International Education Week to spotlight student programs

PLAINVIEW – Events planned at Wayland Baptist University will help celebrate International Education Week, a worldwide emphasis planned for Nov. 14-18.

According to Debra Sherley, international student advisor for the admissions office at Wayland, the events are aimed at showing American students the importance of international exchange and how they can benefit from not only pursuing study opportunities abroad but also studying alongside students from other nations.

“We are a strange country because we have so many cultures here,” Sherley said. “We’re rabid about our freedom and democracy, and not all other countries have that. This emphasis is not just about meeting our international students but about creating positive relationships between nations.

“When you understand each other and have a relationship, you’re less likely to go to war with that country,” she added.

Sherley said Texas is ranked No. 3 in the nation in terms of its population of international students. Of the 570,000 total college students in Texas, roughly 45,000 were from other countries in the 2003-04 academic year. It’s a $13 billion industry, Sherley added, with those funds coming into America from primarily their personal and family funds.

A major focus of International Education Week, especially at Wayland, will be to spotlight the global view and encouraging American students to learn about other cultures.

“We need to understand that the majority of our world lives outside the United States, across oceans and seas. Our perspective here is so limited,” she said. “International education helps us understand that the world doesn’t live like we do. They aren’t seeing the same world we are.”

Events planned for students during International Education Week include a food emphasis planned each evening in the university cafeteria, spotlighting cuisine from other nations; an international scavenger hunt; the weekly chapel service featuring Udo Middlemann of the Francis Schaeffer Foundation and students praying and reading scripture in their native language; seminars on study abroad opportunities, and an international movie night. Sherley said she and the faculty advisory committee who have helped organize the event are also asking faculty to incorporate international themes into their classes during the week, highlighting the global role in all academic disciplines.

This global viewpoint, Sherley said, is vital for students to have as they graduate and begin seeking out jobs and may, in fact, have to compete with international students for those jobs.

Sherley pointed out that Dr. Bill Marshall, Wayland’s president from 1947-53, was a huge advocate of international education and brought the first international students to Wayland during his tenure.

Wanting to return to that emphasis, Sherley said she’d like to eventually be able to display flags of each country with students enrolled at Wayland and use those in events on campus. With the cost of full-size flags running between $150 and $200, however, Sherley said the school is hoping local and area civic organizations will help purchase flags or add to a fund to do so. Eventually, she hopes the flag display will also represent students who have ever studied at WBU.

Sherley also hopes to garner speaking engagements at organizations, churches and other places about international education and the changing world. For information on this or donating to the flag fund, contact Sherley at 291-3502.