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Broadening horizons

In August, the University awarded an honorary degree to visiting scholar Xinzheng Zhang, the vice minister of education for the Peoples Republic of China. During his visit here, we talked at some length about the efforts that many U.S. universities are making to attract international students and scholars, build study-abroad programs and internationalize their curricula. Although China’s major educational interactions are largely with well-known “international” universities, including the Ivies and other schools on the coasts, Mr. Zhang was surprised at the extent to which DU has surpassed the efforts of many of these institutions.

I had a similar experience during a January visit to Washington, D.C., for a State Department meeting to discuss international education and public diplomacy. Some 120 presidents and chancellors of U.S. universities and colleges attended the gathering, which was convened by DU alumna and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. Our discussion focused on possible joint efforts between universities and the federal government to increase the numbers of international students and scholars visiting the U.S., to stimulate instruction in a number of “critical” languages and to send more of our own students abroad — all important for the nation’s well-being. As conversation about these matters unfolded, it became apparent once again that when it comes to internationalization, the University of Denver is far ahead of most universities and colleges in America.

When members of the Class of 2006 graduate in June, more than 50 percent of them will have studied abroad for at least one academic quarter — a remarkable result attributable in large measure to our Cherrington Global Scholars program, which offers all qualifying undergraduates an opportunity to study abroad at no extra cost. Before long, we expect that at least 60 percent of our undergraduates will have studied abroad. With the national study-abroad average at just 2 percent, it’s no wonder that DU’s Cherrington program has created a stir within higher education. In fact, this year DU was one of eight institutions singled out by the Association of International Educators as an example of success.

Undergraduate education is just a part of the story, though. Our University has great strength in its Graduate School of International Studies, in the international programs in the Daniels College of Business and in the international law program at our Sturm College of Law, which boasts the Donald and Susan Sturm Chair in International Law and the recently created Ved Nanda Center for International and Comparative Law. We have a number of other active international programs under way in our Graduate School of Social Work, in our School of Engineering and Computer Science and in our Graduate School of Professional Psychology, which has established an international disaster psychology program that is drawing rave reviews.

We are actively exploring ways to integrate our strength in all of these areas in ways that will attract the finest students and scholars in the U.S. to our university and make DU the destination of choice for international scholars and students of the first rank. In her remarks at the meeting in Washington, Secretary Rice spoke about how important it has been that so many of her colleagues among the leaders of the world were educated in the United States. She shared a story about meeting with several Middle Eastern foreign ministers and her delight in discovering that among them was “a Pioneer from the University of Denver, just like me.”

When it comes to international education, we are true to our namesake. We are surely pioneers here, leading the way once again.

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