As part of President Roth’s push for new academic initiatives, both Roth and University faculty hope to double the number of international students on campus, as well as develop a Middle Eastern Studies Program.
A six-member task force met for the first time on Wednesday, March 26, in order to discuss ways to accomplish these initiatives, in an effort to continue “internationalizing” Wesleyan.
“The idea is for us to examine these big ideas for directions where Wesleyan should go,” said Associate Dean for International Affairs Alice Hadler.
Hadler would like to see the number of international students grow and hopes that the growth would contribute to more integration on campus.
“I think it should increase,” Hadler said. “Whether double is the magic number, I don’t know. The one drawback is the idea that if the student body doesn’t grow, that seven percent of the class will be occupied by international students that would otherwise be occupied by other students.”
According to Associate Dean of Admission Therese Overton, the Admissions Office has not yet received any specific directive from Roth about international recruitment. However, this year the University mailed more acceptance letters to international students than in past years.
The University currently has 191 undergraduate international students enrolled. The majority of these students come from Asia. The Freeman Scholars Program, which began 13 years ago, pays full tuition for 88 Asian students, 22 in each class year, which costs over four million dollars in tuition per year.
“The Freeman program is a model, and we are looking for donors who want to begin sponsoring students from other parts of the world,” Roth wrote via e-mail. “We will have to recruit international students within the boundaries of our financial aid budget, but as we raise more money for endowment, that budget can grow.”
The internationalization task force has many ideas for the curriculum, including enhancing language study, developing more history and literature courses taught in foreign languages, finding more grants for summer and field study, and bringing more visiting faculty and foreign scholars to the University. Hadler admits that they currently lack concrete details for these plans, but says that in two months the committee will finalize its ideas and submit a proposal.
One area the University wants to focus on is developing a Middle Eastern Studies Program.
“We have applied for a planning grant from the Mellon Foundation,” said Dean of the Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs Donald Moon. “If that grant is awarded, we will use the funds over the next year or two to develop a plan to enhance our curricular offerings on the Middle East. The grant for which we have applied provides money only for planning, not for implementing the plan, so by itself it would not enable us to hire additional professors, et cetera. Once we have a plan, we will have to do fund-raising to implement it, and those efforts might include seeking foundation support for various purposes including new faculty lines.”
The Mellon Foundation will reach a decision about whether to approve or deny the grant in June.
“Other than language courses in Hebrew and Arabic, I am the only Wesleyan faculty member who currently has training and expertise in Middle Eastern Studies and you can’t build a program, much less a department, on one person,” explained History Professor Bruce Masters in an e-mail.
In recent years, many American universities have rushed to set up outposts abroad especially in the Middle East. These campuses are considered to be a branch of the American parent university, allowing students from the Middle East to graduate with a highly sought-after American degree.
The country of Qatar, a peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bears witness to the education boom abroad. On the outskirts of the capital city, Doha, an area named Education City has allowed Cornell University, Texas A&M University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Carnegie Mellon University and Georgetown University to set up branches. These branches each specialize in different fields such as, medicine, engineering, the fine arts, business and Foreign Service. Northwestern University plans to open a School of Journalism and Communication in the fall of 2008.
The University has no plans to establish a branch in the Middle East.
“Some of this [setting up branches] is clearly an attempt to bring in more revenue, some of it is an attempt to expand recognition of the school’s quality internationally,” Roth said. “I am more interested in accomplishing the latter by bringing students into the Wesleyan environment.”
Roth hopes to meet with government and foundation officials and work with alumni, students and family to find partners in the Middle East who are interested in liberal arts education.