Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

The new gold rush

Two weeks ago, former President Jimmy Carter spoke optimistically about the Middle East’s future to a well deserved audience. “It is my dream and hope that some day in my lifetime, and I hope in this year, that we’ll have another breakthrough for Middle East peace,” he said to a crowd of over 1,000 people.

Toward the end of his speech, Carter instilled more optimism in the embracing attendees, saying: “I hope that each of you will ascertain how as individuals you can use your own voice and influence to bring a just peace to the people of the Middle East.”

In the United States, a speech of this magnitude and tenor would be fitting for a college campus. In the Middle East, however, we are inclined to think that this speech was held in front of a select audience of affluent and powerful members of government.

This isn’t the case with Carter’s speech.

It was, in fact, held at perhaps one of the greatest American-educational ideas of the past century: The American University in Cairo.

This university provides high-quality post-secondary education for Egypt and neighboring countries throughout the Middle East. The school is founded on the same liberal arts ideals that many U.S. institutions champion and, also like many U.S. institutions, seeks to give their students a professional education that leads to life-long learning.

Founded in 1919, Charles Watson’s (founder and president for 27 years) mission was to create an English-language university in the Middle East based on the high standards of conduct and scholarship found in the United States.

Specifically, the loftier goal Watson set, which has been perpetually achieved by the university over its 90-year tenure, was to contribute to the intellectual growth of Egypt and produce the future leaders of Egypt and the Middle East.

As a result of the university’s establishment, Egypt has retained much of its intellectual capital (i.e. gifted students and, consequently, advancements thereof), something that seldom happened before 1990, when the school’s enrollment rose from 1,300 to over 4,000.

The American University in Cairo plays a significant role in addressing Egypt’s current social needs. It has also educated the likes of Rania Abduallah, Jordan’s Queen; Haifa Al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia’s only female filmmaker; Director of financial services giant Citigroup (officially the largest company in the world, with $2.2 trillion in assets) Haytham El Mayergi; and Egypt’s First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak.

The American University in Cairo is proof of the potential of American-owned universities abroad that don’t merely serve U.S. students.

With the harnessing of manpower in both India and China, the services and manufacturing industries in the United States are vanishing at an exponentially high rate. There is no feasible way we can retain these industries here in the United States. However, if there’s one aspect of business at which the United States can excel, it’s innovation.

The United States has been the center of innovation in the world for much of the 20th century; it can easily continue this trend through the 21st century if it finds a way to develop the engineers, scientists, scholars, academics and leaders not only at home, but abroad.

Every year, thousands of international students saturate U.S. campuses in search of an American-quality collegiate education. For them, the American dream may not lie in instantaneous wealth, as we so ineptly make it seem, but in an Ivy League education.

Thus, what could be better for the U.S. universities than developing a campus in, say, Nairobi, Kenya or Jakarta, Indonesia? Not only would it be one of the most philanthropic investments a U.S. university could make to a developing nation, but in the end, it would provide intangible returns to the United States in the form of intellectual capital (i.e. innovation), a greater understanding of the region, collaborative leaders and stable countries.

Before proliferating democracy, the United States should propagate its universally-desired college and university education system.

With endowments equaling to the gross domestic product of developing nations, this proliferation of collegiate education can be readily achieved by large, state and private universities.

Small undergraduate institutions like Whitman, however, shouldn’t be counted out. A liberal arts education is unique and the presence of such institutions is necessary among a mass of large universities. Like students here in the United States, foreign students will split while they find their niche in the dichotomy of large school versus small school, inevitably spawning a need for the liberal arts college.

I urge Whitman and like-minded schools to consider the untapped intellectual resources foreign countries can provide to collegiate institutions here at home, not merely in the form of international students, but as potential locations for new colleges and universities.

The discovery of the young, talented minds of tomorrow should not be confined to mining only in the United States, but become a free gold rush that should be held throughout all corners of the globe.

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