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Editorial | Island Voices

International education preps UH students for real world


This year’s celebration of International Education Week, now through Friday, resonates with special meaning at the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus, along with the UH system as a whole.

For our 20,000 students, their Manoa experience is an international one, a place where they enjoy a multicultural global experience in a Hawaiian place of learning. To enroll at Manoa is to engage the world — where we all learn from people different than ourselves in a community blessed with a spirit of aloha. Our students take courses to gain global and multicultural perspectives, acquire new language skills, understand and appreciate our native Hawaiian culture, and learn from the many international students who study here.

More than 670,000 international students enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions in 2008-09 — helping the economy by injecting an estimated $17.6 billion. In Hawaii, that share was $111.3 million, and Manoa enrolls approximately 1,700 international degree- seeking students. In addition, currently there are 200 visiting scholars in the UH system, with 90 percent at Manoa. Throughout the year, as many as 400 of these visiting scholars pass through Hawaii.

We also afford students the opportunity to study abroad — with typically more than 550 students per year participating, and we anticipate even more will seek this educational experience. Nationally, more than 260,000 U.S. students studied abroad in 2007-08. The same year saw 30,000 students going to Asia — over a third to China. UH-Manoa has long-term strengths in programs devoted to Asia and the Pacific, certainly including opportunities to learn about China, the world’s emerging economic power, through, for example, the Center for Chinese Studies, National Research Center for East Asia, Confucius Institute, and China-focused degree programs. This equips Manoa graduates to enter the global work force with an international background.

Generous donors also help support experiences abroad. For example, the Nakasone Endowment Fund at our Center for Okinawan Studies — the nation’s only center devoted to studies of Okinawa and the Ryukus — provides opportunities to travel outside Hawaii to research Okinawa-related subjects. The center, opened in 2008, promotes the study and preservation of the rich Okinawan heritage.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has praised UH-Manoa’s "Muslim Societies in Asia" and Pacific Islands programs as examples of "innovative education efforts" in these areas. Manoa will continue to be a leader in research that transcends borders and builds partnerships. For example, Manoa researchers joined other earthquake scientists and experts at an October meeting with Chinese colleagues to focus on new ideas to minimize future earthquake disasters. The Chronicle of Higher Education this year recognized UH-Manoa as one of the top-producing institutions of Fulbright Scholars in the U.S.

The second decade of the new millennium will bring many new global challenges and opportunities, and Manoa is preparing students to successfully meet the future and fulfill the native Hawaiian saying: "By working together, we make progress." Now, more than ever, the Manoa experience is critically important in promoting partnerships with our global ohana, and that requires greater respect and understanding of all cultures.

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