The College of William and Mary’s search for a new vice provost for international affairs continued Thursday as Dr. Riall Nolan attended an open forum in the Wren Building’s Great Hall.
While the College’s creation of the new position could raise its profile among international institutions, Nolan, who most recently served as associate provost and dean of international programs at Purdue University, said that current students’s exposure to foreign cultures would become imperative.
“We are now at the point where important choices must be made, and we need graduates who are capable of making those decisions,” Nolan said.
To be able to make those decisions, Nolan said that students would need to become familiar with what he called “T-shaped” qualifications, which involve coordinating necessary skills with uncommon environments. According to Nolan, these qualifications would help American students transpose their abilities to a worldwide stage.
“You know how to build a bridge over the Wabash River, but do you know how to do that in the Central African Republic?” he said.
Repeating a common theme among the candidates, Nolan said that internationalization is necessary for the College to reach the level of elite institutions, while those universities that are left behind will see internationalization as something extraneous.
“I think it was Sen. [Daniel Patrick] Moynihan (D-N.Y.) who once said, ‘The person who knows one country knows no country,’” Nolan said.
Nolan cited Michigan State University as an American university that is succeeding in certain aspects of internationalization, but said that the College’s focus on liberal arts education puts it in a unique position that could be attractive on an international level.
“William and Mary seems ideally situated to succeed in international education,” he said. “We have the superb opportunity to lead the field.”
To achieve these international goals, Nolan said that the College must focus on four key factors: competent, and experienced leadership; support from the administration; enthusiasm and creativity from faculty members; and student involvement.
Nolan praised the involvement and activity of students at the College and said that their interest could help the College join the international stage.
“It’s a mistake to think that students are uninterested in international education,” he said. “They are intensely interested in ‘the other,’ the people beyond the valley.”
Beyond the key factors, Nolan said that the College could utilize four building blocks immediately to foster internationalization on campus: collaboration, connection, intentionality and sustainability.
Ultimately, Nolan said that internationalization would benefit not just universities’ profiles, but students themselves and the projects they undertake worldwide.
“I see universities as shipyards, because we’re building ‘ships,’” Nolan said. “Ships are safe in the harbor, but that’s not what they’re for.”