On Friday I signed on to a petition of academics who are against the Trump administration’s executive order on immigration. As of this afternoon—it’s Sunday as I write this—my name has not shown up on the petition, which I take as a good sign. With thousands of signatures flooding in, it will take the volunteers a good amount of time to make certain that all the signatories have valid appointments at colleges and universities.
Over the past decade the percentage of international students enrolled in my classes has increased on a yearly basis. The advantages of this are numerous, not the least of which is an increase in diverse perspectives in classroom discussions, which benefits all my students. Additionally, it increases my university’s ability to be more selective in terms of our admissions because we draw on a deeper pool of candidates. Ultimately, a more talented pool of students helps my university accomplish its mission, our effort to build a more just, humane and sustainable world.
I like the fact that many of my students have returned to their home countries in the developing world where they are able to make significant contributions regarding environmental issues because of something they may have learned in my class. I invest a great deal in my students, and it’s good to know that this investment doesn’t stop at the border. I became an educator to help change the world, not merely to enrich my countrymen.
By and large, the international students I’ve taught have been among the hardest working, most appreciative students in my classes. They tend not to come to college with a sense of entitlement; few if any are here to join fraternities and bask in the party scene. Most are succeeding despite studying in a second language within a strange and distracting culture, and I deeply respect their efforts.
Having earned my PhD abroad, and having conducted my doctoral research in a country other than the country where I was studying, I have a unique appreciation of how higher education has become globalized. I can’t imagine what would have happened to my own studies had Scotland suddenly decided to cancel my visa, of if Mexico had decided that I could no longer research within its sovereign borders.
Knowledge doesn’t stop at the borders; nor should the pursuit of knowledge. That’s why I signed.
Journal of Natural Hist. Ed.
Natural History Institute
Center for Humans & Nature