I spent part of last week meeting with members of our faculty and staff, discussing ways we can expand international experiences for our students. I was impressed with the level of interest these individuals displayed, as they understand how important it is for all Methodist University students to have experiences outside of the classroom that prepare them to be global citizens.
In December 1951, John F. Kennedy suggested to a group that “young college graduates would find a full life” if they volunteered overseas. Then, in March 1961, President Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order “to promote world peace and friendship.” In the 50 years since that historic act, hundreds of thousands of college students have answered the call, and places like Methodist are instilling the principles of peace and friendship through undergraduate engagement, thus setting the stage for graduates to live lives of meaning and purpose as they truly understand what it means to be a global citizen.
Through the Center for Global Education and the Office of International Programs and Study Abroad, Methodist University has invested in two initiatives to maximize student engagement. Our international recruitment efforts bring over 100 students from 55 countries to our campus annually, creating one of the most ethnically diverse institutions in the country. Students from around the world have an opportunity to study and work alongside one another. As our University Chaplain, Rev. Mike Safley, likes to say, “we get it right.” The world stage could learn from this community comprised of so many different faiths, political systems, and cultures that thrives and sets an example for other parts of the world.
The second initiative is our Study Abroad program, highlighted by our amazing faculty or staff-led short term study abroad experiences. Ten different study and travel tours were offered this academic year, held either during Spring Break or our emerging May Term. Such experiences expose our students to other countries through a more economically feasible model that also accommodates busy academic schedules. It also paves the way for some students who go on to participate in semester-long study abroad programs. In addition, there were three different mission trips sponsored through the Office of Campus Ministry during Fall Break, Winter Break, and Spring Break. Every student involved in these trips came back sharing stories about their unique “transformational experiences.”
What does the future hold? Our strategic plan and initiatives launched last year as a part of the MU Journey call for a doubling of the number of international students and study abroad opportunities over the next five years. We simply must expand in order to meet the growing interest in these programs and their critical role in preparing our students for the world of further study or professions they will enter.
Methodist University is a player on the global stage and has a critical role to play as we move forward. We are preparing our students to be leaders who can think critically, exhibit creativity, solve problems, and possess a keen understanding of the world around them. I am proud of our students’ willingness to step outside their comfort zone, and equally proud of the faculty who are taking them there.
President Kennedy was thinking of the transformational power of young college graduates when he created the Peace Corps, and he was right. Five decades later, Methodist University students are getting it right, thanks to their faculty mentors who will not settle for anything less for their students from around the world, preparing to serve the world.
Projects for Peace | The Vision of Kathryn W. Davis
We remember and give thanks to Kathryn Wasserman Davis, who died April 23. She was 106 years old. Known for challenging today’s students to work effectively toward ensuring lasting peace in the world, Methodist University students took her vision to heart and acted boldly on her desire for world peace.
She is known fondly for saying, “My challenge to you is to bring about a mindset of preparing for peace instead of preparing for war.”
With awards totaling over $90,000, our students stepped up to meet her challenge. Recently, Esra’a Al-Shawafi’s project, “Sewing and Business Skills for Economical and Peaceful Integration of Women in Society” was selected to receive funding for summer 2013. In 2012, Nyoma Clement Nickonora and Talata Evers (South Sudan) engaged in a global peace project with fellow South Sudanese student Joy Minalla. Their project was titled, “Rebuilding the Ruins and Promoting Peace.” In 2011, “Collecting Smiles in Srebrenica” was spearheaded by Anna Causevic, Dzenana Dzanic, Emina Hodzic, and Samra Mrkovic. In 2010, Fredy Oxom and Camilo Rubiano completed a project in Guatemala titled “Build to Educate.” In 2009, Milca Baptista initiated a community water project in East Timor. In 2008, Heather Eckhardt and Marco Marin completed a greenhouse project in Ecuador and Gladys Michelle Reyes Chiapas answered a “Call for Help” in Honduras. In, 2007, three projects were completed by Sana Sabri (India), Rahila Muhibi (Afghanistan), and Husein Nasiro-Sigo (Ethiopia).
With a lengthy list of completed projects and many other outstanding proposals, I am confident our students will continue to carry on the legacy of Mrs. Davis, ensuring that they are doing their part to become global citizens who are committed to building peace.
Methodist University is indebted to the Shelby Davis United World College Scholars Program which partners with 76 U.S. colleges to make it possible for students from the 12 United World Colleges to attend these institutions. What a wonderful legacy for these students and for the receiving institutions who benefit from these engaged and highly motivated students. It proves that the vision of one family can have a magnificent impact on global education and the promotion of peace, setting an example for every student attending these institutions.