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It has been 141 years since Gallaudet’s first two international students, Richard Elliot from England and J. Scott Hutton from Canada, graduated in 1869. Since then, the University has become a destination for the education and advancement of deaf people worldwide.

The University has welcomed thousands of people from around the world. It has not shrunk from assuming a leadership role in affairs affecting the lives of people, as evidenced in the large number of international students, lecturers, and visitors Gallaudet has hosted.

In its Open Doors 2010 Report, the Institute of International Education lists a 3 percent increase from the previous year’s report in the number of international students studying in the U.S. For deaf students, Gallaudet University has been and continues to be their point of destination. The number of international students registered at Gallaudet this semester reflects a 4 percent increase from the previous academic year. This year also marks the 11th anniversary of the nation’s observation of International Education Week (IEW).

IEW, held November 15 to 19, was a joint initiative of the United States Department of State and the Department of Education. IEW, according to the Department of State, is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide, preparing U.S. citizens to live, work, and compete in the global economy, and contributing to education reform and education solutions for the U.S. and partner nations. Gallaudet hosted its own IEW activities with the theme of international internship and study abroad opportunities. The Center for International Programs and Services collaborated with the Career Center to present a panel on the theme.

A November 16 panel presented six internship experiences. Benjamin Lewis, a graduate student, spoke eloquently of the value of working abroad. Lewis worked in Japan and New Zealand with the Japanese ASL Signers Society (JASS). JASS collaborates with Gallaudet by sending Japanese students to earn degrees at Gallaudet and hiring Gallaudet graduates to teach in Japan. Undergraduate Serge Okogo talked about his internship in Mali. Working with the U.S. Embassy there, he ran a camp for deaf children and young adults, and prepared a proposal for improving deaf education in the country. Four other students described their work in Saipan, Marshall Islands, and American Samoa. Judy Coryell, director of the Pacific Region Gallaudet University Regional Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, also made remarks about the importance of internships as a pathway to future job opportunities.

The following day included an honor for Gallaudet. At the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C., in the presence of the President’s Chief of Staff, Donald Beil, and Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Lynne Murray, Gallaudet received recognition as one of the top 10 citizen diplomacy programs during the U.S. Summit for Global Citizen Diplomacy (read more). Beil and Dr. Murray were joined by several others working in international development and study abroad: faculty members Madan Vashishta, Amy Wilson, and Barbara White; CIPS Director Asiah Mason and International Student and Global Education Specialist Larry Musa; and graduate student Leah Maxson.

Another presentation on November 18 looked at the challenges faced by deaf communities abroad. Arjun Shrestha from Nepal, a college student and teacher of deaf students, spoke on the concerns and possibilities faced by deaf people in his country. Artist and dancer Tracey Chomondeley discussed efforts to uplift and empower deaf people in Guyana. The presentation was followed by a Taste of the World reception offering food from Sri Lanka.

The week ended with a presentation by Shannon Galpin, president and chief operating officer of the organization Mountain2Mountain. Galpin was the inspiration behind the Panjshir Tour bike ride in October. Gallaudet raised funds from 19 riders and numerous other donors to assist with Mountain2Mountain’s goal of building a center for the deaf community in Afghanistan. Using a photo slide show, Galpin told the story of a war-torn country short on human rights and civil liberties, but with the potential to become a place where women are empowered and the deaf community thrives.

According to Dr. Wilson, director of the Master’s in International Development Program, the value of international exchange and study abroad cannot be overstated. She said study abroad opportunities afford students the chance to “learn to lead or collaborate with a variety of groups which plan to include people with disabilities in their development projects and programs.” Given the strategic importance of international education and study abroad opportunities to the viability and future growth of the University, Dr. Mason is excited at the recognition Gallaudet has been receiving. She looks forward to sustaining and expanding opportunities for students to study and work both in the U.S. and abroad.

–Larry Musa, International Student and Global Education Specialist, CIPS

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