As Stanford students become more concerned with global issues in the post-Sept. 11 world, the University is taking concrete steps to deepen the opportunities available to a more internationally oriented campus.
According to the Registrar's Office, the number of students earning degrees in international relations has jumped by 69 percent in the past three years, from 71 in 1999-2000 to 120 in 2002-2003, making last year's enrollment the highest in at least 10 years. The office predicts as many as 140 students will graduate with degrees in international relations this year.
The inaugurations yesterday of the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and the France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies reflect the increased interest in international education.
"The University is pursuing an emphasis on international education actively," said Keith Baker, director of the France-Stanford Center and cognizant dean for the humanities in the School of Humanities and Sciences. "The opening of these two programs at the same time is not coincidence. It is a part of the broader objectives of the University."
Baker said that there are plans to hire more faculty in international education areas as the University continues to becomes a more international place.
With the France-Stanford Center and the endowment for the Islamic Studies program, Stanford aims to build on existing interdisciplinary efforts.
The opening of two such international programs at the same time reflects the University's long-standing commitment to international education, University President John Hennessy said.
"Since its inception, Stanford has opened its doors to the world, exchanging ideas and research with scholars in other countries," he said.
Hennessy said the Islamic Studies program and the France-Stanford Center is only a part of the University's ongoing efforts at achieving greater internationalism.
"This is only a start of Stanford's collaborations with the rest of the world," he said. "We will be looking at Asia soon. Apart from the traditional commitment to the rest of the world, this new emphasis has been sparked off to a certain extent by 9 / 11. It made people realize the importance of understanding other nations and cultures to help maintain a more peaceful world. Stanford realizes its responsibility in this respect and aims at continuing to work towards greater internationalization on campus."
The Islamic Studies program hopes to increase knowledge about a region that has been discussed more frequently at Western universities since Sept. 11, 2001.
Hennessy said he believes that program will make a significant contribution to Stanford.
"Islam, despite its growing importance in the world, is poorly and inadequately understood in our country," he said. "For achieving Stanford's educational mission into the 21st century, we must expand our program in Islamic studies, and this wonderful gift will help us do exactly that."
Sohaib Abbasi, for whom the program is in part named, wanted to better facilitate the study of Islam at Stanford.
"I feel privileged to participate in the formation of the Islamic Studies Program at Stanford that will foster a better understanding of Islam, Muslims and the Islamic civilization," Abbasi said.
"Islam is one of the fastest growing faiths in the world," said Robert Gregg, head of Islamic Studies. "Islamic societies have been and continue to be significant shapers of human history. It is important to strengthen and expand Stanford's educational opportunities in Islamic studies."
Meanwhile, the France-Stanford Center, partly funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aims to foster closer relationships between France and the United States in the spirit of internationalism.
"This union celebrates that tradition and reinforces the historic relationship between our two countries at a very important time in both our nations' histories," Hennessy said.
"[The] France-Stanford Center represents an attempt to cherish a friendship," said Jean-David Lévitte, French ambassador to the United States. "Our friendship is a treasure. It must be protected, preserved and maintained. I cannot think of a better way to contribute to this goal than through a partnership between France and one of America's leading research universities in pursuit of knowledge and understanding."
Baker is excited about the collaborative possibilities the partnership offers.
"Stanford University is tremendously excited about the academic partnership between our two countries that this center will foster," Baker said. "The exchange of knowledge across disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, business, law and medicine, promises to create rich intellectual engagement on historic and contemporary issues from a broad range of perspectives."
The center said that the gift from the French ministry is not a French comment on the existing levels of French studies at Stanford.