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The Importance of International Exchanges to Dartmouth and to Higher Education in America

Speech by President Carol L. Folt
Beijing Normal University
September 24, 2012


I am deeply honored to receive the award of Honorary Professor from your distinguished university. Thank you.

Dartmouth greatly admires Beijing Normal University. Well before other universities, you had a vision for creating international exchange programs, and you have continued to create a wide array of international opportunities over the last 30 years. As a result, Beijing Normal University enjoys a highly regarded and diverse international presence.

When I first began to learn about Beijing Normal University, I was impressed with its vision and its influence on the lives of Dartmouth students who study here. Dartmouth respects the bond between our schools and looks to see it prosper in years ahead. I also bring regards from retired President James Wright, who visited 10 years ago and also was honored with an honorary professorship. He remembers his visit here with great pleasure.

Dartmouth is proud of its long-standing partnership with you. Our community has been thinking quite a bit about global partnerships as part of our current two-year strategic planning process. We are looking ahead to determine what it will take to ensure Dartmouth continues to provide the best possible educational experience for our students and remains a leading center for discovery and innovation. So it is a pleasure for me to share some of the ideas we at Dartmouth have had around this issue in the recent months of campus-wide discussions.

The beginning of global study programs

Before we look at the future, I would like to take a moment to think about the past. Thirty years ago, Dartmouth and Beijing Normal University established the first partnership between individual American and Chinese universities. It is now also the longest uninterrupted such partnership between our nations.

The individuals from both institutions who put this partnership in place three decades ago were pioneers. They realized how important this connection would be for our institutions and students, and how important international exchanges would be to accomplishing our roles in higher education.

We knew at the time that we were breaking new ground. But even so, we could hardly have imagined how much the world—and our world of university education—would change in the intervening three decades. It has only become obvious over time how truly ahead of their time our two universities were in coming together to form such a fruitful and productive partnership.

Dartmouth's own interest in international study actually began even two decades earlier than the partnership we celebrate today. It began with a man named John Sloan Dickey, who served as Dartmouth's president from 1945 to 1970. Prior to becoming our president, he held several diplomatic posts, including special assistant to U.S. Secretary of State and Director of the State Department's Office of Public Affairs.

When he came to Dartmouth in 1945, he was deeply affected by the war. He believed fervently that the most important thing for young Americans was to get out and experience the world. He felt that increasing cultural appreciation and understanding was the single most effective way to prevent another major world war.

Dickey is well-known at Dartmouth for his quote: "The world's troubles are your troubles ... there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix." He believed that education should prepare students to tackle the world's most pressing problems, and he together with our faculty, introduced study abroad programs to Dartmouth, with the first beginning more than 50 years ago – among the longest in the nation.

Today, our study abroad programs and exchanges provide Dartmouth significant opportunities for global academic engagement for our undergraduates. We have 40 programs in 24 countries, spread over six continents around the world. Sixty percent of our students study abroad, placing Dartmouth among the top 10 universities in the U.S. for study abroad.

A look to the future of global study

A half-century later, Dartmouth sees internationalization as being even more important than ever. To begin, we all know the world is much more connected than it was 30 years ago – unleashing great opportunity. Our students can travel the world with their fingers on a keyboard, or see more people from more different countries as they walk down the streets of Beijing or New York than most people would have seen over a lifetime just a few decades ago. Advances in technology have accelerated the flow of ideas, removed barriers to education, and created unlimited chances for collaboration and sharing of those ideas. Information travels globally as fast as websites reload, and knowledge is growing exponentially.

I began studying biology just after the first sequencing of a little chunk of DNA. Now the entire human genome has been sequenced—and, as President Dong could tell you much about, we are deep into the far more challenging task of figuring out how this molecular machinery works as the blueprint for the building and functioning of our bodies and brains.

The ways we communicate, conduct research, educate students, and share scholarship is changing at a dizzying pace. We are experiencing an explosion of knowledge and new discoveries in every field, and seeing education transformed into a worldwide marketplace of ideas. This has led students and faculty from America to seek more opportunities to study abroad than ever before.

The higher education landscape here in China has changed as well: The number of universities and colleges in China has more than doubled in the past 10 years, to more than 2,000, with more than six million graduates. The number of students enrolled in Chinese universities has increased twentyfold in the last 30 years, and the proportion of college-educated Chinese has nearly increased threefold according to the 2010 census -- rising from 3.61 percent in 2000 to 8.9 percent today. The number of university faculty has more than quadrupled.

