Out into the World

By Jennifer Alexander

Adventurous American students from Baylor live and study in a storied Dutch city. A talented young man born in Nigeria makes his mark in student government on the University's home campus. An established professor continues his education at a venerable institution in the United Kingdom. These examples represent Baylor University's ever-expanding role in global education.

Global education for Baylor has come to mean more than sending its students out across continents. The University seeks to embrace the cultural diversity that its international students and faculty bring to campus and to the Central Texas community. And this cultural and academic exchange is reflected in the quality of the Baylor experience.

"International students and scholars bring a wealth of perspective to the Baylor community," says Dr. Bill Mitchell, The Jo Murphy Chair of the University's Center for International Education. "They bring new insight through their different cultures and experiences."

"Twenty years ago, fewer than 80 international students and scholars were part of the University. Now, Baylor welcomes 421 students and scholars from other nations," Mitchell says.

The influx of diversity allows Waco residents and Baylor students to interact with and learn from members of other cultures.

"International students connect with the community in several different ways," Mitchell says. "Our office is a partner with Waco Independent School District's Carver Academy and international students are eager and welcomed speakers in classrooms.

"They are often invited to speak at various community events," he adds. "They attend churches, participate in Habitat for Humanity and establish lifelong friendships through the Welcome Family Program."

Such interaction has a positive effect on Baylor's image outside the United States. "Plus, American students' contact with international students often leads to friendships and greater global awareness," Mitchell says. This increasing global awareness and curiosity about other cultures is part of what compels Baylor students to study overseas. Baylor is well-received in many cultures, thanks in part to established programs that enable students and faculty to learn from their host nations and to integrate Baylor values and traditions into local cultural practices.

Linda Klatt, coordinator of international programs, says students who enrolled in study abroad programs numbered 774 for the 2002-03 academic year, including summer 2002 sessions. Students who study overseas attend 22 different international universities, and programs range from four weeks to a full semester or summer session.

With the global sphere growing ever smaller, Baylor's Center for International Education works to sufficiently equip its students through a variety of scholarly outlets. The center offers programs in six global areas of study, 27 summer study abroad programs, four summer exchange programs, 25 semester exchange programs and four semester study abroad programs.

Baylor also understands that present global tensions and health crises warrant diligence to ensure the safety of students and faculty overseas. The University has made safety and health issues a priority, and its procedural guidebook has been modeled by other universities.

Such programs are indicative of the direction that Baylor 2012, the 10-year Vision, anticipates for global education. The Vision focuses on increasing the quality of international programs and increasing participation in study abroad ventures. This year, the Institute of International Education ranked Baylor second in the nation among doctoral-granting institutions in the number of students who study abroad.

Mitchell anticipates growth in the number of exchange programs and in the numbers of program participants, as well as the development of an ESL (English as a second language) program. The office, Mitchell says, anticipates more "opportunities for faculty and staff involvement with international students and participating in more international programs."

The goal of Baylor 2012, as it pertains to global education, is to enrich the quality and application of the study of modern foreign languages and gather an ethnically diverse faculty and student body. Mitchell says, "Vision 2012 has affirmed and strengthened the potential role that international education will play in Baylor's future."