The UM Vision Statement reads, “The University of Mississippi aspires to be a preeminent public international research university and a leading force for innovation and opportunity in Mississippi, the United States, and the world.”
To create global citizens, our institution must show that it values global citizenship — not simply say it. Our university not only should ensure that our community is diverse but should also ensure that diverse groups of students feel welcome, appreciated and heard. Creating more opportunities for international student leadership has the potential to propel our university’s social climate to new heights.
The Office of Global Engagement and International Programs has initiatives designed to promote international culture, art and community. International students are celebrated through social events and cultural celebrations such as the International Festival Night or Nepal Night, which is hosted by the Nepalese Students Association.
Since freshman orientation, we have been taught that there is value in being part of the communities that we identify with because those communities nurture and support us throughout the tough time that is college. It is easy to see that international students usually develop deep, quality relationships with each other and other UM students.
The problem is that while it is important to have our own social community, we also value representation of ourselves and our ideas in university leadership. If we do not see this representation, those leading do not give our perspectives needed attention, and our unique perspectives are not given much voice in decision making. Our college campus experience suffers because of this.
As a woman, I get to be a part of the 46% of students on this campus. As an African American, I identify with 13%. But as a person, as a student at the University of Mississippi, I need a community that encompasses more than that. It is important that I also feel comfortable in spaces that are not woman-dominated and that are not predominantly African American. This is true for all of us, and it is even more true for international students, who make up less than 3% of the student body.
How many international students do you know to have leadership positions within ASB or any non-international student program? How do we, as members of this community, lessen the social barriers between the American and international student body at the University of Mississippi?
Everyone has a seat at the table, but not everyone is eating. International students must be given the opportunity to have positions, titles and platforms that they need to influence this campus in a way that the incoming international students may feel a bit more welcome and empowered than those here now. Otherwise, we’re in deep trouble.
Through involving our peers more in leadership, this university would champion an environment accessible to all students and set a model for Mississippi schools to globalize their establishments. I recommend recruiting more international students to Associated Student Body (ASB), in a position that serves to bring more international students into leadership on campus as a whole and allow their ideas to help shape our campus’s culture.
Diversifying leadership to include more international students is a solid step toward cultivating a world-class institution. International student leadership and perspectives could be the key to navigating new spaces for the University of Mississippi. The Flagship University should be sailing global waters.
Yasmine Malone is a junior general studies major from Clarksdale, Mississippi.