Guest Opinions

Guest Opinion: Idaho State University developing global citizens

Our mission at Idaho State University is to advance scholarly and creative endeavors while developing citizens who will enrich our diverse, global society.

We cannot overstate the value of globalization in higher education. This was evident at the White House Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship in December, which focused on strategies to “increase the number and diversity of young people participating in educational, cultural, and professional experiences internationally.” These types of experiences help develop an appreciation for the world community, opening our minds and challenging each of us to seek a greater understanding of different cultures.

At ISU, we are committed to providing a high-quality education with a global perspective. This includes increased global awareness in our curriculum, supporting study-abroad opportunities for our faculty and students, and inviting individuals from around the world to join our academic community. Together, these initiatives support the innovation and collaboration necessary to address critical issues such as alternative power needs, cybersecurity concerns, and health and nutrition issues.

In March, ISU students went to Peru on the Operation Condor mission to help address critical health care needs. It’s an annual trip that not only helps the people of Peru, but gives our students the chance to learn about a new culture and see how the knowledge they gain at ISU can have a global impact.

Our Bengal community includes students from 49 states and 56 different countries. The diversity of our student body — international students represent nearly 10 percent of our student population — enriches not only our classroom discussions, but our entire campus community. Events, such as Africa Night and our annual Chinese New Year celebration, allow hundreds of students and community members the opportunity to experience new cultures through music, dancing and food. It’s a global experience without traveling the world. It’s an opportunity to develop sensitivity to cultural differences and the ability to work with others from diverse backgrounds — skills critical to future employers.

We have partnerships with universities around the world, giving students the opportunity to study abroad and learn about new cultures. Last year, 17 ISU students studied in Mexico, Spain, Germany and Uruguay, to name a few nations. Additionally, nine exchange students studied at ISU.

During the 2014-15 academic year, a record number of ISU faculty were named Fulbright Scholars, an international exchange program designed to increase mutual understanding and scholarship partnerships between the U.S. and other countries. While serving in this program, our faculty members are not only advancing knowledge in their respective research areas, they are building bridges across academic communities that will pay great dividends for ISU, Idaho and the nation.

ISU offers a range of courses that focus specifically on international issues in fields ranging from health care and business to literature and political science. In the past two years alone, ISU colleges have hosted nine visiting scholars from around the world.

These multicultural opportunities are only the beginning of the impact that higher education can have on our future as global citizens. Our collaborative efforts are not only reflected in our academic pursuits, but these relationships, whether among students or faculty, create ambassadors that return to their home countries with a better understanding of Idaho and the nation.

Higher education is the foundation for scholarly advancement, research and discovery, and economic development –– both in the United States and around the world. And at Idaho State University, we are committed to preparing tomorrow’s business leaders, engineers, teachers, researchers and health care professionals to live and thrive in this global community.

Arthur C. Vailas, Ph.D., is president of Idaho State University.