International Education celebrates 25 years at St. Thomas

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International Education celebrates 25 years at St. Thomas 

This year celebrates the 25th anniversary of International Education at the University of St. Thomas. To celebrate, about 125 people – including former and current international and study abroad students, as well as St. Thomas faculty and staff – united for a dinner and celebration on Saturday, Sept. 27, in Murray-Herrick Campus Center.

The International Education Center sprang from the Foreign Studies Office at the University of St. Thomas in 1983. Championed by German professor, Dr. Paul Schons (who helped establish the Foreign Studies Office), the International Education Center became a full-time office providing students with the opportunity for international experiences through study abroad and exchange programs.

Schons' love of students, joy of language and culture, and commitment to international educational exchange – along with steadfast patience and perseverance – set the strong foundations for International Education at St. Thomas as it is today, with every student having the opportunity for an international educational experience.

To help celebrate the 25th anniversary of International Education, the Global Citizenship Award was presented to several people who played important roles in the creation of international programs at St. Thomas. The Global Citizenship Award is granted to members of the St. Thomas community who help create a respectful and inclusive climate for a variety of cultures and assist St. Thomas in making connections with the wider world. These most-recent recipients have fulfilled this task by helping to found international relationships and organizations that continue to serve as a vital part of our international climate on campus.

Dr. Charles Keffer, former dean and provost at St. Thomas and a former recipient of the Global Citizenship Award for helping establish the Foreign Studies Office in 1975, returned to St. Thomas to help make this fall's presentations to alumni: Eric Jackman, Aster Laleman, Wilmer Montes and Barbara May Haley, and former and current faculty members: Dr. Mohammed Selim, Father Peter Wang, Hellen Huiying Yin, Dr. Ameeta Jaiswal Dale and Dr. Don Briel.

In the early '80s, when students recognized the need to come together for support and to create a stronger international voice on campus, Jackman, of Trinidad; Laleman, of Belgium; and Montes, of El Salvador, founded the Foreign Student Club. Their appeal to administration for more international student support led to the creation of the Office of International Student Services in 1986.

In 1984, Haley also saw a need to help St. Thomas students with cultural re-entry into the United States after returning from study abroad experiences, so she founded the Study Abroad Returnee Club.

These two organizations paired up to serve both U.S. and international students by uniting them in their common interests, providing them with opportunities to share experiences, and expanding world views for both groups. This combined organization later became known as the Globally Minded Student Association, which today is a major voice for international experience and understanding on campus.

St. Thomas faculty members also have aided in bringing St. Thomas closer to diverse parts of the world by helping connect the university to various schools abroad. Selim helped St. Thomas establish an exchange program with the American University in Cairo (Egypt) in 1984; Wang did the same with Northwest University in Xian, Shaanxi Provence, China, in 1986; Huiying Yin with the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing; Jaiswal Dale with the Franco American Center for International Management in Caen, France, in 1991; and Briel with the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the host of St. Thomas' Catholic Studies semester) in Rome in 1999.