WKU will dedicate its new “Gateway to the World” — the Honors College/International Center — on Friday (Oct. 23).
The dedication ceremony will begin at 4 p.m. at the facility on Normal Street and will include remarks from WKU President Gary Ransdell; Honors College student Sean Jacobson, a History and Broadcasting major from Louisville; international student Domenicka Mendoza, a Civil Engineering major from Ecuador; and Student Government Association President Jay Todd Richey, a Political Science and Asian Religions and Culture major from Glasgow. The WKU Chorale will perform. Parking will be available in Parking Structure 2. (More: Event parking map; WKU parking/traffic changes; WKU transit changes)
The $22 million, nearly 70,000-square-foot, three-story Honors College/International Center houses WKU’s international and Honors programs in one location and gives them greater visibility on campus.
“This building provides visible evidence that we are a leading American university with international reach,” said Dr. Craig T. Cobane, Executive Director of the Honors College at WKU and Chief International Officer for Global Learning.
In fact, the University’s vision statement is one of the first things visitors see when they enter the facility.
The building houses the Honors College, Office of Scholar Development, Chinese Flagship program, Study Abroad and Global Learning, Office of International Programs, Kentucky Institute for International Studies, International Enrollment Management, International Student Office, Navitas and English as a Second Language International. The building also includes classrooms, study rooms and a thesis defense room.
“It’s a pretty significant public home for our mission of being a leading American university with international reach,” said Raza Tiwana, Chief International Officer for International Enrollment Management. “It’s not just talk. We are doing what our mission states.”
The center provides a one-stop shop for WKU’s international efforts.
WKU’s international student enrollment has grown from 134 students in 1997 to nearly 1,400 this year. And significant growth is expected over the next five years, Tiwana said.
“All international students coming into WKU will come through this facility,” Dr. Cobane said. “And all WKU students who want to have international experiences will pass through this facility.”
The number of WKU students participating in study abroad programs has grown from about 150 in 2002-03 to about 670 in 2013-14. WKU ranked 23rd among the top 40 master’s institutions – and was the only Kentucky public institution listed — in the Open Doors 2014 report for study abroad participation.
Even though study abroad participating is growing, fewer than 5 percent of WKU students will have an international academic experience. That’s why providing international experiences on campus – through interaction with international students or participating in international events like International Year Of program and International Education Week – is so important, Dr. Cobane said.
Nine students from various disciplines are serving as international student diplomats to engage prospective international students and to foster campus outreach along with peer support and integration initiatives for current international students.
“We cannot deny we are living in a global world,” Dr. Cobane said. “For our graduates to be successful in a global context, they must have international experiences. This building will provide the opportunities for students to gain those skills.”
Many of the building’s features are designed to give students an international experience, including 20 international flags at the main entrance; three British-style phone booths with Skype stations; the Passport Bistro, which features a diverse menu with international flair; outdoor seating/gathering areas; and a kitchen and multipurpose room for meals and events.
Other special touches include displays of the national anthems of several countries in their native languages, photos and profiles of WKU’s national/international scholarship recipients and international student diplomats, and red towel photos from student travels abroad.
For students who don’t study abroad, “we can bring the world to them,” Tiwana said. “We give them a global campus. We give them a global classroom setting.”
The building provides a home for the Honors College at WKU, which was established in 2008 as Kentucky’s first independent Honors College. In the past 10 years, Honors enrollment has grown from about 200 students to more than 1,400. The students’ average ACT score has risen from 26 to over 30.
The Honors College – as well as the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science and The Center for Gifted Studies — has been part of WKU’s effort to improve the academic caliber of the entire university over the past decade.
“The goal of the Honors College has always been to do more than attract just the 1,400-plus scholars, but to assist WKU in becoming a destination point for academically motivated students across the Commonwealth and the nation,” Dr. Cobane said.
Thanks to the addition of the Office of Scholar Development, more WKU students are competing for and winning nationally competitive scholarships and are being accepted at top graduate schools across the United States and around the globe, he said. “That’s become a part of our culture now at WKU,” Dr. Cobane said.
Contact: Dr. Craig T. Cobane, (270) 745-2081