Internationally engaged

12-10-2012

Former MSU president John Hannah recognized it back in 1956 when he appointed the university’s—and the nation’s—first dean of international studies and programs. And it’s even truer today: Higher education must be linked to global pathways of innovation to fully develop students’ talent and prepare them for the global environment. It must facilitate faculty engagement in global intellectual networks and add value to society through the vast collective capacity of thinking and working together across borders and boundaries.

Approximately 1,400 faculty members engage in international research, teaching and service projects. We’re studying endangered tapirs in Nicaragua, hyenas in Kenya, tigers in Nepal, and pandas in China. We’re licensing blueberry varieties in South Korea and aiding forestry programs in South America and India. We’re working in plant science and food systems all over the world.

Michigan State’s global engagement is multidimensional. We support more than 25 internationally focused centers, institutes, offices, and programs. We’ve consistently been a leader in study abroad and international student enrollment. Just in the past 10 years our international enrollment rose by about three quarters. And MSU now has more than 41,000 international alumni living in 172 foreign countries.

We have particular engagement in the developing world. I’m very pleased to note that MSU’s 50-plus years of experience in Africa has borne fruit this year, as funding partners back several critical food, education, and health projects.

It’s nice to be recognized by discriminating funders such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We will use a $7.8 million grant from the Gates Foundation Global Development Program to help eight African nations improve their sustainable farming methods, helping policymaking efforts to intensify farming methods that meet agricultural needs while improving environmental quality in Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Ethiopia, and Tanzania.

Another project based in Nigeria and funded by a new $5.8 million Gates grant will aid in disease prevention by collecting local data on diseases including pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis. Nigeria and some of its neighbors are of particular concern as they trail the developed world in infant survival and immunization rates.

In what is the biggest single-source cash commitment in the university’s history, MSU is receiving $45 million from The MasterCard Foundation over nine years to serve as an educational partner and network coordinator for The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. MSU will host 185 students, the most Scholars among the six U.S. partner institutions in the $500 million Program, which aims to provide talented, yet financially disadvantaged youth—especially those from Africa—with access to high-quality education.

When it comes to finding experienced, reliable, productive partners to do good in the world, funding sources know that Spartans Will. That’s real validation.

Not all of our attention is turned to Africa, of course. Through our research and the application of that research in the field, we work to find solutions to the most pressing problems on every continent. We will use a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), for example, to improve agricultural production and reduce poverty in areas of the world suffering from rapid urbanization, population growth, and skills gaps.

We’ll receive up to $25 million over five years to investigate problems in global food production through MSU’s new Global Center for Food Systems Innovation. The program is exciting because it establishes national centers of excellence akin to the national laboratory system, forming USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network. Seven American and foreign universities are included to help develop solutions to global development challenges.

I’m so pleased that development issues like hunger and access to education are of concern to wider audiences. Some Residential College in the Arts and Humanities students used their Thanksgiving weekend to conduct “hunger dialogs” over holiday meals with menus from Mali, Mexico, and India cooked by the chefs at Snyder-Phillips Gallery. Reservations filled up quickly, but a couple more events like it are planned for spring semester.

Also this season, the MSU Students Advancing International Development held its annual Paramount Fair Trade Coffee Sale to benefit the Aakkam Revolving Scholarship Fund for Rural Girls in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India. Part of the proceeds goes to help young Indian women attend college and another portion goes to the Rwandan farmers who grow the coffee.

We were privileged in October to host the International Students Summit, a program unique in its focus on undergraduate student leadership to address issues in global hunger and agriculture. For the last dozen years, it had been hosted by the Tokyo University of Agriculture, another of our longstanding international partners.

We’re proud that MSU is once again one of only four higher education institutions in the nation to rank in the top 10 for study abroad participation and international student enrollment, according to the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors Report. MSU is the only Big Ten university to hold the distinction.

MSU sent more students abroad than any other public university in 2010–11, with 2,577 students studying overseas. And of the 48,906 students we enrolled this fall, about 13.5 percent are international students.

This is part of our value proposition to all our stakeholders: taking the best of Michigan to the world and bringing the best of the world to Michigan.

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