Internationalizing the Campus: A NAFSA Report

Colby President William "Bro" AdamsAfrican drumming instructor Jordan Messan BenissanColby
Colby News

March 2005

Internationalizing the Campus: A NAFSA Report 

Campus Nomination: Colby College, Waterville, Maine

At Colby, internationalism is engrained in the college's programs and its history:

  • About 70 percent of Colby students spend at least one semester studying abroad as undergraduates. Colby runs programs in France, Ireland, Russia, and Spain, and students may attend any of dozens of other approved programs;
  • Colby's population of international students has grown markedly in recent years to more than 10 percent of the student body. Almost 70 countries are represented;
  • International issues permeate the academic program: in courses applicable to the International Studies major and in many disciplines that are more commonly associated just with American or Western culture and history;
  • Formal programs at Colby include the Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights and the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement;
  • Colby launched the Colby in Caen (France) program in 1970, joined the Associated Kyoto Program (Japan) in 1974, and in 1982 was the first college to offer first-year students an immersion program abroad before they enrolled on campus;
  • More than a hundred courses from a dozen different departments or programs may be applied to the international studies major;
  • Colby's East Asian Studies program, founded in 1967, was one of the earliest of its type and is one of many area-studies programs among Colby's academic offerings;
  • In 1980 Colby was the first American college to divest in South African investments to protest Apartheid (and after the fall of Apartheid was among first institutions to reinvest in South Africa);
  • Colby's financial aid is portable to any approved study abroad program;
  • Colby's first graduate, George Dana Boardman, Class of 1822, went to Burma to work among the Karen people;
  • Colby enrolled its first international student, Gibbon Williams of England, in 1824.

Colby recognizes that students need to be prepared to function in a global economy and to work effectively with people of many races, cultures, and backgrounds, and it strives to prepare students thoroughly for the international world of the 21st century. Historically, Colby has been a leader in internationalism—in its emphasis on study abroad programs, in the international diversity of the student body and faculty, in the way global issues permeate the curriculum, and particularly in the way graduates fan out and make a difference in far-flung corners of the world.

Study Abroad: Each year the Institute of International Education ranks colleges by the number of students who go abroad for international study and experience. Each year Colby shows up near the top of that list. More than two thirds of Colby students study abroad at some point during college. It is not only encouraged; in many majors it is required. Beyond its own programs in France, Ireland, Russia, and Spain, Colby approves study at a number of academically rigorous programs abroad sponsored by other institutions, and students can receive credit for study on every continent except Antarctica.

First-Year Abroad Programs: In 1982 Colby pioneered semester programs abroad for entering first-year students, offering the option of earning a semester of credit under the supervision of a Colby faculty member before arriving on campus. These programs currently are offered in Dijon, France, and Salamanca, Spain.

Wired to the World: Thanks to state-of-the-art information and communications technology, Colby faculty members and students are actively engaged in national and international affairs directly from Mayflower Hill. A new initiative, Colby's Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, includes a strong international component connecting teaching and research with contemporary political, economic, and social issues around the world.

Academic Programs: Among recent academic programs added to the Colby catalogue are African Studies and Italian. They joined a roster of programs including East Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, as well as French, German, Russian, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese language and culture courses. Instruction in other languages, including Arabic and Polish, is available through Colby's award-winning Language Resource Center.

International Student Body: Colby recognizes that the academic program for all students is enriched by the presence of an internationally diverse student body. International students' engagement in class discussions and in the life of the College brings a variety of perspectives and opinions about world events and about life in America, and these perspectives are essential to understanding the world and one's place in it. Each year the International Club produces the popular "International Extravaganza," a showcase for arts and performances from other countries and other cultures. On almost every Friday the club plays host to International Coffee Hour, open to all students and faculty.

Davis UWC Scholars: The United World Colleges (UWC) are a network of 10 two-year secondary schools on five continents dedicated to educating students who come together from all over the world. In 2000, the Shelby Davis family started a scholarship program that pays the calculated financial need to allow students who have completed the UWC program to attend any of five top U.S. undergraduate colleges, Colby among them. Colby currently has almost 100 extremely capable Davis UWC scholars from every corner of the world.

Oak Programs: In recent years, the Oak Foundation has enhanced Colby's global reach and its campus community with several programs. Each year the student body includes Oak Scholars, from Zimbabwe or Denmark or from families anywhere that have suffered torture or political persecution. The foundation has endowed programs to promote interaction among international and American students, and it created the Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights, which brings a human-rights practitioner to campus for one semester each year. Oak Fellows have included activists from Pakistan, The Congo, Colombia, Kosovo, Sudan, and Cambodia, all of whom have risked their lives exposing and combating human-rights abuses in their countries.

Colby and the Peace Corps: For about a decade, the Peace Corps has ranked colleges and universities by the number of alumni serving as volunteers. In 2002, with 22 alums in the field, Colby was ranked number two in the nation on a list of colleges with fewer than 5,000 undergraduates. The year before, Colby ranked third. Peace Corps spokesman James Arena-DeRosa attributed Colby's standing on the list to the College's emphasis on international study and the traditions of volunteering and giving back that are part of Colby's ethos.

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