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SJU President Leads New York Times Conference Panel on International Students

(Left to right) Dr. Gempesaw, Dr. Goodman, and Dr. Kaler.
Friday, September 12, 2014

Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., president of St. John's University, led a panel examining the ways that international students may help to meet the challenges facing American higher education as part of the fourth annual New York Times “Schools for Tomorrow” Conference.

The discussion, “The Role of the International Student,” took place on Tuesday, September 9, at the Times’s headquarters in New York City. St. John’s sponsored the session, one of 13 panels held during the annual gathering of academic, business, media, and technology leaders examining major issues in education.

The theme of this year’s two-day conference, “Disruptions in the Lecture Hall,” focused on understanding how today’s innovations and challenges—social, economic, political, and technological—are raising questions about the nature of contemporary higher education.

View the panel discussion online.

“More than 20 percent of students studying abroad are pursuing their education in the United States,” Dr. Gempesaw said in his opening remarks. “In order for the United States to continue its leading role in the world economy, educating students from around the globe should be a priority.” He explained the ways American universities benefit from the international student population. “Our domestic students must compete globally today,” he said. “Interacting with international students on our campuses exposes domestic students to broader perspectives and views.”

Dr. Gempesaw was joined on the panel by Allan E. Goodman, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Institute of International Education, and Eric W. Kaler, Ph.D., president of the University of Minnesota.

About 75 percent of international students come to this country using their own funds or through government scholarships, Goodman observed. In New York City alone, international students contribute over a billion dollars to the local economy. According to the Department of Commerce, this makes international education America’s fifth-largest export of services.

“International students can strengthen the US economy through the multiplier effect in the funds they pay in tuition and living expenses,” said Dr. Gempesaw. “Many of these students invest in real estate, purchase vehicles, and join business ventures.”

Today, Goodman added, there are approximately 800,000 international students in the United States, with one in four hailing from China. “A decade ago,” he said, “three-quarters of the international students here were at the graduate level. Now, it’s only about half. This means 50 percent of international students will be here longer and will be better distributed through our universities and community colleges.”

At the University of Minnesota, Kaler noted, international students have been a positive force, and their strengths in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields have motivated domestic students. “Welcoming international students,” he said, “is about providing a world-class education.”  

The panel concluded with a question-and-answer session in which all three panelists expressed concern that currently only 250,000 American students study abroad. “Our country is a nation of immigrants,” Dr. Gempesaw said in his closing remarks. “The world will be a safer and better place if we are able to spread education across the globe.”

Home-page image: (left to right) Kathryn T. Hutchinson, Ph.D., vice president for student affairs, SJU; Rev. Bernard M. Tracey, C.M., executive vice president for mission, SJU; Robert A. Mangione, Ed.D., R.Ph., provost, SJU; Lloyd Backus, advertising manager, the New York Times; Martha Hirst, executive vice president, chief operating officer, and treasurer, SJU; Gerry Marzorati, general manager, conferences, the New York Times; Dr. Goodman; Dr. Kaler; Dr. Gempesaw; Hallie G. Sammartino, Ph.D., vice president for marketing and communications, SJU; Anthony Pacheco, vice president for global programs, SJU; Matthew Pucciarelli, associate vice president, global studies, SJU; Julian Ahye, account manager, the New York Times; Pamela Fairman, Ph.D., director and assistant vice president, The Language Connection, SJU.  

Photos by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for the New York Times “Schools for Tomorrow” Conference.