Oct. 29-Nov. 4, 1999
U.Va. to host public forum with alumni about the future of the Internet age
Former dean Raymond J. Nelson receives U.Va.'s Thomas Jefferson Award
U.Va.'s foster families fill the breach for children in need

Conference explores ways to internationalize universities

Winston, Weaver 'rapt' up Film Festival
Sigourney Weaver on motherhood and other roles
Sharing digital resources to help teachers use technology in class
Hot Links - President's Office
Film, panelists explore 'digital divide' in computer access
After Hours - arborist Jerry Brown
U.Va. well on its way to ringing in the Year 2000 without a systems glitch
Off the Shelf - recently published books
Digital prints on display Nov. 1-29
CEO of Pew Trusts to give talk Nov. 3

Conference explores ways to internationalize universities

By Nancy Hurrelbrinck

Peggy Harrison
(left to right): Womack, with keynote speaker Donald Kennedy, president emeritus of Stanford University, and U.Va. President John T. Casteen III.

Professors and college administrators from across the country gathered at U.Va. earlier this month for a two-day conference on "Universalizing the University," exploring ways to integrate more international perspectives and activities into university life.

At U.Va., "we tend to think in terms of a Charlottesville-centered world, and this actually reduces the role we can play in the world and what we can learn about it," said government and foreign affairs professor Brantly Womack, who chairs the Virginia 2020 International Activities Planning Commission, sponsor of the conference.

Peggy Harrison

Enid Schoettle of the Ford Foundation addresses the audience attending the first session of U.Va.'s Virginia 2020 International Activities Planning Commission conference on "New Challenges & Best Practices: Universalizing the University,' held on Grounds Oct. 14-15. Also on the panel were (left to right): Brantly Womack, chair of U.Va.'s commission; William Kiehl of the Interagency Working Group on USG-Sponsored International Exchanges and Training; and Mary Byrne McDonnell of the Social Science Research Council.

"The conference provided a kind of general horizons-raising for the University," Womack said, " and offered a sense of the scope of nternationalization that the University can aspire to."

One typical panel addressed ways to enhance study-abroad programs for students and faculty.

Daniel Davidson, a Russian professor at Bryn Mawr College and president of the American Councils for International Education, described study-abroad programs as an excellent and much-needed way to improve foreign language proficiency.

"No other industrialized country has achievement levels as low as ours," he said.

Most graduating students have the language skills to "survive a home stay" with a family, he said, but even those who have studied abroad for a summer don't have the skills to do an internship in a foreign country.

"There's a powerful distinction between the summer and the semester, and between the semester and the year," he said, noting that, after studying abroad for a year, 95 percent of students have made significant gains in speaking or writing, or both.

Though the number of Americans studying abroad burgeoned in the 1980s, many Duke University faculty have a tendency to regard it "merely as a culturally enriching diversion," said Craufurd Goodwin, James B. Duke Professor of Economics there.

"There's been little serious evaluation of programs through which students go overseas Š and no serious attempt to take advantage of the possibilities," he said, blaming this on "the inherent conservatism" and "professorial hubris" on American campuses.

"It's American professors' attitude toward the rest of the world that 'whatever is happening over there, we're doing it better here,'" he said. "They don't see any reasons to encourage" students to go abroad.

U.Va. faculty on the international commission's subcommittee on exchange programs don't share this view, according to committee member and French professor Kandioura Dramé.

"My vision ... is to have University-wide exchange programs with similar institutions abroad, particularly in two areas: undergraduates majoring in foreign languages and exchanges for faculty doing research," he said later.

"I'd really like to see this two-pronged approach give priority to areas of the world that have traditionally been absent in U.Va.'s programs, especially Africa," he said.

With 27 study-abroad programs in 25 countries, Longwood College in Farmville has a strong emphasis on international exchange. The college has been requiring every student majoring in a foreign language to spend at least a semester abroad since 1992, said John Reynolds, Longwood's director of international studies.

"We've found that foreign institutes for language study are a good match for American students, because the classes are small and cover history and culture, they include home stays, and their academic year corresponds to that in the U.S.," he said.

Longwood has streamlined its procedures to facilitate the creation of programs with foreign universities, Reynolds said. He noted that a German university tried for more than a year to establish an exchange program with U.Va. before giving up and approaching Longwood, where the two created a program in a month.

"It's very interesting to see that with persistent efforts, Longwood is way ahead of U.Va. in placing students abroad," Womack said later, pointing out that many U.Va. students study abroad through programs based at other schools.

At U.Va, "there are two related, but distinguishable problems: the lack of a central organization to encourage international activities" and a tendency to wall off international issues, he said.

"I hope that, 20 years from now, people don't think about 'international activities,' because they're so interwoven with everything we do," he said.

The Virginia 2020 International Activities Planning Commission is looking at developing four areas: faculty research and student exchange programs; incorporating international issues into the curriculum; assessing whether the University provides a hospitable environment for international students and scholars; and increasing the number of liaisons with foreign universities.

Projects under consideration include providing more foreign language living arrangements near the French and Spanish houses and creating an International Living and Learning Center that would house a mix of international and American students, as well as host international activities.

In addition, the commission will develop "an appropriate organization to encourage and coordinate international activities," Womack said.


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