When I interviewed for the dean’s position in 2005, I felt so strongly about the importance of providing students with international
experiences that I declared every student who enrolled in the college should bring a passport.
That’s never been an official requirement, but it sends a message that studying abroad is a key indicator to measure the success of our college and our students. I credit much of the college’s progress to the vision and passion of David Acker, our associate dean for academic and global programs, who you’ll read more about in this issue.
“Life-changing” is applied to all sorts of situations, but it’s precisely how to describe what happens when student or faculty members use their passports.
When I became dean, I went to Africa. I thought I’d understood hunger and poverty. But to visit people who never have enough food, who are sheltered by sticks and mud, who simply don’t have anything—it’s deeply affecting. Understanding began to replace the incomprehensible. My life was changed.
It was changed in this way, too: I saw our faculty and students working in programs that provide African communities with tools and education to use the tools. I saw people go from abject poverty to the ability to raise their own food and even generate an income. I saw students realizing how change occurs and how to make a difference. They come back home, knowing they’re capable of achieving extraordinary things in their own lives.
They begin to see how interconnected the world is, whether their future is farming in Iowa and exporting what they produce overseas, or working in finance or research for a multinational corporation, or setting up an entrepreneurial business that reaches online customers in farflung lands.
It starts here at Iowa State, with the classroom context, the faculty mentors shaping issues in meaningful ways and the plentiful opportunities to pull out that passport.
By 2018, half our graduating students will have an international experience: That’s our goal. We’ll need the support of alumni and friends to continue to grow study-abroad scholarships and aid. We’ll work diligently to make this a reality for more students.
Endowed Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences