and international unrest will not impair the implementation of Imperative XI of the 2012 vision, according to President Robert B. Sloan Jr., although this may temporarily slow down growth in some areas and concentrate it in others.

Dr. Stephen Gardner, director of the McBride Center for International Business, said there will be short-term concerns, but in the long run there will be very little affects on the programs.

'The current world situation helps to demonstrate, more clearly than ever, the need for international understanding,' Linda Klatt, coordinator of international programs, said. 'However, there is, understandably a degree of anxiety among students and parents. Baylor would not proceed with any program if it is determined that to do so would put students at risk.'

Klatt said the effects of the world's events on this year's study abroad program are yet to be determined.

Baylor's study abroad programs are already receiving recognition. The Institute of International Education's report 'Open Doors 2002' ranked Baylor as second in the nation for the number of students who participate in study abroad opportunities.

The vision calls for the percentage of participation to increase to 30 percent. Last year 996 students went abroad, which is only about 8 percent of the 11,987 students enrolled.

A key to increasing the number of students who participate in study abroad programs is providing more financial aid to those interested, Jerome Loughridge, Sloan's chief of staff, said.

Sloan said the university is taking steps to reduce the cost of some programs by cutting out expenses and fees related to on-campus life.

Klatt said the international programs office is looking to obtain more resources for funding, and two-way exchanges are making some experiences more affordable.

According to Loughridge, the study abroad programs are a priority of the administration because all of the senior administration had some personal experience with studying abroad and understand the value of global education.

Another part of the global education imperative involves bringing a diverse international student body and faculty to campus.

'We have a strong commitment to having a diverse faculty,' Loughridge said.

Among the incoming faculty there are an increasing number of visible minorities that include several international people, Loughridge said.

The vision actually has attracted the attention of well-qualified scholars whom Loughridge described as 'new pockets of people,' and that is helping the recruitment of diverse faculty occur naturally.

Another aspect of faculty development crucial to Imperative XI is encouraging faculty to attend conferences abroad, participate in the study abroad programs and enter in exchanges like the Fulbright scholars program, Gardner said.

Gardner said a faculty member with international experiences would bring this experience into the classroom and could include these global views into a class in a natural way.

As Baylor moves into a globally focused education modern foreign languages will be enriched in both quality and application according to the vision.

Currently the department is one of the largest on campus with about 2,900 students from a variety of majors and backgrounds enrolled in courses each semester, said Dr. Manuel J. Ortuno, chairman of the department of modern foreign languages.

The department also has around 50 faculty members from different areas of the world and the nation, with a variety of specialties and experiences contribute to the 'vibrant nature of the department,' Ortuno said.

'I think other departments are less fortunate in that they have fewer opportunities to higher a diverse candidates, but it is built right into our department,' Ortuno said.

The faculty members teach a comprehensive approach to the 12 languages, which include the basic reading, writing, speaking and understanding of a language, but also offer the students a cultural understanding.

Ortuno said a key to the success of the language program is the correct placement of incoming students, 90 percent of whom have had some foreign language experience prior to Baylor.

Placement tests, and in certain cases interviews, are held to ensure students will be challenged and will perform at an optimum level in proper classes.

Ortuno emphasized the full-changing role of study abroad programs for students learning a foreign language and pointed to these existing programs as a great way of applying language skills.

On-campus activities the language department offers include clubs and honor societies, which provide students with opportunities to apply language skills and involve students with international experiences here in Waco.

Gardner said students can play an important role in fostering an increasingly global educational experience on campus right now by ensuring international students feel welcome and comfortable during this time of international turmoil.

A global education can begin immediately with students 'cultivating open-mindedness, respect for different approaches to truth, humility in the face of both the potential and the limitations of the mind' as the 2012 Vision states.