President’s Pen: Spring 2018

Acting President Sonya Stephens at the MHC Shakti Program in 2017. Photo courtesy of MHC Office of Communications

Mount Holyoke College’s first known international student, Susanna Major, came from Canada and graduated in 1843. The first from outside North America, Toshi Miyagawa, was a Chinese citizen who grew up in Japan and graduated in 1893. Since then, we have grown to be a truly global community, with 605 international students comprising 27 percent of the College’s undergraduate population in 2017. While Massachusetts residents account for almost 20 percent of Mount Holyoke’s enrolled students, those on campus this year come from forty-five states and sixty-nine countries.

A recent survey conducted by the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives showed that the faculty also bring a global perspective to the classroom, with more than half conducting research with an international focus, often abroad, 79 percent incorporating global issues into their courses, and 81 percent encouraging classroom discussions that leverage the perspectives of both domestic and international students. Add to this that 68 percent of the Mount Holyoke faculty speaks a language other than English and 78 percent have lived outside the United States for an extended period of time, and you begin to get some sense of how global the Mount Holyoke campus is. As this edition of the Alumnae Quarterly so beautifully illustrates, our alumnae extend this community—and our reputation and reach—worldwide, with almost 3,000 Mount Holyoke alumnae living outside the US in 137 countries (approximately 12 percent of all living alumnae). In a recent video, Telling. Compelling. Propelling., Ariya Lawson ’18 shares that “so much richness comes from who we are and the fabric that makes our community. I think that [Mount Holyoke’s] diversity is what makes it so strong.” Javeria Kella ’19 expresses that being surrounded by so many international students makes learning about global affairs so much more real.

I have been very privileged to see how powerful the global Mount Holyoke educational experience can be and to witness the alumnae network in action.Sonya Stephens

In February, the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives hosted its biennial Global Challenges Conference, with the theme Global-Local Inequalities: Social Change for Sustainable Communities. The event brought together local and global leaders, many of them alumnae, to address social and economic structures, constraints, and opportunities for change, particularly as they relate to food security, the built environment, and educational and income-generating activities for women. The remarkable range and impact of the work of our alumnae is testimony to the value of a liberal education—a Mount Holyoke global education in particular. The networking opportunities the conference provided, as well as the skills workshops, were truly a showcase for what global learning and engagement means.

Whether our students go on to make a difference in public affairs, business and finance, education, the nonprofit world, or as entrepreneurs, the global education they receive at Mount Holyoke shapes an international awareness and a commitment to finding solutions to problems that, in the interconnected and interdependent world in which we now live, we all share. A Mount Holyoke global education also develops ethical reasoning and an understanding that local and national events or policies can have international (and planetary) implications and gives our students an appreciation for and ability to work productively with people of diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The Mount Holyoke experience is strengthened by our network of alumnae around the world—a global community that shares not only a common experience, but these values, as well as a loyalty that is a commitment beyond national boundaries.  

This article appeared in the spring 2018 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.

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