Connections Spanning Continents
Iowa Wesleyan has been welcoming international students since 1891, when Keyroku Miazaki traveled all the way from Tokyo, Japan, to pursue a higher education at our university. That unprecedented occasion started a legacy responsible for affecting great change both far and near.
We watched Clement Isong ’54, who, after earning his bachelor’s degree from Iowa Wesleyan, went on to earn his master’s and doctorate degrees from Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Science, before returning home to life as a respected banker and politician in Nigeria. Isong served as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and was then elected as governor of Cross River State. A strong advocate for education, he received honors for his hard work and principles, and even has the distinction of having his portrait on Nigeria’s highest currency note.
Then there is Wallace D. Loh ’65 L.H.D. ’10, current president of the University of Maryland, who was born in Shanghai, China. He immigrated with his family to Lima, Peru, where he graduated from high school, before making his way to Iowa Wesleyan. His accomplishments in higher education have earned numerous honors and great esteem. He remains dedicated to being active in the community, and serves on the Iowa Wesleyan Board of Trustees.
Through our international graduates, Iowa Wesleyan has been able to touch countless lives on a worldwide basis.
“Our international students have helped link our communities. We are able to show them what life is really like in the United States of America, and in turn, we are able to learn about their cultures and ways of life.” Stated Dr. DeWayne Frazier, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Wesleyan.
According to Dr. Frazier, the team has proposed a business plan on commencing an English as a Second Language Institute. There have also been new efforts underway to increase overall enrollment of international students and further diversify the countries represented on campus.
This year, Iowa Wesleyan is welcoming back Japanese students for the first time in many years, and there will be 20 countries represented on campus.
We’ve opened a dedicated International Office, providing access to a wealth of resources all in one place. Other exciting plans include finding more opportunities for faculty led study abroad, and the development of a cross disciplinary international studies minor. Additionally, we hope to have visiting international faculty from partner foreign institutions.
Mount Pleasant families have a long history of opening their homes to international students, providing them the warmth of home with an American family experience.
Sherril Gibbs, who retired from Iowa Wesleyan after working as a Reference Librarian for 22 years, had a lot of interaction with international students in her daily job duties. When she and her husband moved closer to campus, they became more involved as a family. Sherril recalled, “After moving from the farm to Mt Pleasant in 1999, my husband and I often invited international students to come to our house and started helping in more ways: opening our home during breaks, when students were not allowed to live in dorm, buying a car, my husband even walked a Chinese girl down the aisle for her wedding because her own father could not attend. We ‘adopted’ several students and they became a part of our extended family.” Even though her husband passed away in 2011, Sherril has continued to extend her warm hospitality to international students, and still remains in touch with many of those from the past.
Many others have welcomed international students into their homes and families, too. Iowa Wesleyan alumni and retired Reference Librarian, Paula Sanders has created her own international family over the years, as has Iowa Wesleyan’s Professor Emeritus of Music, Joel Brown—who is well known for holding special dinners and other events, including a highly anticipated annual Halloween party, not to mention his other invaluable contributions to the growth and success of international students.
As Rwandan immigrant, successful professional and Iowa Wesleyan alumni, Bruno Rwayitare ‘08, recently shared of his experience, “Coming to Mount Pleasant was a big culture change. I was fortunate to have people in the community that helped make it feel like home. My father came to visit my first summer and to this day we both still remember those friends and families: my choir teammates who took me to their homes; the piano teacher who inspires me to this day to eat fresh and healthy; my blind communication teacher who made me believe that anything is possible; the librarians—oh! Those librarians—they quickly become your mother figures; the bank teller who opened her home to me; the list is very long. The Mount Pleasant ‘friends and families’ culture empowers students to give a 100% on studies and stress less about holidays planning, summer and winter coping. I am glad I did not land in New York City first. If I had to go back and do it again, I would start in Mount Pleasant.”
This kind of love is our reward and our motivation for making lifelong connections that traverse continents. Iowa Wesleyan Vice President for Enrollment, Nick Boone sums it up perfectly: “How many places can you go and be surrounded with people from 20 plus countries and 26 states while you’re going through your educational process? It’s really cool to be able to surround ourselves this way, especially in such a small, close-knit family community, and we think it’s a great learning experience for everyone.”
Learn more about Iowa Wesleyan’s International Programs at https://www.iw.edu/international-programs/.