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UT Arlington International Week Grand Opening Ceremony

April 6, 2015

Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen, to the 38th annual International Week at The University of Texas at Arlington. It’s a pleasure to be here with you to celebrate one of the longest-standing traditions at this great University.

Initiated in 1978, International Week has grown both in stature and reputation with the Parade of Banners serving not just as the inauguration of the events, but as a symbol of the global nature of the University of Texas at Arlington.   

Let me at the outset thank the organizing committee, the International Student Organization, and all of the other staff members and individuals who have been involved in planning the week’s activities – from the food festival to the fashion show, from visits with Arlington school children to a soccer tournament and the Global Extravaganza. Please join me in recognizing them for their efforts.

Let me emphasize upfront that words from a stage pale in comparison to the unity that I see in front of me – banners, costumes, and smiling faces representing distant corners of the world. Each of you brings an international dimension to the University, and this is even more appropriate this year as we start to implement our new strategic plan, “Bold Solutions | Global Impact.”

And how fitting that the theme this year is “Small Pieces – Big Picture” since our institution is a shining example of the two-way flow of people and knowledge – from international destinations to UTA and from UTA to countries across the globe.

We are home to students from every state in the U.S. and over 100 countries across the globe, the base for numerous innovative and leading programs that we offer internationally. When students make the decision to attend a University outside of their home country, they make an incredible personal commitment that will change their lives. They leave their homes, their zones of comfort, and their friends – but they arrive at another home, making new friendships that last lifetimes.  Lives, points of view, assumptions – are all changed.  We increase our diversity by knowing more and understanding more. More and more, we make our living and live our lives in a global economy.  Having the opportunity to be exposed early in life to a diversity of language, culture, viewpoints, and histories – not to mention cuisine – helps us make those first steps towards being informed and engaged citizens of the world.

Besides being home to a large number of international students, staff and faculty, we have programs for students to study abroad – actually over 500 options in 62 countries, and we offer our programs at various locations across the globe.  As examples our College of Business Administration offers a unique and highly sought after degree in China and our College of Nursing and Health Innovation is offering courses in Central and South America in languages native to those countries. We are an international institution and are growing even more so – providing opportunities for all students to get a global perspective and to get to appreciate and understand different cultures and socio-political systems.

This is exemplified by examples such as of undergraduate student Sylvia Loh, who will be spending the summer conducting research at the University of Taiwan and a group of students working with Professor Nur Yazdani, who will be in Valencia, Spain, working on hazard mitigation of civil infrastructure, and Mariam El-Rayes, who completed a research project in the Dominican Republic focused on the experiences of Haitian refugees and is now following that with an internship in Washington, D.C. with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Our students serve in the Peace Corps as well using their knowledge to create a better world – such as Neil Mosser in Madagascar and Devin Nguyen who will be heading to Ethiopia this May after graduation. 

Words are not sufficient to let you know how proud I am of each of you – you are changing the world, one small piece at a time, each taking a small step toward a global impact, each ensuring that the knowledge gained at UTA is of benefit to others – not just here but across the world. 

We live in a world that faces tremendous challenges that know no national boundaries – poverty and hunger, terrorism, water shortages and the irreparable harm done to our oceans and lakes by industrialization and increasing population, pollution, the escalating global tensions between development and sustainability, the rise of diseases that are resistant to the very medical advances that were once considered to be the means to eradicate them – and of course the previously unthinkable complexities and interdependencies wrought by a global economy in which the bursting of a housing bubble in the United States is felt from New Delhi to London, and from Beijing to Nairobi.

Today, more than ever before, we need to recognize that the key to solving these problems is the understanding that that no one people, no single group or party, no nation by itself – no matter how wealthy or powerful can address all these issues.  The key is the development of an informed and engaged global citizen and education is the foundation to that development.

You, our students represent the future, irrespective of where you were born, or where you grew up.  What matters is at this very point in your lives you are gathered here appreciative of each other’s cultures and traditions, and acknowledging that education and educational activities can indeed transform the world.

While International week on the surface represents a series of events, it also represents something far deeper and profound – the power that you have individually and together to change the world – for the better. 

So as you take part in activities through this week get to know one another better, learn a few words, or more, of another language, understand new customs and cultures, and remember that together there is nothing that you cannot do, no problem that is insurmountable.  Today as we gather on this mall, I am confident that among you are the leaders of tomorrow, leaders that internationally will make this world smaller – and better.

Thank you for being here – and good luck as you commit to transforming us on an international scale.