Friday, November 18, 2022
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
An indispensable tool in my arsenal of books during college was my Persian-English dictionary. By the time I made it to my sophomore year at Louisiana State University, the great “translator” was well-worn and in pieces. For hours at night, in a small cubicle in the basement of LSU’s library, I would look up the Persian version of the English words in my textbooks, pencil them above each line and then read “between the English lines” to understand the subject matter. English was a challenge, as was living away from home as an international student. But there was no time to be homesick. Only a relentless onward march now that the opportunity to learn had been provided. And fueled by the natural desire for success and hope for the future, the effort became effortless!
Four decades later, as I write this note on this International Students Day, I reflect on all the fond memories of those trying but hopeful days. Originally established to commemorate the bravery of students in Prague, Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia), who protested against Nazi forces for their right to pursue a college education, today this special day is a time to reflect on the impact of our international students and their contribution to the national and global economy, prosperity, and stability.
International students come to Rolla from around the world to pursue a high-quality S&T education. Currently, nearly 800 international students from 70 different nations across five continents are enrolled at S&T. While the great majority are Ph.D. and master’s students, over 100 are undergraduates, a number that has grown significantly in recent years.
But the trend is not new for this wonderful university. One of our earliest international graduates, Hector Boza, earned his B.S. in mining engineering from this institution in 1911. He later became involved in his homeland of Peru as an engineer and public servant, becoming minister of public works and development, senator, president of the senate, and first vice president of Peru. Dr. Farouk El-Baz, a native of Egypt, earned his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in geology from our university in the early 1960s and later joined NASA’s Apollo space program. Dr. El-Baz used his remote-sensing expertise to help NASA determine the site of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Mariana Rodriguez, a native of Peru, earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from S&T in 1980, returned to her homeland, and helped establish two universities and two technical institutes. Bipin Doshi came to S&T from India and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering. Following a successful career as a research engineer, he purchased Schafer Gear Works in South Bend, Indiana, transforming that company and increasing revenues 30-fold. He and his wife, Linda, also have supported his alma mater, most recently by naming the Doshi Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering.
The trend continues as we enroll our international students of today, who will become our successful alumni of the future. One of our notables is a courageous young woman from Afghanistan who personifies the desire of many international students who come to S&T. Somaya Faruqi was captain of her homeland’s all-female robotics team, widely known as the Afghan Dreamers, when the Taliban banned education for girls beyond the sixth grade. Today, she keeps the dream alive by pursuing her S&T degree.
To celebrate our university’s diverse and inclusive culture, every spring our International Students Club hosts its own celebration of our international students, faculty and staff. In addition, every September, the entire community and people from throughout Missouri visit Rolla for our renowned Celebration of Nations festival.
For over a century, our university has welcomed international students from around the world. Their participation has helped close the cultural and economic gap in our region and the world, resulting in a capable and diverse talent pipeline through education, research, connections to role models and mentors, and internships. By any measure, these educational ambassadors have developed into contributors to the U.S. and world economies, enhanced mutual interests, and contributed to international stability and the spread of democracy.
I know that I speak for many of my contemporaries when I say we are grateful for the opportunity to be challenged, to exceed our potential and to make hope a reality.
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