Westminster Ranks First In Missouri And Fifth Nationally For Diversity Of Student Population
Data released Nov. 12 by the source of comprehensive statistics on international students places Westminster College first among Missouri colleges and universities in the percentage of international students on campus and in a tie for fifth place among all liberal arts colleges in the nation.
According to this new national report, Open Doors 2012, international students make up 16 percent of the total Westminster College enrollment.
Even in comparison with other Missouri colleges and universities that have international students in graduate schools included in their statistics, Westminster still ranks first, followed by Washington University in St. Louis and Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, both at 14 percent.
Among all American liberal arts colleges, Westminster is tied for fifth with Bryn Mawr College for percentage of international enrollment, ahead of other Ivy League schools such as Wellesley College, Middlebury College and Amherst College.
“At Westminster College, we brought the world to Fulton, Missouri,” says Westminster President Dr. George B. Forsythe. “Over the past decade, we have intentionally created a global community consisting of students from almost 70 countries. Meaningful encounters of substantial duration with different cultures broaden students’ perspectives and nurture a deeper understanding of their own culture’s place in the global community.”
In the fall of 2000, Westminster only had 37 international students. By 2011, that number had grown to 163.
President Forsythe stresses that Westminster does much more than many colleges and universities that bring students from around the world to their campuses but fail to immerse domestic and international students in a “true global community built on genuine understanding, mutual respect, common values, and shared goals.”
“International students are integrated into Westminster’s campus life, serving in student government, joining fraternities and sororities, playing on sports teams and enriching the classes with their experiences and perspectives,” says President Forsythe. “For example, several years ago, one of our first-year seminars studied terrorism and the upper class student mentor was from Gaza. His personal experiences brought many of the course concepts to life for U.S. students who had never traveled beyond Missouri.”
Westminster Physical Education Professor Dr. Therese Miller brought international and domestic students enrolled in two of her classes together to learn about each other’s cultures. Students from the two courses worked together to learn about women’s health through a global perspective, enabling them to understand the commonality of health issues while appreciating cultural differences.
Westminster Professor Bill Guinee says international students are a wonderful compliment to his cultural anthropology classes, which study the similarities and differences between the world’s living cultures.
“When I have international students in the class, they frequently contribute by acknowledging that the practices we are studying occur in their cultures,” says Guinee. “This has the effect of taking the topic out of the book and the professor’s lecture and making it real and meaningful for all students. They recognize that the topics they are studying have real impacts on the lives of people that they know.”
At Westminster the largest percentage of international students come from Asia (36%). Other major segments are from Africa (26%) and Europe (21%).
“We believe our graduates are better prepared to thrive in an interconnected world because of this intensive immersion experience,” says President Forsythe. “By opening students’ eyes to the world around them, universities can promote personal growth and practicality and some semblance of job security in an economy that is struggling to provide opportunities for our graduates. Our world is built on these vital connections between nations and cultures.”
The statistics in Open Door 2012 reveal the number of international students at colleges and universities in the U.S. increased by 6 percent in the 2011-2012 academic year, reaching a record high of 764,495 students and contributing $22.7 billion to the American economy.
The growth is largely driven by strong increases in the number of students from China, which has increased by 23 percent.
Findings of the Open Doors report are published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Details of Open Doors 2012 can be found at http://www.iie.org/en/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors/Data.
The IIE is the leading not-for-profit educational and cultural exchange organization in the United States and has conducted an annual statistical survey of international students in the U.S. since 1919.
“Institutions of higher education play a critical role in equipping students with the lifelong skills and perspectives necessary to thrive in an interdependent world,” says Dr. Forsythe. By fully embracing the international experience, institutions recognize how truly connected the world is and they provide a wonderful learning opportunity for students, faculty and communities.”