Diverse Perspectives Equal Value Added

 

By Stephen Collins '74
 

While groundbreaking international students Mugyenzi Innocent ’13, Jean-Jacques Ndayisenga ’13, and Vichetrath Meas ’13 are excited about the opportunity to study at Colby, they should know that students from the United States value their presence here as well.

“I think [international diversity] is a huge difference in terms of life on campus,” said Sarah Bruce ’10, a member of Colby’s Admissions Committee. Recalling her experience applying to colleges, she said, “When you’re looking at a handful of small, New England, liberal arts schools, you have to pick something that differentiates them, because otherwise they all mush together in your brain, which is exactly what happened. And I actually do remember that one of the things that Colby was strong in was international recruiting and the high percentage of international students here.” Between that and its study-abroad record, “Colby stood out as ... especially strong internationally. That’s something that was very important to me.”

A transfer student, Bruce said she has found lots of opportunities for diverse groups of students to mix on Mayflower Hill. “That’s one of the things I love about Colby. ... You actually have to try to segregate yourself.”

In classrooms, too, the variety of views is welcome. “On tons of levels,” said Dana Professor of Music Steven Saunders, “these students will come at the material from a different perspective.” He is interested to learn how music and its functions are tied together in other cultures and how some cultures have no tradition of written music. “You get a student from Rwanda in a music class and he’s going to hear different things. ... He’ll be able to contribute different things in class.”

Assistant Professor of Education Karen Kusiak ’75 said she appreciates the perspectives that enrich discussions, but also inform her lessons on issues like social class structures in the United States or the roles of local, state, and federal government in public education. Kusiak said she considers beforehand what students may have prior knowledge. “I might not take time to explain what I think is apparent to domestic students if the international students weren’t present,” she noted. But she’s surprised how many students of all backgrounds benefit.

Said Kusiak,  “I think international students in my classes have made me a better teacher.”
 
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