International Activities Commission
Brantly Womack, Chair
Presentation to the Board of Visitors
October 15, 1999
The task of the International Activities Planning Commission is to return the University to its original international academic mission, but in the 21st century context of global immediacy and of global opportunity.
The University of Virginia is and always has been deeply involved in international academic activity. A few examples include: Jeffersons faculty recruitment, importance of the language program, outsourcing the pillars of the Rotunda. If we consider the Lawn as originally designed by Jefferson, it was open on the far side not just for a view of the mountains, but to underline the idea that an academical village is not an enclosed space, but one for which openness was part of its identity.
Over the years some of our most distinguished alumni have had international careers, including Colonel Mosby, Walter Reed, and Ye Huiqing.
Looking forward to the next century, we see the Universitys mission of interactive global leadership has not changed, but the world has changed.
In this post-Cold War, Internet world, the task of the International Commission is first to encourage free flow between Charlottesville and the rest of the world. More basically, however, it is to help the University get beyond the idea that the world is "out there." We need to rethink and re-evaluate our international activities. They should not be on the periphery of our vision. They should be an essential part of who we are and what we do, because we are a part of the world. As another distinguished alumnus, Woodrow Wilson, once put it, "You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand."
At present, the Universitys international activities are diffused throughout every school and department. This is a good thing. Our purpose is to encourage and coordinate international activities, not to regulate them. So the first task of the International Commission was getting a grasp on the diversity of international activities.
As a means of illustrating the commissions work, we use the analogy of four fingers and a thumb as the five tasks we must address. The four fingers are:
And the thumb:
International Living and Learning Center.
Overall purpose of the commission: to make international activities part of the identity of University of Virginia. Not to become a cultural chameleon, butwith confidence in who we are and what we have to offerto interact with the rest of the world freely, and to educate our students in this interaction.