Bowman Breakfast highlights international city of Kent


Marcello Fantoni, associate provost for global education at Kent State University, speaks on the topic “The International City of Kent” at the Student Center Ballroom, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. Photo by Yolanda Li.

Madeleine Winer

Marcello Fantoni went through the same adjustments every international student does when he came to Kent last August.

“I could be a sophomore student,” he said about his second year at the university. “I immediately felt back at home when I arrived because here you have the pace of the Midwest, the kindness of the Midwest, and the environment is very still authentic.”

Fantoni, associate provost of global education, spoke about the international city of Kent at the university’s annual Bowman Breakfast Wednesday morning in the Student Center Ballroom. Fantoni explained to a crowd of 220 university administrators, faculty, staff, community members and visiting scholars how the city and university work together to welcome international students.

This year, the university is hosting 2,400 students from 100 different countries, which means the city’s international population is about eight to 10 percent, which is above the national average,

“Kent has been able to preserve its flavor, its identity,” he said. “Kent is small but permeable. Usually small communities are impermeable to outsiders. It wasn’t like that with me, and I see everyday that it’s not like that with international students.”

With the advancements the university has made to mesh with the city, Fantoni said Kent is a good example of local and international that debunks the stereotype of Americans and its cities.

“I would call Kent a global microcosm,” he said. “I think that Kent is the fundamental image of the U.S. that our international students bring back home. In this regard, the city is more important than the university in contributing to shape a healthy image about the U.S. It’s definitely more faithful to uninformed assumptions that most foreigners have before visiting this country.”

An employee of the university for seven years, Fantoni directed Kent State’s study-abroad programs in Florence and Geneva before coming to campus last fall. He used his personal experience to describe the welcoming relationship the city has toward international students.

“I get to be outside, parachuted into a small community, and I know what it means to be on the other side as well,” he said. “I think this is a great opportunity for people to be part of this experince of what is going on in Kent.”

Cristina Zhu, a visiting English and business scholar from Sichuan International Studies University in China, came to Kent State to do marketing research because of the population of students it attracts.

She and four other Chinese students from the university arrived July 10 and felt the warmth of the city Fantoni spoke of in his address.

“We’ve learned a lot and how it is different in China,” she said. “The people are very warm and kind and the professors are very professional. We like the environment but miss the local food.”

President Lester Lefton said Fantoni has played a key role in the university’s education abroad programs, calling him “our guide to global education efforts.”

“Nationwide, the very best universities take globalization at the very forefront of what they do,” he said. “Regardless of majors, our grads have to be prepared to walk into work and recognize this. Kent State University has a long track record offering students abroad opportunities building relations with academic institutions, cities and countries and around the world as well as welcoming international students and faculty.”

Madeleine Winer is the administrative reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].