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Panel Provides Perspective On History Of BC Internationalism

Heights Staff

Published: Monday, November 18, 2013

Updated: Monday, November 18, 2013 00:11

Internationalism Panel

Graham Beck / Heights Editor

As part of International Education week, a group of five professors and administrators held a panel to discuss internationalization at Boston College. The panel, titled “Internationalization at BC: How far we have come and where we are headed,” addressed the successes and pitfalls of how well BC has incorporated internationalization in its community. 

Adrienne Nussbaum, director of the Office of International Students and Scholars, introduced the panel as “a discussion of where things are at BC in terms of international relations at BC and where they would like to go.” 

The first panelist to present, Joe Burns, associate vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs, began with a brief history of BC’s beginnings as a school for Irish-Catholic immigrants. BC opened its doors in hopes of educating sons of immigrants, Burns said. “At the time, Irish immigrants were seen as low, poor, uneducated, lazy drunks and many did not welcome them into society, as do most people when new nationalities enter into a population,” he said. For 120 years, Burns explained, Irish-Catholic students dominated BC. As years progressed, however, BC’s ethnic makeup diversified. This year, Burns said that 1,200 students on campus are exchange students, representing a variety of different backgrounds and ethnicities. Burns also touched on the advent of online classes offered at BC and how accessible the classes are to students abroad. 

Next, Donald Hafner, vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs, compared internationalization at BC to the EU as a means of working with other countries to  enhance collective knowledge. He discussed the role and character of an international university and discussed various ways BC has held up to these expectations.

 “The role of a university is to train future leaders, how a country interacts with cultural competence, [how they] understand each other, even if they agree,” Hafner said. He stressed that it is important that professors instill this awareness in students in order to prepare them for future international endeavors. “It is through these cultural and personal connections across boarders that we can gain and collaborate on knowledge,” Hafner said. 

Phillip Altbach, director at the Center for International Higher Education, who forewarned the crowd that he was a “glass half empty”-minded individual, discussed critical issues of internationalization at BC. 

“Relatively speaking, I think our study abroad programs are very good,” Altbach said. “However, it really depends on how long a student stays abroad and other elements that really determine how effective their stay is.” He also critiqued “internationalization at home” at BC, saying that many of the schools “push aside” study abroad, and the programs for certain schools make it seem as if studying abroad is not as important.

Altbach praised BC’s Jesuit affiliation, as BC has been able to connect to other Jesuit schools on both a national and international level. The idea of a liberal arts education is also important to BC’s reputation, he said.

Next, Nick Gozik, director of  the Office of International Programs, discussed its mission of moving beyond the checklist of study abroad. “Many students feel as if they have to go abroad during college … to say they lived through the tradition,” he said. “You don’t have to go abroad to be international.” Gozik pointed to off-campus programming and in-class discussions including more international influences. He expressed hope that students at BC can participate in “experimental learning” and participate in more internships, service learning, research, international activities, and events offered on campus. 

Nussbaum closed the panel by discussing the growing number of International students who now attend BC. There are currently 1,995 international students affiliated with BC, according to Nussbaum. The current freshman class has had the largest number of international students in BC history. 

“A majority of our international students are from Asia, in particular China and Korea,” she said. “In the past year we have seen a 156 percent increase in students from Asia. That’s 43 percent of our international student population.” 

The panel ended with a brief discussion in which one audience member commented on the common theme of each panel members’ statements by saying that “it is the responsibility of the faculty and all members of BC to correct these issues of internationalization.” 

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