Simon Award Profiles: Juniata College


The following is an excerpt from the Internationalizing the Campus 2012 report. Juniata College is featured in the report along with other institutions that were given the 2012 Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization.

An Engaged Faculty

Juniata CollegeAlmost half the class of 2011 studied abroad, many on the 20 education abroad courses led by Juniata professors. Juniata has exchange partners in 19 countries. “Our success at this didn’t start at the top,” said Provost James Lasko. “Faculty who had international contacts were largely responsible for this exchange model. Sometimes administrators just have to know when to get out of the way and give your people a little latitude to run with a good idea.” Cushman, the dean of international education and associate professor of German, said, “Faculty involvement and engagement really are the heart of our international programs. Faculty members go above and beyond. Every time my office takes a step, it’s in conjunction with faculty.”

Juniata has 102 full-time and 48 part-time faculty, and each student has two academic advisers, one for their Program of Emphasis (POE)—Juniata’s interdisciplinary alternative to majors—and another from a second discipline to offer a different perspective. The advice includes strong encouragement to study abroad.

Most students choose straightforward business, science, and humanities concentrations, but three in 10 chart new pathways to their bachelor’s degrees. Brianne Rowan, 22, from Port Townsend, Washington, fashioned her POE around global health issues. She spent three summers doing volunteer work in Thailand with a humanitarian group from her hometown, spent junior year abroad in Lille, France, and twice went on two-week service trips with Juniata’s Habitat for Humanity chapter to build homes for the poor in Yerevan, Armenia, and in El Salvador.

Megan Russell, 22, a senior from Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, and a Habitat for Humanity leader, learned on Nagengast’s 2011 trip to The Gambia that “things do not always go as planned. Sometimes a pipe breaks in your room or scorpions are chasing you around, but it’s all part of the experience.” The aspiring physical therapist came back from Gambia and organized a fundraiser to buy solar panels for a rural hospital.

Growing Pains and Essays on the Radio

There have been growing pains with the rapid climb in international enrollments, especially the spurt in the number of students from China. History professor David Sowell, a former international education director, said, “Our big challenge now is how do we integrate them? We have the Global Village; we have lots and lots of student groups. How do we use programming and those groups to draw students into that intercultural exchange?”

Juniata College2Doug Stiffler, an associate professor of history and East Asia specialist, sees that already happening. When Stiffler and spouse Jingxia Yang, now the Chinese language instructor, came to Juniata in 2002, “there was one student from mainland China and a handful of ethnic Chinese students. It was a pretty homogenous place, albeit with a great commitment to international education,” said Stiffler. “Over five or six years, we saw that number change to 50 Chinese students. For us, it's a wonderful thing.”

The influx has boosted enrollments in Juniata’s Intensive English Program. Instructor Gretchen Ketner, a National Public Radio fan, found an unusual way to help students hone writing skills and adjust to U.S. college life. She assigned them to write “This I Believe” essays for the Penn State public radio station, WPSU. Nearly a dozen have gotten on the air.

Separately, Stiffler did an on-air interview for that station’s “StoryCorps” broadcast with a freshman from Chengdu, China, who wrote in Ketner’s class about his admiration for Lin Zhao, a student leader in Beijing during the Hundred Flowers Movement in 1956 when Mao Zedong briefly encouraged citizens to speak freely. She was imprisoned in 1960, but wrote about freedom and democracy in her letters and diary—some in her own blood—until her execution in 1968. “She’s a real hero,” the business student told Stiffler. “Our government and our school never talk about this…. I want to learn something about America. I want to teach people what is liberty, what is freedom, what we can do in this special time.”

Read the full Internationalizing the Campus 2012 report.

Home page photo courtesy of Juniata College