International Education at Valparaiso University – An Oral History

“The goal was always to get more students here and get more of our students to go abroad.”

The following stories, edited by Nick Ladeau, offer a portrait of how international education was established and developed at Valparaiso University.

Study Abroad Programs

Saudi Cultural Mission

International Activities at Valpo

Transcript for Study Abroad Programs

We had two study abroad programs that were, I always referred to as, our pillar programs that were started in the spring of 1968 in Cambridge, England, and in Reutlingen, Germany. And those programs averaged about eighteen students a semester until recent years. Along with the Cambridge program, most of our faculty came from Anglia Polytechnic, and before that it was Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology, and it changed names to that, and then now it’s Anglia Ruskin University. Well, I initiated the agreement with Anglia Polytechnic, because I thought it could be a nice alternative to just going for a semester—they could be in Cambridge for the whole year, for two semesters. It also gave our students at the center a chance to take a course there, and that continued, you know, under Anglia, Polytechnic and Anglia Ruskin.

Reutlingen, we have the Tubingen year-long program, primarily for German majors. Everything’s in German. It’s very good, very strong program, linguistically. To go to Reutlingen, initially, you had to take two semesters of German. Enrollment started to taper off, and when Professor John Helms was there, 1990, he/we were trying to do everything we could to get more students to go to Reutlingen. And he proposed that we eliminate the German requirement; they could take German 101 over there. And that’s the way it’s been since. And that made a big difference. There were a lot of kids wanting to go to Reutlingen, but they didn’t have two semesters of German. This way, they could go over there and have a great semester. And the goal was, of course, that they would take the second semester here when they get back, so it would help on campus enrollment as well, and it continued that way.

So those were parallel programs: Anglia, with the Cambridge program, Tubingen, with the Reutlingen center. And with Tubingen, it’s a straight one-on-one exchange; if they send two students, we can send two, but we kept balance sheets so that you didn’t have to send the same number in the same semester, that kind of thing. Worked very well. And we have, we had a similar exchange, we still do, similar exchange program with Kansai, Gaida, in Japan, and Osaka. And that’s continued to go very well, but it’s limited not that many students were, you know, majoring in Japanese, so we usually have two or three there, you know, every year or a semester, or they could stay a whole year, and then we’d have similar number here from there. Those are the main ones.

And then, of course, Puebla, Mexico, we also started an exchange there that started we, initially in ’82, we just sent students there. Well, then my trip down there and talking to their international office, I thought, “Well, it’d be nice if we could have some of your students come here.” So as part of that program, we had developed an exchange, so they could send students here for a year or a semester or a year, and then there was another formula worked out, where then our students that would just go for the semester, would, they wouldn’t charge certain tuition and stuff because they were sending a couple of students here, you know, so it worked out financially, quite well. So that this is the way these things were grown, and the goal was always to get more students here and get more of our students to go abroad to grow both programs in creative ways.

Transcript for Saudi Cultural Mission

The Saudi students were funded by the government. It was the Saudi cultural mission in Washington. DC, which I would visit occasionally, too, as part of the recruiting effort. They would place the students, and they were all funded fully by the Saudi government. So they would get basically a salary. Plus it would pay all their tuition, so they had money to buy cars and and live off campus and do things that most international students couldn’t do. And the students in the United Arab Emirates, same thing, they were, they were primarily from Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, ADNOC, and they had their placement officers at IU Bloomington. That was something that I cultivated, and it grew. And all of a sudden, we had about 80 some UAE students here; the Saudi thing started small, and all of a sudden we had over 100 Saudi students. But the first group of Saudis were with Aramco. Aramco was the Arabian American Oil Company. And in fall when I first started in fall of ’83, I got a call from Texas, which was their main placement office: “Is there any reason you only have three of our students?” And I said, “Well, we can take more if they’re qualified.” And he said, “Well, that’s good news.” And all of a sudden, we had twenty-eight students from Aramco. You know, each semester, increasing the number, and they eventually stopped sending to small schools. They wanted to send them to the larger—they love, they had great experiences at VU, and no problem with that, and the students loved it here—but you know, as you said, Are they from wealthy families? Some of might have been, but it didn’t matter because they were all funded by the government. So, in fact, one of the students from the UAE funded by the government, but he was from the royal family. He had influence and he still does, he’s moved up. He presented me—it’s still in the office—with this dagger and a silver, you know, solid silver, I think, I think it’d be worth quite a lot of money, gave that to me as a gift, you know? And it’s been hanging in different places in the office ever since.

Transcript for International Activities at Valpo

My wife was in Rotary, and one year—2000-2001—she was the president of Rotary. So she would invite me frequently as her guest. So I, you know, I do that, but I didn’t join because I had a lot of things on my plate as it was. So I would answer their call if they wanted me to talk about something or, or find them a student to come and talk to them from this particular country, I would do that kind of stuff. And we would, you know, arrange for students to talk to different schools, elementary and high schools.

We interacted with the, for quite a while, when Wes Meyers was the head of the foreign exchange club at the high school, he wanted to cooperate with Visa and our international office. So I would take group of our international students over to their foreign exchange club—they had a meal, potluck type meal, that their people would bring food for, and our students would come and participate in that and share cultures and do things together. And then in turn, they would sometimes quite often perform at our international dinners. We’d have our students performing from their countries, and we’d have students from the foreign exchange club, do something, you know, and so that brought the high school in a close interaction with our international office and our international students, and it was good for our students.

And we did things with Culver Academy—they have a lot of international students at Culver Academy. They would come to international dinners, all dressed in their uniforms, and bus loads—you know, as many as they, you know, as many tickets as they could easily… about 20, 25… for whatever international dinners—they would come. So there was lots of attempts to do outreach to the schools, to clubs, like Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, you know, all these clubs, churches. And I think we had and have good relations with the community, and they’ve always admired, you know, international activities at Valparaiso University, and the international students and scholars at Valpo.

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