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CWIL hosts 6th annual conference

Katie Kohler | Monday, November 12, 2007

While Saint Mary’s has had study abroad programs for 38 years, a centralized office to oversee international and intercultural learning at Saint Mary’s was only created in 2002.

To raise awareness about abroad programs and international relations, Elaine Meyer-Lee, the director of the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL), and the the rest of the Saint Mary’s community, will host International Education Week.

“International Education Week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education to celebrate and promote a global exchange between the United States and other countries,” Meyer-Lee said.

This year’s events mark the eighth-annual International Education Week across the country and sixth at Saint Mary’s.

“Our observance of International Education Week started in 2002 with our first study-abroad fair for students and has grown every year with additional regular activities and various new ones each year,” Meyer-Lee said.

The various speakers chosen for the events are in coordination with abroad programs in which Saint Mary’s typically participates, Meyer-Lee said.

“One of the speakers is from the National University of Ireland at Maynooth, as part of our celebration of 30 years of partnering with that institution for our Ireland Program,” she said.

Meyer-Lee hopes for a strong turnout at the various events throughout the week; but she recognizes that scheduling can sometimes be troublesome. Certain departments and programs, however, require students to attend some of the events.

“The intercultural learning showcase is required for all students who want to apply for a CWIL grant next semester and the study abroad fair – and pre-departure orientation – draw a lot of students because Saint Mary’s has high rates of participation in abroad programs,” Meyer-Lee said.

“We aim for quality of engagement rather than quantity with any particular event and have intentionally orchestrated a broad range of activities rather than focusing on one major keynote so there is something of interest for everyone,” she added.

While Meyer-Lee hopes for success of the events on campus, she also notes the wider impact of this week and its message.

“International Education Week is an important time to recognize this essential dimension of a liberal education in today’s increasingly interdependent world,” she said. “Saint Mary’s is deeply committed to international programs and over the past five years, we have increased our options from eight programs to 20 and increased our participation to where 41 percent of this year’s graduates had studied abroad.”

But Meyer-Lee is still looking to expand the increasingly popular programs.

“We are committed to continuous quality improvement of these programs and have gained national recognition in the areas of assessment and curricular integration,” she said.”

College president Carol Ann Mooney’s recent strategic plan brought up for approval by the Board of Trustees last month also discussed abroad options. Within that plan, increased global education was a main goal, along with the further strengthening of already existing programs.

“Increasing study abroad participation, international student enrollment and other internationalization of our home campus” are the main components of this facet of the plan,” Meyer-Lee said.

“We look forward to the annual International Education Week each year as a time to celebrate and renew that focus,” Meyer-Lee said.

CWIL fellows and faculty members today will discuss “How CWIL Fellows Address International Education in the Classroom.” There will also be an International Learning Showcase tonight.

On Tuesday, Mary Corcoran from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth will speak about social chance in Ireland. There will also be an Intercultural Living Community Open House in Regina Hall.

Brian Flora, from the U.S. Department of State, will deliver the keynote address Wednesday, called “Representing Your Country Abroad.” He will also speak later that evening on “Careers in International Diplomacy.”

There will be a faculty panel on global poverty on Friday.