International Education Week takes center stage at Baylor

By David McLain


The Center for International Education is sponsoring events this week promoting Baylor’s avenues for international education as part of a larger, national effort.

International Education Week, a joint partnership with the U.S. State Department and the Department of Education, is a week to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.

The event’s theme this year is “Striving for a Healthier Future Worldwide” but Center for International Education director Randy Penson said the federal departments have very little influence over the local Baylor event and the theme does not apply.

“We have an entire week of activities that are primarily informative sessions of study abroads and mission trips,” Penson said.

Baylor will hold 20 informational sessions throughout the week that will range from study abroad opportunities in Europe to mission trips in Kenya.

The Center for International Education has arranged for both Chapel sessions this week to have an international theme.

In addition, each day of the week excluding Wednesday, dining halls will prepare their menus around a specific culture.

On Monday, Collins Dining Hall prepared Indian cuisine; today, Memorial Dining Hall prepares Latin American cuisine; on Thursday, Brooks Dining Hall will provide Italian cuisine; and Friday, Penland Dining Hall will prepare Asian themed cuisine.

This week is not only about opportunities to experience culture away from Waco, but also realizing there is a distinct international culture present within the Baylor student body, Penson said.

“If you can’t study abroad, you can certainly pull up a chair next to an international student and get to know them,” Penson said.

Last year, the Center for International Education did not sponsor the internationally themed week. It was the first time Baylor had not celebrated this week in more than five years.

Penson said past internationally themed weeks were small, but in a few years, the Center for International Education will look up and see the week has opened eyes and accomplished many things.

“International Education Week will be a great event for the Baylor community to realize the richness of our internationalization in the classroom, in sports, in travel, in media and mostly in the relationship we can make with other talented students and faculty from all over the world,” international student relations coordinator Melanie Smith said.

While planning the event this year, Penson said he focused on making the event benefit Baylor and its students.

Penson said he created three teams of faculty members to answer these questions and bring an international week worthy of Baylor.

The teams were divided based on focus, specifically on awareness, curriculum and transformation.

The awareness team focused on creating opportunities for Baylor students to hear about their chances to experience culture abroad.

The curriculum team primarily contacted Baylor alumni with international experience to invite them to return for the week.

The transformation team focused on sharing the stories of current students with the rest of the student body.

“We have a short start on it this year and next spring we will give it a hot wash,” Penson said. “We’ll take our lessons from it and make it better the next time. Keep adding to it and improving it.”

Penson said he hopes in the future this week will give various university departments with internationally focused opportunities an avenue to promote their events.

“People who have different ideas and talents will come be a part of promoting global education during this week,” Penson said. “It will just become what we want it to, become what God wants it to become.”

Penson said that he hopes the week will help Baylor students to see their future occupation from a global perspective.

“We deliberately want lives to transform to be leaders with a global impact,” Penson said.