University sets international goals

Trevor Ivan

The university’s International Affairs Advisory Council is implementing a plan to raise awareness among students and faculty about the growing need to understand international issues and cultural diversity in today’s global economy.

Ken Cushner, executive director of international affairs, said the plan is aimed at helping Kent State students understand international issues in a meaningful way.

“The plan serves as a blueprint to guide departments and colleges (throughout the university) to become more global in their orientation and more international in scope,” Cushner said.

One of the goals this plan addresses is the recruitment of international students. The university currently has about 900 international students and hopes to increase that number to about 1,200 over the next five years.

Technology makes recruiting easier, said Debra Lyons, immigration assistant for the department of international student and scholar services. By using Web sites and e-mail, the university is able to reach a wider range of students.

Lyons said the relationships the university has developed with universities around the world help bring more international students to the university as well. One example is the relationship Kent State has with several universities in Turkey through research and social service projects.

One of the best recruiting tools is the stories international students tell when they return home.

“International students often tell others that they had a good experience here and that they were taken care of at Kent State,” Lyons said. “That’s not something they’re going to learn on the Internet.”

The university also wants to increase the number of international faculty, Cushner said. These faculty members allow students to hear different perspectives in the classroom.

Linda Robertson, director of the Gerald H. Read Center for International and Intercultural Education, said exposure to international students and faculty teaches Americans a valuable lesson.

“We learn by actual contact with others,” she said. “We learn that others value things differently than we do, process knowledge differently and that not all knowledge is ‘thought in English.'”

Another aspect of the plan includes training faculty to deal with issues international students face.

Cushner said the issue of cross-cultural education is especially important because students learn differently across the world. In Asia, students often sit and take notes from a lecture.

“Students in Asia are used to being ‘talked at’ by their professors, while American students are encouraged to participate in class discussions and challenge ideas,” Cushner said. “It’s important that faculty members realize that some international students may not participate in class discussions because they are not accustomed to doing so.”

Cushner said the plan also calls for an increased awareness of study abroad opportunities.

The last part of the plan involves bringing more international content to the daily curricula of all academic programs. This phase is the most crucial because most students will never have an international experience, Cushner said.

“It needs to be more than an extra chapter in a textbook,” he said. “Students need to see that some actions have international implications.”

One example is the relationship between the fast-food industry and the increased number of mosquitoes in the world.

Cushner said as more acres of rainforest are cleared to provide more land for the cattle used by the fast-food industry, northern birds are unable to hibernate during the winter and eat the mosquitoes there. Therefore, the number of mosquitoes increases.

It is crucial the university pay closer attention to international issues because the world is becoming smaller through business and communication, Robertson said.

“Students studying at Kent State today will be increasingly in contact with people from other cultures, even if they stay in Northeast Ohio for employment after graduation,” Robertson said.

If the university doesn’t undertake this process, it could lead to negative consequences in the future, Robertson said.

“Isolationism did not work in the past,” she said. “It is our responsibility to prepare citizens of the future with the knowledge and skills to make the world a better place.”

Contact international affairs reporter Trevor Ivan at [email protected].