Importance of International Education

No Classroom

So, what do you actually do?

A question I get asked more often than I’d let on, just because there’s a good mix of different things I have done, but also because it’s hard to put a exact marker on what I do from day to day.  When in my previous position at Arkansas State University to my current position at the University of Colorado – Denver , I have simultaneously managed  international student immigration, planned trips to six flags, and met with foreign diplomats; to name a few ends of the spectrum.

I can hash it out on a resume, but truly, it’s easiest for me to say “International Educator“.

 | Why International?

Recently, the annual numbers for international student populations in the U.S. was released by IIE (Institute of International Education).  These numbers show that international student populations or specifically those coming for education, research or another educational pursuit has increased to it’s highest number yet of 250,920.  A 9.8% increase from the year before [1].

J. William Fulbright wrote a book called the “Arrogance of Power”. In the book he outlines many things, but the main thing that was my takeaway was his emphasis on International Educational Exchange.  Fulbright was head of the foreign relations committee of Congress and the eventual Chancellor of the University of Arkansas. Many people might recognized the name Fulbright name in connection with Fulbright grants which are funding for international exchange in many parts of the world.  International Exchange is generally defined by SEVP (Student Exchange Visitor Program) as educational and cultural exchange programs that provide, educational experiences, practical training and employment. These programs allow program participants to share the history, culture, and traditions of their home countries. [2]

In light of that, I would not argue that immigration (foreigners [3] to the U.S.) is ultimately good or bad, because it has pros and cons for the U.S. economically and social impacts on people trying to immigrate. However there is much to be said about the reason for many foreigners coming to the U.S. The lack of U.S. citizens completing college in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Degree, and the need for foreigners in those fields, (especially in research) has aided to the need of more foreign workers to fill the non-immigrant work VISAs in the U.S. [4]

I WOULD argue that International/Intercultural Exchange is ultimately good.  Exchange of ideas, knowledge and culture is the great driver of peace and global unity.  In the book ” Price of Empire,” Fulbright stated:

The essence of intercultural education is the acquisition of empathy–the ability to see the world as others see it, and to allow for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see, or may see it more accurately. The simple purpose of the exchange program…is to erode the culturally rooted mistrust that sets nations against one another. The exchange program is not a panacea but an avenue of hope. [5]

International because, we are no longer just a “City on a Hill”. [6] We are a globalized society.

| What about the U.S.?

Roughly one-third of the U.S. population has a passport, which is a record high.  However, not all people with passports use them on a yearly basis, and some likely once or twice in their entire life. International travel is not as common due to various pitfalls such as financial ability and necessity, but small numbers of people going abroad means less people interacting with cultures other than their own.[7]

In regards to higher education, only 283,332 students studied abroad between in the 2011/12 school year.  That is less than 1 percent of the total enrollment at U.S. universities and colleges. The encouraging fact is that it has been increasing every year, but the discouraging fact is how low that number truly is. [8]

Wherever you stand politically, or ideologically about U.S. policy and foreign relations you can hopefully believe that exchange of ideas across borders and cultures is a good thing.  I believe it is the foundation of seeking peace.  If the U.S. stayed in a bubble, built a giant wall around our borders, and only understood the world from what we were able to surmise by our news media; we would have very skewed idea of the world.  Some may argue we already have that skewed view.

The goal in the U.S. is to make expectation meet reality, or get as close as possible.  Typically expectation and reality are very different.  This is true about all countries I’ve traveled to, and I imagine it’s true for my other world traveling and foreign friends.  The question is:  how can we properly encourage and educate people that intercultural exchange? I believe this  is important for their livelihood of all future generations.

The world is much smaller[9], and we need to learn to cooperate and exist in an intercultural, global society.

| What We Do.

I bind my career identity as an International Educator I believe that not only do help educate those that are International, but I also am a bringer of peace and hopefully a diffuser of future conflicts through intercultural exchange and education. When in the context of “what great good can innovative international education do?”  I believe it can do great good, and greatly affect the international conversation and political climate.

Education can bring peace, if we as a world make it a priority.  I have never once believed peace is won on the end of a rifle, but rather in a classroom and at home; those are the real battlefields.



# Cropped Photo by Jiji Lee on Flickr with Creative Commons Usage

1. IIE Open Doors 2013  (Institute of International Education)

2. What is Exchange (

3. “Foreigners” was thought to be the best word used to represent foreign nationals from other countries.

4.  The Need for More STEM Workers (Brookings Institute)

5.  From the “Price of Empire” from J. William Fulbright

6. John Winthrop’s City upon a Hill was used in political foreign policy speeches by Kennedy and Reagan.

7. Passport Statistics (

8. IIE Open Doors 2013 Study Abroad (Institute of International Education)

9. World Population Growth and Decline (US Census)




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