China ranks first in the number of nationals studying overseas, and China's undergraduates now represent the fastest-growing group of international students studying globally. Indeed, in 2011, the number of Chinese students pursuing higher education in overseas universities numbered 339,700 and accounted for 14 percent of all the international students studying overseas. This number has doubled in the past ten years.

Moreover, China also has become one of the top study destinations for international students, with inbound international students and scholars rising steadily over the past decade. In 2010, the number of international students in China was more than 265,000 – an all-time high. China seeks to host 500,000 foreign students by 2020.

While this cross-border growth is indeed positive, the world has become even more volatile. We at Dartmouth, like you here today, view these challenges and opportunities as even more reason to increase our international focus. We see this as a special moment in time—moved by winds of profound and lasting change. The greatest challenges, as well as the greatest opportunities, of the coming decade will require the efforts of educated, globally aware, culturally knowledgeable, and technologically skilled partners from across the world. This conviction is a driving force in our strategy for educating our students for the future.

Dartmouth has a number of goals for internationalization that will strengthen further the international perspective of our educational and research programs. I will share five of them today.

First, we want to develop students who always think globally in all the disciplines they pursue so they can be most effective when they leave Dartmouth. This requires taking a deep look at our curriculum across all areas of study to ensure they reflect the scope of international innovation and knowledge.

Here, at Beijing Normal University, you have integrated international exchange into your curriculum in an impressive fashion. The success of this approach can be seen as the outstanding teachers you graduate go on to share with it their students all across China.

Second, Dartmouth remains deeply committed to our international studies and exchanges, and plan to see them grow. When partnerships are forged like the one between Dartmouth and Beijing Normal University, many other wonderful things happen: new knowledge is created, ideas are shared, and we grow to understand each other a little more.

Our students tell us amazing things about their time in China. One student said, "These experiences have and continue to have a profound effect on my life." Another said, "Rarely do we have the ability to completely displace ourselves from the familiar and be forced to dispose of what we know, and begin anew. This experience remains one of the most defining in my education."

For students in any discipline – whether it's in engineering and science or music and the arts – partnerships and programs like these serve to open minds and create inspired, effective leaders with a global perspective.

Some of these leaders – like Dartmouth graduates Timothy Geithner, current US Secretary of the Treasury and Kristen Gillibrand, US Senator for New York, who both studied here at Beijing Normal – have spoken of how important this experience was to them. Many other graduates still work and live here in China. They are deeply integrated and successful members of the community and very articulate ambassadors for study abroad.

You also know from your own international programs, such as the Confucius Institute, the Chinese Language Program, and the Global Internship Program, just how important it is to build and sustain these programs. These relationships are not short-term bets. They take years to develop and much effort to sustain. Our long partnership is a testament to the rich benefits of such care and nurturing.

Third, Dartmouth is working to bring more international students to Dartmouth's campus. In 1982, when our partnership with Beijing Normal University began, 1.5 percent of our student body was international, coming from 22 countries. Today approximately ten percent is international, coming from 143 countries. Our goal is to bring to our campus not only the top scholars in our country, but the top scholars in the world.

Fourth, a number of programs and schools are talking about adding global involvement as a requirement to fulfill prior to graduation.

Fifth, we plan to increase international exchanges and partnerships that build our faculty research – we want to increase faculty opportunities in multi-disciplinary areas that have a high global impact and are international in scope.

The impact of global partnerships on research and education

The last few decades have seen great advances in the growth and strength of universities around the world and partnerships developing among these institutions are bringing us all closer together.

Beijing Normal University has clearly dedicated itself to the goal of wide global outreach. This can be seen by your yearly invitation of more than 300 professors from overseas to teach on your campus, as well as the wide variety of international conferences you host annually, and your cooperative ties to more than 200 universities and organizations worldwide.

Dartmouth too has been developing international coalitions among consortia of institutions to increase chances for shared research with universities from around the world. These relationships have enabled our scholars and researchers to take part in achieving goals that have critical global import but that could not be accomplished alone. I would like to share two examples.

First, colleagues in the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science (TDC) and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth (GSM) have been working closely with the Chinese Ministry of Health. GSM and TDC are both highly influential in the US, known for their leadership in improving the quality of health care while reducing costs.

