Colby has gone global with help from Davis United World College program. But what comes next?

By Gerry Boyle '78
Illustrations by Robert P. Hernandez


These students then take that privilege out into the world: Jayadev Vadakkanmarveettil ’07 now works for Google, building the Web in Indian languages; Emma James ’04 is an attorney in New York and an alumna trustee; Rodwell Mabaera ’02 is finishing an M.D./Ph.D. program at Dartmouth this spring. Dean Beverage came up with this list off the top of his head, and on it went as he recounted international students’ accomplishments at Colby, in professional and graduate schools, in careers in medicine and law and finance. “We give [international students] a lot, but they have an incredible amount to give to us,” he said. 

Extending the privilege to the top UWC scholars was easier when Colby was one of five, or as Beverage puts it, “the only game in town.” The second phase of the Davis grant included more colleges, and Colby had to gear up its recruiting efforts or be left behind.

Rodwell Mahaera '02
Photo by Joseph Mehling
Rodwell Mabaera ’02, an Oak Scholar from Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, graduates from Dartmouth Medical School this June with an M.D./Ph.D. He concentrated on hematology in medical school and will fulfill his residency at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Colby admissions officers—for the most part Beverage, Director of Admissions Thomas, Cheah, Dory Streett, and Nancy Morrione ’65—visit UWC campuses from New Mexico to Swaziland. In 2009 the department spent about $35,000 on international travel, less than the four-year grant for a single UWC student.

“While you’re developing relations with the United World Colleges, you’re also developing relations with other international schools and the people who work there—face to face,” Thomas said. “That makes a very big difference in the international community.”

Conversations with current and prospective students bear that out. Svein Magnason ’13, from the Faroe Islands, interviewed with Streett at Red Cross Nordic and applied regular decision. “They’re all very nice when they come,” Magnason said, referring to visiting admissions officers. After his acceptance, Streett kept up a steady stream of correspondence, which led him to choose Colby out of the five colleges where he was accepted. “It was the personal attention,” he said. “We really know they read our applications.”

Khoa Thanh Nguyen ’11, from Vietnam, first learned of Colby from his chemistry teacher, Tim Newhouse ’05, at United World College of the Adriatic in Trieste, Italy. Nguyen, an economics and mathematics major, said visits from Beverage and Streett convinced him that Colby “was the place I would grow academically and personally.”

“Colby stood out because Dory was so friendly,” Nguyen said. “And Parker the year before. And Tim Newhouse. I decided that if people are that nice, the College must be a great place to be.”

He hasn’t been disappointed. “I love every day,” he said. But if he didn’t, word would get out.

Facebook and e-mail have helped create an instant network of UWC alumni, most of whom are scattered among prestigious American colleges and universities. Experiences are conveyed back to younger students, who keep them in mind as they watch the procession of college recruiters. “Some say basic things,” said Allen Martinez, a Costa Rican student at the Costa Rica UWC. “You don’t see that much more from the college than you can get from the Internet.”

Martinez gave Streett high marks, though, saying she seemed genuinely interested in the students and actually asked them questions. He had questions, he said, but many were answered by his roommate from last year, Jean-Jacques Ndayisenga, now a Colby first-year. “He seems really, really happy and amazed by the students he’s met at Colby,” Martinez said.

Colby was one of eight U.S. schools to which Martinez applied, he said, and he knows the competition will be tough because several of his classmates also applied. Assuming he’s accepted at more than one, his decision will be based on academic programs and “life preparation.” And, of course, financial aid.

“That will be everything,” Martinez said.

He won’t be the only one mulling the financial aid numbers.

There are hints that other colleges and universities with a strong international profile may be backing away from their international commitment, based on scuttlebutt in admissions circles, Thomas said. In this year’s early-decision round, he said, highly competitive colleges reportedly denied admission to strong UWC candidates they would have snapped up in years past.  But where some may see a financial liability, Thomas sees an opportunity. “We can be in a very strong position if we don’t cut back on our commitment,” he said. “Not cutting back on it is going to create even more distance between us and our peers.”

Students and prospectives agree that Colby’s reputation is strong in the international community, based largely on the educational opportunities and financial aid available—and positive feedback from international students already on Mayflower Hill.

“It’s right up there with the Ivy Leagues in terms of level of preparation,” Martinez said in Costa Rica. “With all of the [UWC scholars] there, we get a chance to know the place from the inside.”

But admissions officers at Colby and other American colleges and universities also are looking at an “internationalized” student body as a possible financial asset in the future. An international atmosphere may be attractive to yet another wave of international students who won’t need financial aid at all.
Asked to identify the emerging trends (plural) in college admissions, Streett said, “China. China is the trend.”

The booming economies in China and India are resulting in increasing numbers of well-to-do families able to pay the full cost of an American education. With the number of high-school-age students in the United States declining, colleges are positioning themselves to take advantage of this new market, Streett said.

Last year she traveled to China twice (once on Colby business, once with a sponsored group trip for American college admissions officers) and was astounded at the “staggering” number of highly qualified students. Colby already is seeing more applications from China, including about 100 in this year’s applicant pool, more than triple the number just three years ago.

Still, admissions officers often are reminded of the countless students around the world who don’t even dare to dream of an education like that offered at Colby. Last year Streett traveled to Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa in Swaziland, which has sent 11 students to Colby since 2003. On the same trip she went to South Africa to speak to students at the African Leadership Academy, a new school in Johannesburg, and at the LEAP Science and Maths School in Langa Township, in Cape Town. Streett calls such visits her “savings bank,” an investment that may pay off someday for a student who comes away inspired.

There had been no procession of American college recruiters in Langa Township, she said. “I told them there are colleges in America interested in you,” Streett said, of her address at school assembly. “They were stunned that someone had come all that way to talk to them.

“You could have heard a pin drop.”

blog comments powered by Disqus


  • On May 25, 2010, Lokesh Todi wrote:
    The Davis Family opened the door for international applicants from UWC to enter Colby, and various testimonials in this magazine over the last 5 years have shown that international students at Colby have enhanced the college's social and academic climate. Although, the new limit on scholarship available through the Davis Scholarship will mean that Colby's financial-aid office will have to commit to a substantial amount of their funds to attract international students, it also provides an opportunity for Colby to show that they are committed to attract bright international student despite the new financial limits. The $10,000 cap of the Davis Scholarship also means that Colby has an opportunity to diversify its international population, so that international students at Colby do not have to come primarily from UWC schools (I was one of the few international students in my year that didn't come from UWC). Colby has made significant progress of enrolling international students. Although, the cap imposed by the new Davis scholarship is a big blow to the admissions office, the Davis fund should not be used as an excuse to significantly lowering the enrollment of International students. I also wanted to mention that it will be great if Colby admits capable full-paying international students. However, Colby cannot limit their population to just international students who can pay to come to Colby, because if it does, Colby will no longer bringing a diverse international student body to the college.