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Dreaming and Daring Globally

April 04, 2008

You may well be reading this letter at the very time Marcia and I are traveling to Tokyo, Seoul, and Hong Kong, enjoying the opportunity to deepen our connections with alumni, parents, and friends. This is our second trip to Asia in three years. Wherever we go on behalf of Lewis & Clark, our itinerary is always ambitious, our encounters are always exhilarating, and our experience is always rewarding.

The exhilaration comes from the energy and excitement of everyone we meet; the rewards from hearing personal accounts of how the college has shaped the lives of our alumni and their children. We enjoy a rich history of sponsoring overseas study, building and sustaining an international presence, and fostering exchanges of knowledge across diverse cultures.

Even as I take great pride in our many international accomplishments and initiatives, there are times when I view them from purely academic, administrative, and programmatic perspectives. Taking trips such as this, as well as spending time with our international students on campus, grounds me in the most compelling reason behind all that we do: We build bridges of global understanding when we connect person-to-person, when we look each other in the eyes and share our individual stories and our common dreams.

Indeed, generations of Lewis & Clark students have traveled to and from campus to learn from others. In these travels, our students begin to focus their sense of purpose. They become global citizen-scholars, conscious that what they do in their lives and professions connects them to other people in distant places.

Consider just some of the many ways students make an impact on the world over the course of an academic year:

  • Undergraduate students who have lived in many other parts of the world gather in a Portland coffee shop to share their stories; several help other students plan this spring’s 43rd annual International Fair.
  • Graduate school students teach critical skills to the growing number of Portland schoolchildren who do not speak English as a first language.
  • Law school faculty and students partner with indigenous groups in Panama and Costa Rica to protect an international park from rapidly encroaching development.
  • Several Arts and Sciences students work in a community-run women’s health clinic in El Viejo, Nicaragua, expanding critical medical services and information.

Each experience is integral to a Lewis & Clark education. Each encounter affirms that our campus extends well beyond 137 wooded acres in Portland’s southwest hills. Each expression of our values asserts that at Lewis & Clark, learning is global.

Global learning has long been one of our hallmarks. Our pioneering overseas study program is now in its fifth decade, and our acclaimed International Affairs Symposium is the oldest continuing symposium of its kind in the United States. Even so, we continue to enhance our focus on international education and experiences.

Our upcoming rotation of overseas study opportunities includes Vietnam, Greece, and Eastern Russia, and we are planning a program in China focusing on environmental issues. Our Office of Community and Career Connections is working to link current students with alumni for internships extending beyond the bounds of Portland and the United States.

This summer we will offer law students the opportunity to study at Peking University Law School in Beijing. The graduate school is examining ways to work with teachers abroad through partnerships with international schools. Plans are under way to establish an international speakers forum to stimulate discussion of issues critical to our lives as global citizens. And we are seeking new ways to attract students from abroad in even greater numbers.

At Lewis & Clark we dare to believe there are solutions to global discord. Even more, we dare to believe that we will lead the way in forging these solutions. We take this stance because we have witnessed the progress made when people of goodwill come together to forge partnerships that advance common goals.

Such progress grows not from cultural exchanges alone but from full-scale transfusions of knowledge and experience, from the hard work of applying critical analysis to complex issues, identifying pragmatic constraints, and developing creative alternatives. More simply stated, progress results from applying the classic tenets of liberal learning.

I close with a personal and emblematic story from our 2005 visit to Hong Kong, where we were treated to a tour of Sha Tin, the equestrian venue for the 2008 Olympic Games. When our hosts invited me to choose a contender in one of the day’s races, one name jumped forward. Not surprisingly, given the adventure and daring that animate our global ventures, my choice finished first–exactly what you would expect of a horse named Dreams Come True.

Thomas J. Hochstettler

The Chronicle Magazine

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