Last October, I was part of a delegation from Dartmouth that had the privilege of signing an agreement with the Ministry of Health of the People's Republic of China to work together to improve health care in the US and China. The delegation participated in day-long workshops in both Shanghai and Suzhou with our dean of medicine, as well as faculty from across Dartmouth and faculty and practitioners from China. We also held a day-long workshop in the United States that fostered mutual understanding and sparked many new ideas.

Through this partnership we are learning a great deal from our Chinese colleagues about China's approach to health care reform, we are training each other's students, and we know that we will learn a great deal from accomplishments in China and this partnership in the years ahead. It is a 'win-win' situation.

My second example involves the work of Professor Theodore Levin, an ethnomusicologist at Dartmouth who specializes in Central Asian music. He has worked with musicians all over the world to preserve their cultural histories and record their music.

Professor Levin also uses his work to enrich the learning experience of his students, as well as to raise the cultural awareness of the entire Dartmouth community. He has brought musicians with rare talents and instruments from the other side of the world – all the way to Hanover – to perform. These concerts give our students the rare opportunity to hear the heartbeat of other cultures, while also providing an international venue for the musicians' voices to be heard.

Professor Levin's work brings to mind something China's former president Jiang Zemin once said: We must "keep an eye on the general trend of education throughout the world and draw upon the fruits of different civilizations and other countries' good experience."

Global study and the liberal arts

President Zemin's words and the powerful approach your university and Dartmouth take to integrate global perspectives and experiences in our students' lives resonates with the educational philosophy of our undergraduate programs that we call "the liberal arts."

Today, for Dartmouth, our focus on the liberal arts means we want to prepare our students to master an exploding knowledge base, think creatively, adapt to the unknown, and sort through the real-world issues with balance and perspective that comes from broad cultural, historical, humanistic, and scientific perspectives.

Our commitment to the liberal arts is completely tied to our commitment to furthering global partnerships and understanding. It is with a balanced perspective, broad transnational knowledge and global understanding that we think our students will be best prepared to develop their capacity to succeed in the world and influence the course of contemporary history.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Dartmouth's collaboration with Beijing Normal University – making it one of our longest and most cherished programs. We cherish this partnership for many reasons, including its importance to the liberal arts undergraduate education we value.

What began as a group of Dartmouth undergraduates doing on-campus study at your school with one of our most beloved faculty members, Dr. Hua-yuan Mowry – who is here today and still leading this program – has blossomed into a vital partnership between two institutions that share a common view on the importance of educational exchange and international understanding for the future.

Beijing Normal University clearly understands that you must never stand still – that you must continue to adapt. Your focus on deepening Beijing Normal University's global engagement, your commitment to teacher education, and your aspirations for increased excellence in both research and teaching have put you on a path of great accomplishment.

Over the past 30 years, 768 Dartmouth undergraduates have traveled to this campus as part of our Beijing Foreign Study Program and we thank you for welcoming them into your community. Dozens of our graduates have also come to Beijing Normal University to teach English.

Since 1995, we've had the privilege to host eleven visiting professors from your institution at Dartmouth, and eleven Dartmouth professors have also traveled to Beijing Normal University to direct study abroad programs.

Like the thousands of people you have graduated, Dartmouth has benefitted from this focus through our unique and enduring partnership.

Dartmouth's vision for higher education is large, and I know yours is too.

We know that students and faculty from around the world need to collaborate with each other to solve complex challenges, and partnerships such as ours are one of the best ways to accomplish this vision.

We know that by sharing intellectual resources, partners can extend their missions and improve the quality of their teaching and research, as well as extend their influence. These partnerships are critical to our strength and relevance for future generations of students.

China's 2020 Blueprint describes China's intent to create a globally competitive workforce, world-leading innovative talents, internationally renowned flagship disciplines, and world-class universities. We know that Beijing Normal University has an important role to play in this move for your country and the world.

Dartmouth and Beijing Normal University broke new ground 30 years ago when we established the first partnership between an American and Chinese university. Our collaboration embraces the idea that great masterpieces cannot be produced in a vacuum. They are built upon interactions – the sharing of ideas, philosophies, science, humanities, and the arts. Although we may sometimes like to think that as individuals we succeed entirely on our own steam, all our creations and legacies are fundamentally collaborative.

The foresight of those who created this program has been an inspiration to Dartmouth for decades, and it has been a privilege to here today and to celebrate this partnership with all of you.

Thank you.

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Last Updated: 10/5/12