NEW YORK, May 13, 2013—Institute of International Education (IIE) President Allan Goodman delivered the commencement address at Susquehanna University’s 155th commencement ceremony on May 12, during which many of the 484 graduates wore sashes representing the countries to which they traveled as part of their undergraduate education. In March 2013, IIE had honored Susquehanna with its Andrew Heiskell Award for Internationalizing the Campus.
Susquehanna’s Class of 2013 is a pioneering group, the first to enter the university under a new curriculum that guarantees each student will have a cross-cultural experience followed by post-travel reflection on that transformational experience. To fulfill the university’s Global Opportunities (GO) program, these students traveled more than four million miles to study in 39 different countries on six continents.
“In our global economy, cross-cultural experiences have never been more important,” said Susquehanna University President L. Jay Lemons, addressing the graduates. “You have the broader view because of your travel and immersion in other cultures, and through those experiences you have expanded Susquehanna’s global footprint from Selinsgrove to South Africa, Australia, Central America, Asia and Europe.”
Allan Goodman said the Class of 2013 and the GO program represent something that is “still quite rare.” “Nearly two-thirds of Americans do not even have a passport, and fewer than one percent of our citizens in higher education take the opportunity to study abroad,” Goodman said. When he asked how many graduates had a passport, nearly the entire class raised their hands, prompting the audience to erupt in applause.
“From our earliest vision of what higher education in this country should contain, there was always an element that stressed knowledge and experiences that could only come from engagement with the world beyond the campus,” Goodman added, noting that Susquehanna’s Class of 2013 included Fulbright recipients who will continue studying abroad in the months to come.
To demonstrate the value of cross-cultural experiences, Goodman pointed to a blog post by an academically talented Susquehanna student who struggled with oral comprehension during her semester abroad in Strasbourg, France. After receiving a devastating grade in one of her classes there, a friend told the student that as a French teacher she will likely encounter someone who is struggling as she did. “Before you got this grade, you probably wouldn’t have understood him or her, or been able to help them realize their potential,” the friend said.
“Quite a revelation,” added Goodman. “And indeed, sometimes what you learn abroad is how to serve your community even better at home.” He said he recently met a Fulbright alumnus who teaches in New York’s public school system. The teacher told Goodman that the school’s administration seeks to make students “career ready and college ready.” As a Fulbright alumnus, the teacher realized he needed to add a third requirement—world ready. “This class is surely that,” Goodman concluded.
Goodman was one of three individuals to receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. He was joined by Ambassador Donald C. Leidel, formerly the top U.S. diplomat in Bahrain, and Lucille M. Arthur, widow of 1949 Susquehanna graduate and emeritus board member Douglas E. Arthur.
Before closing his remarks, Lemons told the graduates that, “While GO has taken you all over the world, I hope you have developed a keen sense of the value of being rooted in this community and in this place. The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher said, ‘There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.’
“Members of the Class of 2013, the faculty and I join your parents in saying that we hope we have provided for you both roots and wings. As you prepare to begin a life beyond this hallowed ground, know that your relationship with Susquehanna and its people is a lifelong one to be cultivated and shared. Return to these roots again and again to be both nourished and to nourish others. Use your wings to fly off then to new communities and new opportunities for work and learning, ready and prepared to lead productive, creative and reflective lives of achievement, leadership and service in a diverse and interconnected world.
About the Institute of International Education
The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,200 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad.