Changing Education in the Persian Gulf
To the Editor:
The two articles by Zvika Krieger
(“An Academic Building Boom Transforms the Persian Gulf,” The Chronicle, and “Desert Bloom,” The Chronicle Review, both March 28) on the
importation of American university
campuses into the Persian Gulf provided a timely and informative account
of this exciting development in the internationalization of U.S. higher education. There is, however, another form
for this process—a locally sponsored,
totally indigenous university organized
on the American model and developed
to meet American standards.
The best illustration to date of this
model is my former institution, the
American University of Sharjah. AUS
was founded in 1997 by the ruler of
Sharjah, His Highness Sheik Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, who
initially contracted with American
University in Washington to oversee
the management of the institution. It
is now a totally self-governing university with an international board of
trustees, a positive balance in its annual operating budget, and academic
programs that are fully accredited by
the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and ABET Inc.
AUS now has over 4,000 undergraduates representing more than 80
nationalities. Nearly 40 percent come
from countries outside the United
Sharjah is home to some 10 indigenous colleges and universities, including a medical school developed
in consultation with Monash University in Australia and a College of Fine
Arts developed in cooperation with
the Royal Academy in London.
The broad aim of Sheik Dr. Sultan is
to not only equip young men and women
to become intelligent appropriators of
Western knowledge, but restore Arab
Islamic culture so that its members can
once again contribute to the advancement of knowledge in all disciplines.
The stellar performance of AUS’s alumni in graduate programs at such institutions as the London School of Economics and Political Science, McGill University, and the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology suggests that this aspiration is not entirely fanciful.
The opening of small branch campuses in the gulf by American universities represents a very significant
development, but it is possible that an
indigenous model promises more pervasive and enduring consequences.
American University of Sharjah
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
To the Editor:
Virginia Commonwealth University boasts one of the top art-and-de-sign schools in the United States. Our
graduate program in sculpture is consistently ranked No. 1 in the country
by U.S. News & World Report, ahead
of second-place Yale University; over
all, Yale’s graduate program in the arts
is ranked second and VCU’s fourth. So
we were astonished to read in Zvika
Krieger’s March 28 Chronicle article
an insulting comment by an anonymous
Yale administrator about our highly
successful design-arts programs.
I’m disappointed that The Chronicle
would publish such an inaccurate and
disrespectful quote, especially given
that VCU was the first U.S. university recruited by the Qatar Foundation
for Education City. Further, I am surprised that The Chronicle excluded
VCU except for the slight. VCU’s program has been established in the gulf
longer than any other U.S. university
mentioned in the article.
RICHARD E. TOSCAN
Vice Provost for International Affairs
School of the Arts
Virginia Commonwealth University
for Education Abroad
To the Editor:
Talya Zemach-Bersin’s “American
Students Abroad Can’t Be ‘Global
Citizens’” (The Chronicle, March 7)
made a number of good points about
American students abroad, but I also
saw the essay as a dangerous and
sweeping generalization of all American study-abroad students and programs. Zemach-Bersin is attempting
to speak for thousands of students who
did not in fact share her displeasure
with their study-abroad experience
and who did feel like global citizens.
I know because not only am I one of
them, but I now work in the international-education department of a higher-education institution because I feel
so passionate about the importance of
More important, however, her article
reinforced for me the unnerving trend
of students’ not taking responsibility
for their own educational experiences.
Zemach-Bersin calls for a more “
cross-culturally immersed” curriculum for
study-abroad programs, but she fails
to mention that in studying abroad, one
main idea is that students should learn
how to gain independence, confidence,
and new perspectives by discovering
the present situation of their foreign location on their own, through experience
and interaction with the local people.
Study and travel abroad is like anything else in life: You get out of it what
you put into it. My studies abroad
were in Spain, which admittedly is
a developed Western nation that is
much less exotic than the adventures
that Zemach-Bersin described. I was
able to easily assimilate into Spanish
culture, but the international dialogue
between local peoples everywhere and
foreign students is ongoing; students
simply need to go out of their comfort
zones, find it, and join the conversation. I had to work a little harder to
really see what it was like to be an
everyday Spaniard, instead of an everyday American in Spain. That work
paid off and allowed me to have a life-changing, perspective-shattering experience as a student abroad.
Zemach-Bersin calls for curriculum
changes and criticizes American study-abroad programs, yet she didn’t need
a classroom to learn what she did to
write about the state of the people with
whom she lived. Although she was disappointed with what she learned in her
classes while abroad—because preliminary expectations set by her program
and university were not met—she
learned one of the most valuable things
you can learn from international education: that we Americans often leave
global oppression and our role in that
oppression out of many dialogues.
In fact, she learned this so well from
her experience abroad that she was
able to write a lengthy account of what
she learned for The Chronicle. So was
this experience a complete disappointment? It’s all a matter of perspective.
As unhappy as she sounds, it seems
Zemach-Bersin gained plenty of global understanding. Yet she was still disappointed that not more was done for
her to “develop a greater awareness of
the world beyond American borders.”
One thing I learned about Americans
while I was abroad, which Zemach-Bersin reinforces in her essay, is that
we often don’t take responsibility for
making our own experiences. International education can get you abroad,
but it is up to the students to get themselves their own global citizenship.
International Education Program
Lake Tahoe Community College
South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
How to Serve
To the Editor:
I would like to congratulate Margarita Mooney and Deborah Rivas-Drake
for their fine research regarding Latino students (“Colleges Need to Recognize, and Serve, the 3 Kinds of Latino
Students,” The Chronicle, March 28).
Their research clearly outlined many
of the issues that I have noticed over a
decade of advising Latino undergraduates at Dartmouth College.
Their findings are also tied to how
faculty members, deans, and advisers
strategize to maximize the experience
and potential of our students. Many
colleges, Dartmouth included, often
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view student-support services from the
outlook of much quantitative research
on the achievement gap between majority students and students of color,
but this tells only a part of the story.
The qualitative work also provides insight into the many worlds of students,
and how their individual backgrounds
make their path in undergraduate life
The Latino student experience is
one of the most diverse among student
groups. Taking this into consideration,
advisers should promote confidence
based on individual needs, academic
interests, and flexibility.
Many student advisers and program
coordinators spend a considerable
amount of time analyzing why certain
academic-assistance programs may
not work, and exploring ways to reach
more students. But pushing these initiatives may promote the stereotype
that students of color require our assistance, and that their preparation for
a competitive academic environment
falls short. Instead, having resources
available as needed, and demonstrat-
ing how past groups of undergraduates
have improved their academic standing and career preparation by using
available advising, may promote self-advocacy.
A holistic approach should apply to
our work with Latino undergraduates.
With that said, Mooney and Rivas-Drake emphasize the fact that campus
climate is also a factor. Students benefit from a campus environment that is
inclusive, validates their experiences,
and promotes flexibility in their intellectual and social development. In addition, hiring faculty members, deans,
and student advisers who have mastered cultural versatility and social
intelligence—and teaching students
these skills as well—can bring us closer to creating an environment where
students are empowered and can grow
through experiential learning.
ALEXANDER B. HERNáNDEZ-SIEGEL
Assistant Dean of Student Life
Adviser to Latino/Hispanic Students
Office of Pluralism and Leadership
in the Classroom
To the Editor:
I would like to comment on Robin
Wilson’s “The Public View of Politics
in the Classroom” (The Chronicle,
First, if you combine people who
say that college professors “often”
use their classrooms as a platform for
their political views with those who
say that professors do so “sometimes,”
the percentages in all four regions of
the United States—West, Midwest,
South, and Northeast—are extremely
close: 78 percent, 74 percent, 79 percent, and 78 percent, respectively. So
I don’t think the geographical distinction is all that compelling.
Second, I think that the politicizing
of the classroom on the part of professors has decreased since 1980, when
Ronald Reagan became president and
the political center shifted rightward.
Statistical studies reported by The
Chronicle have shown that a large majority of professors lean to the political left, now as before 1980. But just
as the tone of reporting in the media
has become much less biased to the
left than it used to be, a similar trend
has doubtless taken place in the classroom.
Third, having said that, I find very
important the comments of David
Horowitz and Anne D. Neal, unfortunately buried at the end of the article.
The problem, as he notes, is not that
professors blatantly tell their students
to vote for Barack Obama or Hillary
Clinton. It is often what does not
happen. As she says, “certain topics are
not taught, certain disciplinary perspectives are not covered, and certain
questions can’t be asked.”
TONI VOGEL CAREY
Blue Bell, Pa.
A Better Economy
To the Editor:
Your article “Ohio’s Governor
Presses Plan to Overhaul Higher Education” (The Chronicle, April 4) gets
at one of the most persistent of political myths: that an economy can be
pulled up by increasing the percent-
age of individuals in it who have college degrees.
Gov. Ted Strickland looks at the statistic that only about one in three Ohio
adults has at least an associate degree
and jumps to the conclusion that the
state’s economic fortunes would improve if that percentage could be increased. Alas, this is just another political gimmick that sounds good to
most people and pays off a significant
support constituency, but won’t matter in the slightest. Luring into college
more students who are weak to mediocre—all those who are good to excellent already being there—won’t make
Ohio any more attractive to investors.
Britain has been trying for a decade to boost its economy by producing more college graduates, with the
result that it now has lots of degreed
people doing work previously done by
If Governor Strickland wants to improve Ohio’s economy, he should think
about emulating not Britain but Hong
Kong, with its low taxes and fewer
GEORGE C. LEEF
Vice President for Research
John William Pope Center
for Higher Education Policy
Giving a Talk?
Don’t Read It
To the Editor:
Linda K. Kerber offers several solid
pieces of advice regarding presentations at conferences (“Conference
Rules, Part 2,” Careers, March 21),
but they are mostly the kinds of things
that I would expect college freshmen
to master by the time they finish an introductory public-speaking course.
Instead, what could stand mentioning
is something that Kerber assumes—that
academics will actually read their remarks. Her assumption is probably apt,
as I have seen far too much of this at
conferences. And that troubles me. Why
can’t scholars, who presumably have
some personal investment in their work,
stand in front of an audience and talk
about (not read from) their research?
Here’s a suggestion that Kerber
doesn’t provide. Well before getting
up in front of an audience, simply take
a highlighter to the most important aspects of your paper. At the conference,
talk about those areas, applying the
public-speaking basics Kerber mentions. You’ll probably find yourself
doing less reading, engaging your audience more, and reducing your chances of making the various anxiety-pro-voked mistakes that she describes.
BURTON ST. JOHN III
Assistant Professor of Communication
Old Dominion University
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