By Downing Thomas, Dean of International Programs
This commentary also appeared in the Press-Citizen
At 5:00 p.m. on November 11th, in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber, Joan Kjaer will host a very special edition of WorldCanvass where, in addition to a full program that is free and open to the public, University of Iowa President Sally Mason will present the second annual International Impact Award to Dr. Trudy Huskamp Peterson. Former acting archivist of the United States, founding executive director of the Open Society Archives, and director of archives and records management for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Dr. Peterson’s achievements are of the very highest order. The award recognizes her tenacious commitment, sometimes in the face of intimidation, to the protection and appropriate dissemination of documents that tell truths that some would rather never be told. Through her work, records that have been subject to the ravages of war are given a voice to reveal abuses of power that otherwise may never have come to light.
President Mason will present this award to Dr. Peterson to kick off International Education Week. A joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, International Education Week allows us to recognize and engage in the need for greater global knowledge and understanding. Iowans of all ages recognize the benefits that come from learning about other people and cultures. This week is an opportunity to expand that engagement.
Let me give you a few examples of what members of the University of Iowa community are doing to engage globally. Faculty members from our College of Engineering (Jerry Schnoor and Craig Just) have created a fund that will help more students participate in service-learning trips to Ghana, working on projects related to water sanitation and solar energy. Tom Cook, a professor in the College of Public Health, and Cliff Missen, director of the WiderNet Project in the UI School of Library and Information Science, are working together to create a platform (a “global health campus”) that will allow organizations in the developing world access to crucial health information.
There are also many ways in which you can get involved. If you are student, you can join our Global Buddies program, which connects international and American students right here on campus, or you can participate in one of the many study abroad programs that provide opportunities to study, intern, or volunteer in countries across the globe. As a member of one of the many communities across our state, you could host a student from abroad by connecting with organizations such as Youth for Understanding. There are many things we can do to enrich our own lives and those of others around the world through what we call “citizen diplomacy,” in other words, through people-to-people contact.
At the University of Iowa, we celebrate International Education Week as an opportunity to recognize the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide; to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment; and to attract current and future leaders from abroad to study, learn and develop lifelong connections to Iowa.