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Message from the President: The world is our classroom

At the end of February when Chinese equities dropped nearly nine percent in one day and sparked a sell-off that gave Wall Street its seventh-worse single-day loss ever, it brought home the point that economics is a global game.

Tomorrow’s business leaders must be equipped to operate effectively in a global society. Competing in a global marketplace requires language skills and cultural dexterity.

To prepare our graduates to compete globally, Hendrix is enhancing offerings in International Business, International Relations, and Global Studies. We are also providing opportunities for students to experience other cultures and other ways of thinking.

International education makes you good at conceptually reading cross-cultural maps and solving puzzles. These are important skills in a global environment.

The eight students who travel to China this summer with economics and business professors Dr. Keith Berry ’73 and Stephen Kerr ’76 will be developing such skills as they study the impact of Chinese culture on business and entrepreneurship practices. Guided by Shane Nunn ’87, a successful businessman in China, they will visit corporations, factories and markets in Beijing, Shanghai, and elsewhere. During the trip, they will evaluate the feasibility of China-related business plans they are developing now, comparing their business assumptions with the reality they encounter in China.

International travel and service projects, study abroad and cross-cultural experiences all fit neatly under the umbrella of Your Hendrix Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning, the component of the Hendrix curriculum that gives students transcript recognition for completing experiential learning projects. With the Odyssey Program as catalyst, interest in international education is expanding on the Hendrix campus.

Experiencing cultures different from our own is important beyond its impact on business success.

Cross-cultural experiences jar you out of complacency; forcing you to think in different patterns and to be more aware of things that you take for granted – everything from the way you shop to what is polite or impolite. These experiences make you think about your values. If you are never immersed in that “sea of otherness” you experience in another culture then you begin to believe that the world that we create culturally is the way the world is absolutely. By giving students chances to be immersed in other cultures, we help them to create full lives for themselves and to fulfill their own personal odysseys.

International study is also important because our world needs leaders who can reach across cultural divides to solve problems that affect all of us.

Right now, our greatest humanitarian and security challenges are in Africa, where 25 million AIDS orphans are living today. African nations don’t have the resources to deal with this pandemic. We can’t allow conditions to deteriorate and create more failed states like Somalia and Afghanistan, where the government can’t provide security and violence spirals.

Addressing this global problem begins with understanding the cultural and economic forces that brought us to this point.

Three groups of Hendrix students and faculty will be traveling and learning on the African continent this summer. With funding from the Hendrix-Lilly Vocations Initiative, Dr. Anne Goldberg is leading a group of students who will volunteer at an orphanage for AIDS babies in Tanzania. Dr. Carol West and Dr. Allison Shutt are leading another group of students to South Africa, to visit sites they’ve learned about in African history, literature and film classes, and to develop an understanding of the culture and people.

At the end of June, 11 students will travel to Rwanda with me, Provost Robert Entzminger and Dr. Daniel Whelan. We are being lead by David Knight ’73, a member of the Board of Trustees. We will learn how a nation recovering from genocide that claimed more than 1 million lives is rebuilding itself through a process of reconciliation and forgiveness. The students are reading The Bishop of Rwanda by Bishop John Rucyahana in preparation for the trip, which will include a visit to his Sonrise Academy, where Hutu and Tutsi orphans live together. Bishop John will visit Hendrix on April 11 to lead a chapel service on reconciliation and forgiveness; giving students who can’t travel to Africa a chance to expand their worldview.

Every opportunity to connect with other cultures is a chance to build trust and create understanding, which are vital to our success as human beings and to our survival as a species.

Odyssey grants help make international travel and study possible for our students and faculty. Call the Office of Advancement (501-450-1223) to learn more about how your gift to fund the Odyssey Program can help build bridges between cultures.  

J. Timothy Cloyd, Ph.D.

Don't forget to check out President Cloyd’s blog.