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State Department Conference Opens Avenues for UW-RF

JAN. 20, 2006--A summit sponsored by the U.S. State Department and U.S. Department of Education on international higher education may bode well for globalization efforts at UW-River Falls.

Chancellor Don Betz was among a select group of 125 chief executive officers from higher education institutions and national secondary education advocacy groups who attended the event on Jan. 5-6 in Washington, D.C.

Among those who addressed the conference were President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, State Department Secretary Condoleeza Rice and Education Secretary Margaret Spelling.

According to Betz, also observing the summit were numerous U.S. senators, members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries, ambassadors and federal employees, leading to heightened expectations for the future.

"The University Presidents Summit seemed to hold out the prospect for government-higher education collaboration on an epic scale and for a protracted period," Betz said.

He noted, " There were multiple references to our national response to Sputnik in the 1950s and '60s. Our hosts cited the necessity for national collaboration to focus on a new national priority: to be a nation prepared to lead in an increasingly competitive global marketplace and political arena where national security and higher education are linked. "

The highlight of the conference was an announcement by President Bush that he will seek $114 million for a national security language initiative. It will provide money to higher education and school districts for education in Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Persian, Hindi and Central Asian languages. It also will provide funds for additional Fulbright Scholarships to send Americans overseas and to bring scholars to the U.S. to study.

In his remarks, the President explained that the initiative would enhance America's security while it also directly provides the opportunity for those of other nations to learn more about Americans.

"I'll tell you what's really neat, is to sit down with leaders from around the world, welcome them in the Oval Office or go to their office, they say, you know, Mr. President, I went to Texas A&M, or I went to Stanford -- like President Toledo of Peru," the President related.   "It makes it so much easier to conduct foreign policy and diplomacy when you've got that common ground of being able to talk about a university experience here in the United States. It makes it so much easier to be able to advance the interests of this country when you're dealing with a leader who doesn't have a preconceived notion about what America is all about, because he spent time studying here in the United States."

Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes outlined the administration's initiatives, which closely paralleled issues raised by national higher education associations that advocate for international education experiences.

Hughes indicated the administration will seek to:
·Increase opportunities for American K-16 students to improve their knowledge of international affairs, foreign languages and to develop expertise in other nations and regions.
·Provide a welcoming environment for international students to the United

States, including facilitating easier entry into the nation for bona fide students. Hughes and the other speakers acknowledged that restrictions on travel following Sept. 11 th have become overly stringent, causing international students to seek their education in other nations.

First Lady Laura Bush will lead the first of several delegations of university presidents and chancellors overseas to help rebuild recruitment efforts. New Fulbright Scholarships will be created to bring international students to the states to help in language and international education courses.

·Encouraging study abroad participation by American students. Currently, about 1 percent of all U.S. higher education students study abroad.
·Strengthening exchange programs by scholars and citizens.
·Providing reliable funding through partnerships between higher education institutions, all levels of government and non-government organizations.

"The clarion call from Secretaries Rice and Spellings as well as from the First Lady and Karen Hughes was a commitment to public service, to become involved in some dimension of America's multifaceted international initiatives and programs," Betz said. "We want our students to become the face of   America abroad whether it's via the Foreign Service, Department of Commerce and dozens of other gateways to serving the country by connecting with other peoples and cultures in their native lands."

Betz has long had an interest in international affairs. He holds a doctorate in international studies with his dissertation on the Arab-Baath Party in Syria. He was a staff member for several years in the United Nations working with the International Peace Conference on the Question of Palestine. For 17 years, he was chairman of the United Nations-affiliated International Coordinating Committee for Non-Governmental Organizations on the Question Palestine.

Betz also spent some time as the assistant foreign editor for the Daily Star in Beirut, Lebanon.

Recently the chancellor was a panelist at a national conference of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in which he spoke on strategies to engage the Arab world in higher education activities with U.S. universities.

At UW-RF, some 350 UW-RF students study abroad each year, with about 60 international students enrolled on the UW-RF campus. Each year between 30-35 faculty are involved in international exchange activities.

The University currently exchanges students or faculty with universities in Germany, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, the People's Republic of China, and Nicaragua.

Study abroad programs include educational experiences in all of mainland Europe, with additional programs oriented toward these nations: Mexico, Costa Rica, Egypt, Morocco, Uganda, Belize, China, Japan, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Scotland, Ireland, Italy and Greece.

UW-RF also participates in a structured semester abroad residential program, the Wisconsin In Scotland Program at Dalkeith Manor in Edinburgh, in collaboration with UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, UW-Superior and UW-La Crosse.

The UW-RF Semester Abroad program is one of the oldest study experiences in the University of Wisconsin System, with students living in Europe each fall while conducting extensive independent research projects.

Most recently, the University launched an International Traveling Classroom in which two dozen students in the spring of 2006 will travel Europe while enrolled in six courses provided by faculty, supplemented by the their travel activities.


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:06:59 Central Daylight Time

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