A Global Forum

 

Shelby Davis Explains

  
 

It's late morning and students in the front row of Kenneth Rodman's class on international relations lean forward in their seats as Rodman, the William R. Cotter Distinguished Teaching Professor of Government, lectures about a troubling question: who wins and who loses in an increasingly globalized economy? From their rapt expressions, you might think these students in Waterville had a stake in the fate of developing nations

They do.

The class includes Igor Gnyp '04 from the Ukraine and Andras Rozmer '05 of Hungary. Megha Kapoor '05 is from Indonesia. Justinas Pelenis '05 is from Lithuania and Emma James '05 from New Zealand via India.

It's a world of experience, and the class knows it. So when Karin Shankar '05, a student from India, explains that developing countries that step up export of raw materials may actually punish themselves by depressing the prices they get for their product, everybody listens. They know Shankar's interest is more than academic.

More and more this is the scene at Colby, primarily due to an aggressive recruitment effort. It's also a consequence of an unusual alliance among the College, the United World Colleges (UWC)--a private college preparatory program open to students from all over the world--and a generous donor who has put up millions of dollars to support students at both institutions.

Shelby Davis, founder of a $30-billion mutual fund and money management firm, is a $55-million backer of UWC, this international college preparatory school with 2,000 students from 140 countries on 10 campuses around the world. In 1998 Davis donated $45 million to UWC to fund 100 scholarships for American students. Two years ago Davis and his family, including Andrew Davis '85, a Colby trustee, added a commitment to underwrite up to the full cost of a four-year college education for any graduate of the UWC program admitted to one of five American universities and colleges--Colby, Middlebury and Wellesley colleges, College of the Atlantic, and Princeton University. In the wake of terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Davis also pledged $5 million in matching contributions for general support of United World College, and his funding of college-level scholarships for UWC graduates grew substantially as that program entered its third year.

Colby's ongoing efforts to "bring the world" to campus made it a natural partner for UWC, and Colby's international student population has boomed, the numbers doubling in the past four years, largely because of the Davis-UWC scholarship program.

What Shelby Davis has done is to create a private-sector Fulbright program for kids from all over the world," said Philip Geier, president of the UWC-USA in New Mexico. Geier says that since many UWC graduates come from families with extremely limited incomes, they wouldn't be able to attend UWC in the first place, much less go on to college in the United States, without scholarship support. (International students are not eligible for most financial aid programs at U.S. colleges and universities.)

The Davis financial commitment ought to be a model for other philanthropists and the universities and colleges they support, Geier says. "Shelby Davis wanted to establish these programs, but he also wanted to challenge schools to realize that it's in their own strategic interest to transform themselves. As they've seen at Colby, you can leverage quite a bit of change over a short period of time by bringing these enormously qualified students to small and medium-sized colleges."

After three years in the program there are 67 Davis-UWC scholars at Colby including 29 who started classes this fall. The increasingly international mix has clear benefits for the international students--and their American classmates.

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