gains perspective on U.Va.'s international efforts
By Dan Heuchert
and foreign affairs
professor Brantly Womack, chair of the Virginia 2020 commission
on international activities, recently got a chance to compare
U.Va.'s efforts in that arena with those of other universities
worldwide at a major conference in Cape Town, South Africa.
conclusion? "We are kind of ludicrously behind in international
That is about to change though. Womack's group is set to submit
its final report to President John T. Casteen III by mid-month.
He sketched out his vision in broad strokes at the April 16-20
Cape Town conference, "Towards the Global University II:
Redefining Excellence in the Third Millennium."
In his talk, Womack identified five broad categories of international
activities -- four substantive, and one administrative -- which
he likened to four fingers and a thumb. The "finger"
categories are students and faculty abroad, internationalization
of the curriculum, treatment of international students and scholars,
and international liaisons.
"thumb" is "the appropriate organization of international
activities at the University," likely a central-administration
person responsible for overseeing U.Va.'s efforts.
some respects the organizational thumb is most important, but
only because it is necessary in order for the concrete tasks to
be organized and facilitated," he said.
One specific proposal that Womack outlined is for an International
Institute of American Studies, meant to be a multi-disciplinary
effort to study American society from an outsider's perspective,
for both foreign and domestic scholars.
think that a truly international forum for American studies is
important for America's self-understanding," he said. "The
United States exists in a global environment, but it can only
see its role from the inside out. A complete understanding of
the United States cannot be achieved from simply an intense domestic
study. It requires the external perspectives of the rest of the
world in order to complete the picture."
conference drew representatives from colleges and governments
in dozens of countries, including 10 from U.S. schools.
think the thing that is clear is that there is a tremendous amount
of practical collaboration going on," Womack said, citing
as examples a teacher's college in New Zealand that is helping
to upgrade similar colleges in Indonesia, and an Australian university
setting up campuses along the Pacific Rim. There are also many
Web-based efforts, he added.
While he acknowledged that "our particular institution will
always be grounded in the traditions of the University of Virginia,"
he said more can be accomplished. When it comes to international
involvement, "we look pretty tame, compared to others. It
was pretty sobering."