Message from President Jeffrey Herbst

While in Buhoma, Uganda, with geography professors Ellen Kraly and Peter Scull in January, six students had the opportunity to not only conduct research, but also interact with local residents. For more on their experiences, see Buhoma Bonds. (Photo by Samite Mulondo)
In order to be prepared to engage in the global community in the 21st century, our graduates will need the political, social, historical, and linguistic knowledge (among other skills) that can only be gained through international experiences.
    In fact, many employers, from corporations to non-governmental organizations, insist that international experiences are an essential requirement for the dossier of a competitive job candidate. Interacting with people outside the United States holds many opportunities in trade, tourism, and increased understanding of how to address problems that every country confronts. As well, threats to our own society that originate overseas must be understood if they are to be overcome.
    I am committed to ensuring that Colgate provides every student with opportunities to develop the cultural competency they will need to understand the world as it is evolving, and to be unafraid to participate in that evolution.
    Of course, Colgate has a strong foundation upon which to build. The decades-old and enviable study group system has become an iconic aspect of our curriculum; in fact, Colgate is a leader among baccalaureate institutions in the percentage of students who study overseas each year. The opportunity for students and faculty to study foreign cultures and societies together in more than 20 different settings has created memorable learning experiences for many alumni — and this international preparation is reflected in what our graduates go on to do. The director of the Peace Corps recently congratulated us for our 20 alumni currently serving around the world, making Colgate the ninth-highest producer of volunteers among small colleges and universities. And, recently, Colgate tied for eighth among bachelor’s institutions for the total number of Fulbright scholarships awarded in a year.
    Despite our accomplishments, there is still much to do. First, I hope that we can raise the number of students who study abroad to as close to 100 percent as possible. To do so will require us to develop new opportunities and, especially, to provide financial aid to needy students who are unable to go overseas where no Colgate study group exists.
    We also need to diversify our students’ study-abroad destinations. For historical, cultural, and linguistic reasons, the overwhelming number of our study groups go to the United Kingdom and Europe. According to the Institute of International Education, the four leading destinations for American students are also (in order) the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and France. Of course, Europe will always be important. Nevertheless, beyond the fact that most of the world’s population lives in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, global economic dynamism is overwhelmingly occurring in the developing world. American students are beginning to understand the importance of Asia in particular — China is now the fifth-most popular destination for American students studying abroad. Also, as we all remain fixated on North Africa and the Middle East, it is clear that a deeper understanding of that part of the world will only become more important to us. And, of course, my own study of the politics of sub-Saharan Africa for the past 25 years has also influenced my view on this issue.
    Developing new study-abroad opportunities in these regions is a great challenge. We can certainly use the study group formula, but we also urgently need to create new models in which students can study in places that may not attract a dozen or more students at any one time. The initiative of Colgate professors bringing students to work on health care issues in Buhoma, Uganda, as told in the article “Buhoma Bonds” on page 26 of this issue, is a perfect example of what I have in mind.
    And on campus, we have seen a significant increase in international students. Seven percent of the Class of 2014 is composed of foreign students, and applications to the Class of 2015 from overseas were up 9 percent. International students further diversify the student body, and bring fresh perspectives, ideas, and experiences — but we also need to adapt to their needs. For instance, this year we began serving meals and providing programming over Thanksgiving and winter break because we can no longer assume that all students live within a few hours of campus.
    We are now devoting significant attention to addressing many aspects of these issues and initiatives. I have appointed a faculty Task Force on Internationalization whose charge includes exploring ways in which to enhance and support our students’ experiences here and abroad, while also strengthening our institutional commitment to the global and international research performed by our faculty.
    Colgate is a relatively small place in rural upstate New York, but providing students with a window on the world will be critical to their lives. In fact, I think it is precisely because we understand so well the value of our community that we can prepare our students for the global society they will enter as they leave Hamilton.