October 9, 2008
Vol. 28 No. 2

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    International students at Harris add to its dynamic environment, offer new perspectives on policy

    By Sarah Galer
    News Office

    Photo by Lloyd DeGrane

    Russian native Viktoria Strokova, who is working toward her master’s degree in Public Policy (left), discusses the Committee on International Affairs and Public Policy with two students during Orientation at the Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy Studies. Strokova’s captive audience, Miguel Verzbolovskis from Panama and Hirotoshi Maehara from Japan, both expect to earn their master’s degrees in Public Policy in 2010.

    The Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy Studies has consistently welcomed more than a quarter of its students from abroad. And the number of countries represented has risen an impressive 40 percent from just three years ago.

    “We are clearly becoming known, and desired, by a broader international pool,” said Ellen Cohen, Dean of Students in the Harris School.

    Historically, much of the Harris School’s international enrollment came from Latin America as well as China, South Korea and Japan, three of the top places of origin for foreign students, in general, for U.S. schools of higher education.

    The school’s new wave of international enrollment is serving to enhance the experiences of all of its students. Susan Mayer, Dean of the Harris School, said, “It creates a dynamic and stimulating environment in which all students hear new ideas about solving policy problems and new points of view about the implications of American policies around the world, and about how policies of other countries are viewed in the United States.”

    Wladimir Zanoni, a Ph.D. student from Venezuela, praised the make up of the student body, saying, “The experience has more than exceeded my expectations. I think that a great deal of knowledge comes from the pure interaction with my classmates. I have friends from about 20 countries I never thought I would have.”

    Zanoni explained his Harris School choice: “My country is currently experiencing one of the most important political crises in its contemporary history. I could not find answers in the current academic curricula in Venezuelan universities regarding how to build up the rule of law, democratic institutions and a modern economy.”

    Cohen attributes the diversification of the student body to the creation of the Dean’s International Council, which was inaugurated in May 2005, and other recruiting and outreach efforts. The DIC is a prestigious group of U.S. and international experts that meets twice a year—including next month in New Delhi, India—and serves as a guide to the Harris School for international issues.

    “The DIC has been an instrumental force in helping the Harris School become a global player,” said Raja Kamal, Associate Dean for Resource Development. “With the assistance of many DIC members, we now have students from 27 countries. A sharp increase occurred in recruitment from the Middle East. This year, we have students from Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Qatar and the West Bank.”

    Dean of Students Cohen estimates that three-quarters of international students return to their home countries after completing their degrees, while many others choose to work for international organizations.

    Ali Anwerzada, a Master’s student who was one of five Pakistani Fulbright scholars to join the Harris School last year, plans to return to Pakistan. “I am keen to find private solutions to resolve public issues like lack of education, housing, cleaner water, etc.”

    Arianna Zanolini, a Ph.D. student from Italy, said she hopes to work in an international organization focused on applied research for public policy in developing countries.

    “Our students,” Mayer said, “learn the skills necessary to design, implement and evaluate policies —wherever they are needed— and they gain the open-minded perspective to allow them not to have partisan approaches to serious problems, and not to imagine that government policies can solve all problems. International students learn more about the American context than they might learn in their own country, and U.S. students learn more about the rest of the world than they would if they were in a program with fewer students from around the world.”