As long ago as the 1890s, Ohio Wesleyan University attracted students from South Asia. The flow of students from the subcontinent began as a result of OWU alumni who joined Methodists in establishing schools and other education centers all around the world. Students from South Asia established a Young India Club on the OWU campus in the 1890s.
Well over a century later, Ohio Wesleyan attracts students from throughout the world, with the largest number of international students coming from South Asia. We celebrate the presence of an international student body with students from more than 35 countries. These students bring a magnificent array of diverse cultural heritages, religious traditions, and life experiences, enriching our campus and enhancing the education of students, faculty, and staff.
We speak often of an education that prepares the next generation of moral leaders for a global society. Through The OWU Connection, we challenge students to think big, go global, and get real. The significant presence of international students at OWU helps us establish a laboratory for a global society, making it possible to Go Global right here on campus.
A decade at OWU has given me an appreciation for numerous traditions on this global campus. Among my favorite events each year are Culture Fest and baccalaureate.
Culture Fest is sponsored each spring by Horizons International, a student organization that promotes cross-cultural friendship and understanding. At Culture Fest our students don the attire of their homelands and present various expressions of their native cultures, including music, dance, poetry, and other readings, followed by a buffet dinner featuring the exquisite cuisine of four different global cultures. It is one of the most well-attended events of the year.
Baccalaureate, planned and led by graduating seniors and held on the eve of Commencement, is a celebration of the diversity of the OWU campus. Each year baccalaureate begins with a parade of the nations, with every country represented in the graduating class recognized as a senior carries the nation’s flag to the stage of Gray Chapel.
We live in a time when some in our society question the benefits of a commitment to diversity. We live in a time when nationalism is on the rise around the world, at the expense of the values of cross-cultural friendship and understanding reflected in the longstanding mission of OWU’s Horizons International. We live in a time when some want to make it more difficult, not less difficult, to travel from one nation to another.
When given a choice of learning about and from those whose cultures and traditions are different from one’s own, too many people today choose to isolate themselves in their own cultural cocoons and in their ignorance of the humanity of individuals they view as different. The results can be tragic, even deadly.
I am grateful for the opportunity to spend my days in the midst of a student body composed of young adults eager to learn from one another, and eager to live and study in the midst of people from all around the world. I am grateful for days spent among students who believe in the importance of building bridges, opening doors, crossing borders, and seeking to listen and understand rather than shout and condemn.
I am grateful to witness an academic community that places in leadership students from around the world. In my time at Ohio Wesleyan, our students have elected student body presidents from Pakistan and New Zealand. Students with family heritage in Laos and Slovenia have been elected senior class president. Seniors from Pakistan and Afghanistan have been elected by their classmates to serve as graduating class trustees. It is precisely this kind of environment that forms the next generation of moral leaders for a global society.
In this issue of OWU Magazine you will learn more about what it means to Go Global on the OWU campus as you read the stories of students from Pakistan, the nation that today sends the largest number of international students to Ohio Wesleyan, continuing a regional legacy that dates back more than a century. They enrich our campus, and they help prepare all of our students for lives that will enrich our global society.
Thank you for your support of this diverse, dynamic community and for your encouragement of all those who choose to make OWU their home for four years – and their alma mater for a lifetime.
President, Ohio Wesleyan University