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Spring 2004 (March 19, 2004)

Citizens of the World

March 19, 2004

In an age of globalization, Carleton is committed to increasing the number of international students on campus

Admire Kuchena '07 decided to enroll at Carleton for many of the same reasons as his classmates. He'd learned a lot from the Carleton Web site, he'd met a graduate who encouraged him to apply, and he wanted to make sure he had the best education possible for his long-term goal of becoming a doctor.

He also had another compelling reason: Kuchena received a full scholarship, the only way the Zimbabwe native could have afforded to attend. "For someone coming from Zimbabwe, American education is very expensive," he says. "It's very hard, if not impossible, to pay for it."

Carleton has a long-standing commitment to educating global citizens—about two-thirds of Carleton students study off-campus. Providing these different cultural perspectives allows for dialogue essential to a liberal arts education. Together, students wrestle with classic issues that have an impact on all people, regardless of background. But until recently, few international students were enrolling at Carleton.

During the '90s, there were never more than eight international students in an entering class. But those numbers have gone up dramatically: In the past two years, 61 international students have enrolled.

One reason for the low numbers prior to 2000 is that many international students require financial aid for most or all of their tuition. But starting under emeritus president Stephen R. Lewis Jr. and continuing with President Robert A. Oden Jr., fund-raising to support more international students has become a higher priority.

"If we're aiming for intercultural competence, intellectual knowledge isn't enough," says Petra Crosby, who was hired in 2000 as Carleton's first director of international student programs. "You have to have a venue where students interact and learn how to resolve conflict. To provide that is great for both domestic and international students."

Expanded financial aid opportunities for international students have helped the effort. A $5 million grant from the Starr Foundation in 1999 provided scholarship opportunities for students from Asia, and several other scholarship programs provide aid to students from other geographic areas. The Starr grant was renewed in 2003. Carleton's reputation has spread by word of mouth largely because of the Starr grant, and many students who don't need financial aid have also now applied.

"We've already got some of the best students in the United States here," says Charlie Cogan '82, also hired in 2000 as the first admissions dean dedicated to international recruitment. "Now we can tap into some of the greatest minds on an international scale."

One of Crosby's goals has been to make international students a "visible element" on campus. Now that there are more international students on campus, she says, there is less polarization between international and domestic students. "Having international students in class adds a new dimension to teaching and classroom discussions," she says. Carleton's cross-cultural studies concentration gives students a chance to study intercultural issues in a formal academic setting.

The challenge now, Cogan says, is to sustain and continue to build the international student program. In last year's admissions pool, Carleton had 500 applications for two Kellogg scholarships. And while the Starr grant has vastly increased Carleton's name recognition and applications from East, South, and Southeast Asia, the College will need to expand financial aid opportunities to reach students in Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, western Asia, and the Middle East.

"The College has wholeheartedly made this an enterprise that everyone buys into," Crosby says. "We can see how much we've moved forward."

-Sarah Maxwell is director of media relations for Carleton.