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University wins Paul Simon Award

By : Katie Ellis

Binghamton University’s commitment to international experiences for its students has again received national acclaim with its receipt this week of the inaugural Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization from NAFSA: The Association of International Educators. Bellevue Community College in Washington, Duke University, St. Norbert College in Wisconsin and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill join with Binghamton in receiving the honor. The award indicates “an extraordinary level of achievement in terms of comprehensive international education that extends widely throughout the campus,” said Katharine Krebs, director of International Programs. “There are two fundamental reasons why this is important. First, we have so much to appreciate about societies and people around the world that we would simply lose knowledge and experience without this focus. Secondly, the world confronts terrible problems, so it comes with the fundamental belief that young people can have experiences to foster attitudes that, hopefully, will make them want to cooperate. Our world requires mammoth cooperation.”

Announcement of the award coincides with the release of NAFSA’s report, “Internationalizing the Campus 2004: Profiles of Success at Colleges and University,” which profiles Binghamton as a campus where an international perspective permeates the institutional culture.

“This recognition speaks to the values and commitment of so many people across the campus,” said Krebs. “This recognition is for the work that faculty have done, the commitment that students have made to participate, the student groups that work to promote their cultures, Student Affairs and its work to ensure support for these efforts, the internationalization of the arts on campus, athletics; we only document what everyone else is doing and this is an award in which everyone can take pride.”

The award has special meaning for H. Stephen Straight, vice provost for undergraduate education and international affairs. “Paul Simon’s insights and advocacy had a particularly major influence on my own way of thinking, particularly after the publication of Simon’s 1980 book entitled “The Tongue-Tied American,” which spurred me to become the founding director of Binghamton’s unique, award-winning Languages Across the Curriculum,” he said. “As a result, Binghamton graduates are, I hope, a bit less tongue-tied than most.”

According to NAFSA, Binghamton attributes its success in international education “to recent curricular development in languages, area studies, global studies, the arts and sciences, and the professional schools, which provide many avenues for students to prepare themselves for leadership in a global society.”

Programs like Languages Across the Curriculum (LxC), English Conversation Pairs and the annual International Student Festival are cited as particularly successful at Binghamton. Programs such as these are what Ellen Badger, director of International Student and Scholar Services, calls “embedded in the institution” and “part of the fabric of the community.”

A strong international population on campus also contributes to the global culture the University strives for. With a record 1,229 students from around the globe attending Binghamton, the University is countering a trend. Badger said there are several reasons Binghamton’s international population remains strong. “We are regarded as a welcoming place for international students,” she said. “In addition, a number of departments, as well as undergraduate and graduate admissions, worked very hard to bring in the class. And we are relatively inexpensive and located in a relatively inexpensive place to live. Finally, our students have access to a very good information network and they do their research before making their final decision.”

Earlier this month, Krebs and Badger presented to a packed room at the NAFSA regional conference about what the campus does to warrant the Simon award. “We showcased a range of things we do,” said Krebs. “It’s quite extraordinary how much people admire about what we do, and I’m always amazed at what we really do. We have more going on than most institutions. They’re learning from and inspired by us.”

For Badger, the real joy came at the end of the presentation when a young woman named Heather Binen, who works for the International House in New York City, approached her.

“She was a Binghamton alumna who had received her bachelor’s degree from the School of Management in May 2001,” Badger said. “She studied abroad in Seville, Spain; she participated in Languages Across the Curriculum; she completed an international studies certificate; and she was a winner of the Rosefsky Language and Culture Scholarship — and she didn’t come up to me to brag. She came up to say how proud she was to have graduated from Binghamton and hear about all of the wonderful things taking place since her graduation.

“Heather is a role model for what the University is attempting to accomplish,” said Badger. “She’s taken everything she’s learned and is pursuing a career in international education. It doesn’t get better than that.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08