Since President Strikwerda assumed the presidency at Elizabethtown College, he has worked diligently to preserve the best characteristics of the College, while identifying areas to evolve and grow. So, it is no surprise in the globalized world in which we all live, that increasing the emphasis on international education is a key objective of Strikwerda’s, and one about which he is quite passionate.
The quest to promote international education is multifaceted, but quite a critical goal of Strikwerda’s, and one which will require several major initiatives. “I believe it is vital for Elizabethtown College to re-double our efforts to help students prepare for an increasingly global world,” Strikwerda said.
Strikwerda is cognizant that there are multiple ways to make that happen and which will reflect the various needs and desires of the student population here. He wants to increase the percentage of students studying abroad—a clear, obvious and measurable way to ensure that students are exposed to other cultures. He also wants to increase the extent of course offerings in foreign languages and international subjects, in addition to increasing the number of international students studying at the College.
The President has certain specific goals in mind: “I hope we can make [the] Chinese language an ongoing subject in the curriculum,” Strikwerda said. He acknowledged that studying other cultures on Etown’s campus complements the goal of sending students off campus to experience them first-hand. Through each method, students’ cultural awareness can be expanded.
A major initiative that Strikwerda is particularly excited about is one which involves the country of Oman. “As Dean of the College of William and Mary, I have had contacts with the Sultanate of Oman, which would like to increase the number of Omani students studying in the U.S., and was helped along by our Ambassador in Residence John Craig, who is the former U.S. Ambassador to Oman,” he said.
Vice President for Enrollment Paul Cramer and Strikwerda have been in contact with the Omani Ministry of Education and the Omani Embassy, and the results so far have been positive. “I’m pleased that Oman is considering sending a group of students to Elizabethtown College next year,” Strikwerda said. Further promoting this synergy, Strikwerda added that, “Ambassador Craig took a group of our faculty and one of our Trustees, Judy Ware, and her husband Paul, to Oman recently on a study trip.”
Strikwerda explained that “Oman is an excellent country for us to partner with since it is one of the most dynamic Middle Eastern countries in terms of promoting education, and it has numerous ties to other countries around the Indian Ocean.” He went on to say that “the new Strategic Plan, I hope, will lead to our exploring how we can form similar partnerships with other countries in Asia, Europe or Latin America.”
Looking ahead, it seems inevitable that there will be a more dynamic, proactive effort to connect students with the minds, hearts, economies, languages and governments of other countries.
Whether students choose to leave and explore, or to stay and welcome international students and engage in more in-depth international studies on campus, the intent and benefit will be the same.