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Morgan looks beyond Baltimore

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Nearly 820,000 international students — a national record — studied at universities in the United States during the 2012-2013 academic year, according to a report released this month by the Institute for International Education. At Morgan State University, we have been working to attract many of these students knowing that today's careers often require a global focus.

Our efforts are now bearing significant fruit. We have well over 400 international students at Morgan this academic year — an all-time high for us. We have students from 63 countries, including China, Brazil, Nepal, Saudi Arabia and various nations in Europe and Africa, and they are adding immeasurably to the diversity on our campus.

Earlier this month, Morgan State University welcomed diplomats from several Caribbean nations for a symposium on the Caribbean Community Secretariat, an agreement between the nations to bolster industry and quality of life for all West Indian citizens. The discussion attracted a varied audience of faculty, staff and students — all interested in international policy from a perspective uncommonly heard on many American college campuses, but a regular part of academic discourse at many historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) like Morgan.

Last month, we hosted South African Ambassador Ibrahim Rasool for a day of dialogue and strategic thinking about the role of the continent of Africa, and South Africa in particular, in becoming a centerpiece in world development efforts. We are now working with the South African Embassy to develop a South African/HBCU Alliance, led by Morgan, that would promote a greater understanding of world sustainability challenges among college students in South Africa and the United States.

Conversations like these are becoming a regular part of Morgan's DNA, as internationalization is now at the center of all that we do and all that we have become as a community of scholars and achievers. We see each member of our campus community contributing impressively to Baltimore's emerging profile as a global port of commerce, research and innovation.

Last year, we welcomed our first students and faculty members from Hubei University in the Wuhan Province in China, the result of an articulation agreement between Morgan and Hubei University. Morgan has similar agreements with universities in Australia, South Africa and Brazil, with each agreement aimed at academic and research-capacity building in key industries like engineering, public health and technology development.

Morgan is proud to serve as the lead institution in the White House's HBCU-Brazil Alliance, a partnership fostered between America's HBCUs and the Brazilian government. The partnership provides opportunities for Brazilian college students to study and learn in the United States and offers cultural exchanges for faculty, students and HBCU administrators to go to Brazil. This semester, we have nearly 50 students on our campus from Brazil, landing Morgan among the top 50 institutions in the United States, and number one among HBCUs, in the enrollment of these students. We also have nearly 50 students on campus this year from Saudi Arabia, and several from Russia.

China's vice premier is expected to announce this week a program sponsored and funded by the Chinese government that would allow many of our students to have an educational and cultural experience in China.

With all of these partnerships and initiatives, Morgan is creating an international imprint. We are helping to cultivate intellectual and creative capacity from an impressive collection of global partners. But we ultimately measure the success of our globalization efforts not simply by the number of students we can enroll or send abroad or by the number of research contributions from international faculty; we measure it by the cheerful interaction of our students within the campus community.

Indeed, several of Morgan's students are now having experiences outside of the United States, and they are increasingly finding themselves within a learning environment on campus that looks more and more like the world in which they will live after college. I have seen tremendous interpersonal growth around cultural competence within the student body as discussions come alive in the classrooms and within social spaces of our campus community.

When our students from Brazil, Nepal, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and elsewhere watched American football for the first time this fall in Hughes Stadium or enjoyed American gospel music for the first time during our Matriculation Convocation, or visited the Baltimore Harbor on the Collegetown Shuttle, we counted ourselves successful.

Simply put, Morgan is becoming a global university and, in the process, is helping Maryland to bridge nations and people from different cultures. And that benefits not only our students and their maturity as professional citizens but also Maryland's standing as a viable partner in a global economy ever growing in new industrial opportunities, and in understanding and appreciating ethnic differences.

David Wilson is president of Morgan State University. His email address is: david.wilson@morgan.edu.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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