Chancellor's Friday Letters

Chancellor White’s Friday Letter of October 19, 2012

Chancellor White’s Friday Letter of October 19, 2012

October 19, 2012

Dear Friends,

I often get asked what is the most important outcome for a college education today?

Talk about a loaded question! One could spend days expanding on the many different answers, often nuanced to the context of the question, and yet all credible and supported by data, facts and future needs.

Another way to answer the question, perhaps taking a more philosophical perspective, is to say simply that our graduates – bachelor’s, master’s, PhD and M.D. – need to be able to live, work, compete and prosper in an environment that is best described as global.

Certainly the skills and knowledge they acquire in their course of study is vital. But so is having first-hand interaction with individuals from other nations – either in their country or in ours.

We believe so firmly in the need for a global education that the campus strategic vision, UCR 2020, reiterated that concept throughout our ten-year road map, notably:

“By extending our pursuit of excellence with diversity to include not only people but ideas, perspectives, learning opportunities, programs, and experiences, UCR produces truly global citizens able to function with ease in an international and multicultural environment.” (my italics)

As a consequence of this commitment, we are increasing our efforts to send students to other countries for some part of their studies, and to attract international undergraduates to our campus.  In addition, we are turning over new stones to entice international delegations to visit here.

As a result of our efforts, this fall we increased our population of full-time international undergraduate students by more than 50 percent over last year. And we have set in motion a comprehensive new plan to expand this population even more in the years ahead.

We are working so hard on these initiatives because we are intent on providing as global an experience as possible to every student on the UCR campus. Earlier this year, I even traveled to England to talk to educators from all over the world about globalization and education – and to learn from them too. While there, I had the opportunity to meet some of our students who are studying abroad.

And on the border of Switzerland and France I learned more about our vast international research collaboration through the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN).  While there, I also had the opportunity to meet with several of our graduate students and postdocs, who were gaining invaluable hands-on experience – both intellectual and cultural.

In just these past two weeks, two groups from very different parts of the world brought us unique perspectives. One was a group of academic, business and political leaders from one of Riverside’s sister cities, Erlangen, Germany. The other is a large group of upper-level finance professionals from throughout the Indian government and military, who are in residence here this week and next for a special training program offered by University Extension.

In fact, every contact we have with those from another country or culture is a priceless learning opportunity. During a panel session with our Erlangen guests this month, I learned that more than 40 percent of German students spend a year studying abroad as part of their undergraduate education, and all of them speak at least one foreign language fluently – and often two or more. This compares to 1 percent of U.S. students and about 1.5 percent of UCR students who study abroad for a quarter or more.

Erlangen’s university president rightly commented that U.S. universities, which sit at the vortex of international education, do a miserable job of preparing our students for the global economy.  At UCR, we aim to do better.

As one of the most diverse campuses in the nation, we already have a head start in learning from those with different cultural backgrounds and learning to get along with each other – although we can encounter pitfalls, even when we share the same language and the same nationality. As we move forward, we will have additional opportunities to benefit from the many and varied perspectives offered by students and visitors from around the world.

Our Indian delegation, for example, is here for an intensive two-week program in financial management.  But at a reception at my home earlier this week, they also interacted with members of both the campus and our greater community, and we in turn learned from them.  Indeed, the interactions were so robust that the itinerary for their visit has been expanded even further.

This campus – while far from perfect – leads the UC in creating an inclusive and welcoming environment. Overcoming the barriers of culture, language, and history can be tougher, however, when people from entirely different countries – even continents – are added to the mix.

Learning to open our hearts and minds to every member of our campus community – no matter their place of origin – is no longer just the right thing to do, it’s the selfish thing to do in today’s global economy.



Tim White

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