Wayne State University

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President Wilson describes goals for enhancing WSU's global agenda

December 16, 2013

Emphasizing that “international experience must be an essential part of a Wayne State education,” President M. Roy Wilson (left, with students Nishanth Alluri, Swetha Jairajan, Debanina Seaton and Associate Vice President for International Programs Ahmad Ezzeddine) affirmed the university’s commitment to a robust global agenda that facilitates international exchange of students and faculty. His comments were part of a keynote address in recognition of International Education Week.

Wilson applauded the study abroad and research partnerships that the Office of International Programs (OIP) has forged with more than 160 overseas institutions and its strong international recruitment strategies, aimed at increasing the representation of international students at Wayne State to 10 percent of the student body by 2015. He also praised OIP’s English Language Institute, the only intensive English language program in metropolitan Detroit, and the university’s Confucius Institute, housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which supports Chinese language and cultural programs throughout Southeast Michigan.

At the same time, Wilson identified opportunities to further enhance Wayne State’s strong global competency, saying the university wants to ensure its general education requirements comprehend an international perspective and is working to “reinvent” its co-major in International Studies through an external review process. The university, he said, also hopes to translate its website into various languages, recruit international alumni to serve as ambassadors, double the number of Wayne State students participating in international programs within the next three years, and provide increased support and incentives for faculty to participate in international research and teaching initiatives.

Wayne State graduates are competing for jobs with peers from around the world, observed Wilson, who spent six months studying at Oxford University while a medical student at Harvard. To be competitive in a globalized job market, he said, Wayne State students “must have the ability to navigate complex interactions which require cultural awareness, appreciation for differences and, if possible, the ability to communicate in more than one language.” Financial hardships should not impede acquisition of these critical competencies, Wilson stressed, noting that many of the university’s credit-bearing study abroad programs are eligible for Pell Grants, Perkins Loans and other federal financial aid. The university is considering paying the passport fees of students embarking on their first university-sponsored international program, he said, as well as increasing the number of scholarships for study abroad.

Born in Japan to a Japanese mother and African American father, Wilson described growing up in a bilingual household steeped in multiculturalism. He also shared several anecdotes of personal and professional enrichment during a research trip to the extreme northern province of Cameroon, where he lost 20 pounds due to the region’s desperate food shortage.

 “I have always loved my encounters with other cultures and people,” Wilson said. “All of them – the good and the difficult – have opened my mind and spurred my curiosity, and left me wanting more.”