UCLA Center for Global Education: Boston Marathon Represents the Best of US-World Relations

Sporting events like the Boston Marathon bring international and American students together in global community.

The Boston Marathon has brought people from around the world together in support of promoting a healthy lifestyle through sports.  The impact of the Marathon goes beyond one race. Through the event, the Boston Athletic Association has provided over $133 million dollars in donations to many important charities as well as developing youth training programs, in the past 25 years, more than $11 million dollars each year.

Gary Rhodes, Ph.D. is the director of the Center for Global Education, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies

The Center for Global Education (CGE) at UCLA serves as a national research and resource for students and professionals in the study abroad community of higher education. CGE has developed many resources with support from the U.S. Department of Education, including WorldWiseAthlete.com to recognize the importance of international athletic events to support international cooperation and understanding.

One of the victims killed by blasts at the Boston Marathon on April 15 was identified as Lu Lingzi, a graduate student at Boston University (BU) in mathematics and statistics. She was one of three friends who watched the race near the finish line. Another of the three students, also in graduate school at BU, was injured, and is in stable condition at Boston Medical Center.

Lingzi represents the many international students that U.S. colleges and universities host for their studies. Attending or participating in the Boston Marathon is something that colleges and universities would promote to invite international students to experience the best of what you find in the U.S.  It includes a combination of sport, local pride, and a welcoming atmosphere for runners and many others through the positive connection between people at the event each year.

In 2011/12, U.S. colleges and universities enrolled 764,495 international students, with 194,029 coming from China.  International students provide an opportunity for American students to learn about countries around the world through interactions in and out of the classroom with those students.  Bringing international students to study in the U.S. as well as sending U.S. students to study abroad is an important part of how American colleges and universities provide international learning for their campus.

The connection between the U.S. and China is of critical importance. Along with receiving many Chinese students in the United States, the U.S. government has created the 100,000 Strong Initiative to increase the number of U.S. students of diverse backgrounds who are studying in China. The 100,000 Foundation works to create global ambassadors from American students who have traveled to China, studied there, and have learned about the Chinese culture, language, and the people.  and learning to speak Mandarin.

As highlighted on the 100,000 Strong Initiative’s website by the U.S. Department of State, “The need for Americans to gain greater exposure to and understanding of China is clear: there is perhaps no more important or complex relationship in the world than that between the United States and China in terms of securing global peace and security. Virtually no major international issue – whether global economic recovery or climate change or nuclear non-proliferation can be solved without the active engagement of both the United States and China, working in concert.”

Chinese students who study in the U.S. as Lingzi was doing, are critical for making these connections. I think I could say that I am speaking for faculty, staff, and students at colleges and universities across the United States when I say that we all grieve for her and her family at this very difficult time.  At the same time, I know that U.S. colleges and universities are providing support to all students, faculty, staff, and people in their communities who have been either directly or indirectly impacted by the tragic events of April 15.

I know that faculty, staff, and other students at U.S. colleges and universities are making special efforts to support international students from China and other parts of the world, providing a clear message that we care about their well-being and appreciate that they are here as our guests to share in learning across cultures and supporting international understanding. I’d like to express my support and sincerest sympathies to all those who have been directly impacted by the tragic incident at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2013. I’ve heard from colleagues throughout the U.S. and internationally who have expressed their concerns for all those impacted by these tragic events.

We are all part of an international higher education community and the movement of students around the world is an important way to enhance the sharing of knowledge as well as global understanding to make for a better world.

One of the images that stood out from media coverage of the Boston Marathon were the flags of many countries around the world by the finish line, representing people from the world over who participate in and support events such as these, events that unify and celebrate all of us.