Global Reach, Personal Connections
January 07, 2010
Last summer, Tawab Malekzad was preparing to begin his studies at Lewis & Clark when global politics intervened. His departure from his home in Kabul, Afghanistan, was to coincide with his country’s August presidential election. Worried that events might affect travel, he contacted Greg Caldwell, director of our international students and scholars program, about arriving in Portland a month earlier than planned. Greg promptly found four families from our community who volunteered to host Tawab.
Tawab had read the politics correctly. As Lewis & Clark families were opening their homes to him, the Afghan government was closing its borders for all departing students.
I share this story to illustrate a simple truth: at Lewis & Clark, global outreach is not an aspiration. It is a core value.
We live this value in many ways every day and have done so for a very long time. For nearly a half-century we have been a leader in international education with our respected overseas study programs; our rich curricular offerings in international, comparative, and regional studies; and our active recruitment of international students.
For many, Lewis & Clark is a point of departure: over half of graduating seniors will have participated in an overseas study program, many to locales outside Western Europe. For others, Lewis & Clark is a destination: across our campuses this year we have 203 international students from 58 countries, including our highest undergraduate enrollment of international students in 15 years.
By creating diverse educational experiences where students from different cultures, traditions, and ways of life engage each other daily in many ways, Lewis & Clark is building communities of global citizens linked by a deeper understanding of each other’s history and values.
Sharing with us the vision of enhancing global understanding through personal relationships are benefactors Shelby and Gale Davis. On October 12, our community packed Smith Hall for a special reception to meet and thank in person the couple who established the Davis United World Colleges Scholars program nine years ago. Because of their generosity, we currently have 31 remarkable Davis UWC Scholars enrolled as undergraduates at Lewis & Clark, including Tawab.
The United World Colleges number 13 around the world. These secondary schools give bright, inquisitive students the opportunity for international study at a young age—similar to the Fulbright experience. The UWC schools offer the International Baccalaureate program, which is equivalent to the junior and senior year of high school in the United States. Building on this foundation, Shelby and Gale Davis provide scholarship support for UWC scholars who are accepted as degree-seeking students at one of 91 participating colleges and universities across the United States, including Lewis & Clark.
The Davis UWC Scholars arrive here already practiced in the arts of international and inter- cultural exchange. Having spent two years in the highly internationalized community that characterizes each of the UWC schools, they are well versed in the art of reaching out across linguistic, racial, cultural, class, and national lines. They become models for others—including both U.S. nationals and international students—in how to communicate, learn, and grow in a multicultural setting. They have much to teach the rest of us—faculty and administrators included—about what it means to be a global citizen and how we can further advance the global dimensions of our educational community.
Listening to the personal reflections of our Davis UWC Scholars and their American friends at the reception, I was struck by how much richer our international curriculum becomes with so many students who are committed to communicating fearlessly, forthrightly, and passionately about what they hold dear.
Osaebea Amoakoa is a sophomore biology major and returning Davis UWC Scholar who was born in Swaziland and lived there her entire life before entering school here. Osaebea observes, “For me, Lewis & Clark is a new place with new experiences and chances for more growth in all its forms.”
“Chances for more growth in all its forms.” That is what our community seeks to accomplish and to instill as we move beyond our comfort zones, exercise our curiosity, and do the challenging and rewarding work of crossing boundaries. We prize the opportunity to learn—openly and genuinely—with and from people whose backgrounds and experiences differ from our own. The Davis UWC Scholars program enhances this important cornerstone of a Lewis & Clark education.
Jane Monnig Atkinson