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Post-9/11 Tensions Pose Challenges

Post-9/11 Tensions Pose Challenges

"UCLA Today" carries article by International Institute Vice Provost Geoffrey Garrett on international studies in the era of the war on terrorism.

[The following article appeared in the May 25, 2004, issue of "UCLA Today."]

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Since Sept. 11, educators across the country have redoubled efforts to internationalize our colleges and universities through curricular innovations as well as by expanding opportunities for Americans to study overseas and for international students to come to the United States. The density, intensity and complexity of global interactions are truly mind-boggling. Yet we must strive to train students, the next generation of leaders, who not only can make sense of their world but who are also committed to working toward a better future. Becoming global citizens is no longer optional for our students; it is imperative.

But this internationalization agenda faces significant challenges. Tighter visa regulations for international students, prompted by heightened national security concerns, have fueled perceptions that the country is unwelcoming to foreigners. International student applications for admission to graduate schools for this coming fall are down by one-third from a year ago. The message has been heard, and Secretary for Homeland Security Tom Ridge is working with educators to reverse this trend. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new compact with the University of California also reflects a concern to support graduate education by regulating fee increases, including those that non-resident international students must pay.

Critics in Congress have charged that some international studies programs supported by the federal Department of Education (“Title VI” centers) do not further the national interest or national security. A House bill has proposed creating an advisory board with broad powers and with representation from agencies with national security responsibilities. The bill has been interpreted on many campuses as a threat to core academic freedoms. The stakes are nowhere greater than at UCLA, which has among the largest concentrations of Title VI centers nationwide. Our commitment to presenting the broadest array of perspectives at the highest quality is well-known, and we must continue our efforts to help put out the firestorm around Title VI by demonstrating the openness and diversity of international programs at UCLA.

Amid all the post-9/11 tensions, the commitment of UCLA students to becoming global citizens has been remarkable. The numbers of students participating in UC’s Education Abroad Program and in UCLA’s international Travel Study programs have both increased by almost 50% since 2001. The ranks of undergraduates working toward international degrees in the UCLA International Institute have doubled over the same period. These students represent only the tip of the large and expanding student population dedicated to understanding more about the world. Their interest, coupled with the excellence of our faculty and its international expertise, positions UCLA to be a global leader in the future of international education.

But we cannot rest on our laurels. The International Institute is currently working with the Academic Senate to create a global studies undergraduate degree that will equip students with the skills to understand and shape their world — not only by taking classes in Westwood, but also by studying, living and working in other countries. In so doing, we are forging new links with universities and overseas governments to foster a freer and stronger flow of ideas, cultures and people that will be the connective tissue of peace, prosperity and freedom in the 21st century.


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