Alexandra Lowe Lees on
Monday, October 20, 2014
On Monday, September 22, 2014, His Majesty the King of Spain began his first official visit to the United States since his proclamation to the throne in June. We were honored and thrilled King Felipe selected the Institute of International Education (IIE) to be his first U.S. public appearance to speak with a select audience, including many U.S. and Spanish students and alumni from the U.S. Department of State’s Fulbright Program. The event focused on academic exchange and collaboration between Spain and the United States and the critical role of international education in addressing world challenges.
Three weeks before IIE's fall Generation Study Abroad commitment deadline, I packed a suitcase full of newly released IIENetworker magazines and flew back to Oregon, my home state. My destination was Idealist.org headquarters in Portland, where PDX Abroad had gathered 26 higher education professionals from Oregon and Washington to hold a Generation Study Abroad Think Tank. The event, which was modeled after IIE's March 2014 roundtable discussion titled "What Will it Take To Double Study Abroad?" was the first such event organized spontaneously.
Htoo Htoo Wah is the head of the English Department at the Myanmar Institute of Theology, a leading Christian higher education institution in Myanmar. After spending four intense weeks as a visiting scholar at Northern Arizona University, he had a moment to reflect on his experience of U.S. higher education.
In the middle of June, when the team at the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund realized we were facing a third Iraq emergency—as well as requests for help from scholars in many other parts of the world—Senator Leahy of Vermont reminded us why we do this work. He told the story of a man walking along a beach where many starfish had washed ashore. The man was picking them up one by one and tossing them back into the ocean. A passerby noted that there were many hundreds and that the effort was pretty much futile. “Not to the one I just managed to throw back,” replied the man.
In an op-ed in the New York Times about the ‘world’s coolest places,’ columnist Nick Kristof writes that "travel can also be an education, a step toward empathy and international understanding." At IIE, we couldn't agree more. In fact, this was one of the most important factors that led to the establishment of IIE in 1919.
Last month, the President of Brazil announced that the Federal Government would provide an additional 100,000 scholarships for Brazilian undergraduates to participate in the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, which enables them to study during their junior year in the United States and other countries. Currently over 80,000 students are participating in the program. The announcement means that by 2018, some 200,000 will have had the chance to learn another language and study and intern in relevant fields for the country's employment needs.
The reception for Spain's new king, Fulbright and Georgetown alumnus Felipe VI, involved a very long receiving line at the Palace. Besides the setting, which is magnificent and historic, it was the modest event it was proclaimed to be. The guests were divided into a number of immense waiting rooms filled with friends, diplomats, ministers, and military leaders. I am sure there were other Americans, but none that I could see or hear.
Our team has great commitment to the important mission of international education, in-depth understanding of global primary and secondary education, and most importantly, incredible passion for the professional development of K-12 educators.
Recently, it was my privilege to join IIE colleagues Mark Lazar and Daria Housman to attend the graduation of New York University Abu Dhabi's first class. Our Trustee John Sexton had the vision to transform NYU into a global network university offering the opportunity for teaching and research to be conducted on a truly global scale and practically without boundaries, geographic or disciplinary. Generous financial support was available. The one thing NYU needed most to succeed was top students willing to be the first class in Abu Dhabi, and this is what our team helped to find. 50+ different countries were represented in the graduating class.
There are many things I enjoy about my role as the Director of the Global Teacher Programs Division at IIE, but my absolute favorite activity is to notify candidates when they are selected to study, travel, or teach abroad on one of the many IIE-administered professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers.