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Through virtual events, discussions and social media takeovers organized by the Walter Commons for Global Study and Engagement, Conn students celebrated International Education Week by exploring the vast opportunities available to them to engage with global communities and world languages.
The International Education Week initiative is a joint program promoted by both the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education that highlights the benefits and importance of global and cultural education and the exchange of ideas across borders and boundaries.
Global engagement is deeply woven into the curriculum and culture of Conn’s student experience, but the week served as a valuable opportunity for students, staff and faculty to share the academic and social opportunities available to students, particularly during a time when international travel is frozen due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Given the profound challenges facing the world today, from the COVID-19 pandemic to entrenched social injustice to the climate crisis, the value of international education could not be clearer,” said Amy Dooling, director of the Walter Commons and associate dean of global initiatives. “We are so fortunate that the College supports such a robust array of opportunities on and off campus that prepare students to take action on the global issues that matter, and we’re especially fortunate that Conn itself comprises an international community—our exceptional international faculty, staff, and student body, as well as our devoted alumni network around the world— that enriches campus life on a daily basis.”
In addition to study away programs, global learning at Conn takes a variety of forms, and the Walter Commons serves as a vibrant, centrally located resource for students looking to engage in dialogue, connect with students who have similar interests and receive comprehensive support with language learning, including drop-in tutoring sessions and opportunities to join language lunch groups and form structured independent language study groups. Each month, the Commons also hosts an international news hour where students are exposed to news and events from around the world that may not get as much domestic media coverage in America.
In 2018, Conn became a founding member of The New University in Exile Consortium, an initiative that brings foreign scholars to campus to teach, conduct research and write after their work has been threatened or halted by oppressive governments within their home countries. So far, the College has hosted scholars from Syria, India and Turkey who faced violence and incarceration for their academic work at home.
“Our goal for this week was to show students that international education is more than just studying away for a semester during junior year, especially now that the pandemic has disrupted that,” said Reanna Kuzdzal ’21, an anthropology major and linguistics and Chinese double minor who also serves as a Walter Commons Fellow.
“The commitment to creating more globally aware citizens on campus was seen in our events this week, which introduced our Fulbright Language Teaching Assistants and celebrated the successful Summer Language Challenge.”
Ever since the Walter Commons opened in the Spring of 2018, Kuzdzal has described it as “her spot on campus” that represents the destination for all things global at the College. She said one differentiating factor between global learning at Conn and other schools is that the approach certainly promotes travel and immersion in other countries, but still utilizes the wealth of resources on campus and in the local community to help people gain exposure to the world even if they might not have the opportunity to travel abroad.
Lauren O’Leary, coordinator for the Walter Commons, said International Education Week is an effective way to highlight what continues to be a strong aspect of studying at Conn.
“Despite the pandemic, students and faculty at Conn have not stopped engaging globally through a rich curriculum of classes offering global perspectives as well as co-curricular globally focused events and student clubs,” O’Leary said.
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