The Collegian
Friday, August 14, 2020

International Center dedicated; will be a "cultural crossroads"

Thomas Friedman
Thomas Friedman

The University of Richmond began a new chapter in its 170-year history with the dedication of the Carole Weinstein International Center Thursday.

The 57,000-square-foot center will serve as a crossroads between not only the university's five schools, but for its American and international cultures. It now houses the Office of International Education, as well as the Geography, Latin American and Iberian and Modern Literatures departments. It is also home to the Passport Cafe, the newest of the school's dining facilities, and even an outdoor classroom, located at the back of the building.

The plans for the center were announced in 2007 and made possible through a $10.5 million gift from its namesake, former student and trustee Carole Weinstein. Keeping with the trend of the last several structures built on campus, the building is also environmentally friendly, featuring energy efficient insulation and motion-sensitive lighting. The plants that surround the building will also be watered with a high-tech system reducing the total water used by 20 percent.

A driving force behind not only the center but the school's international effort overall was Uliana Gabara, the dean for international studies. When asked what the biggest change was from when she started here twenty years ago, she likened it to a "cultural shift," in that "students now assume they will study abroad." But she was not satisfied with current levels.

"I want students to put their feet down in another culture," she said. Though currently 60 percent of the student body will study abroad at one point, the university plans for the figure to increase to 80 percent, though there are no plans to make it mandatory at this time.

She also voiced the concern that students are not taking full advantage of their opportunities to interact with one another.

"It is perplexing to look around and see only internationals hanging out with internationals, or Americans with Americans," she said.

International students make up 9 percent of the student body. Both groups should "make a little bit of effort to reach out," she said.

Suren Daryanani, an international student and the first such student to be elected RCSGA president, is optimistic.

"Richmond has allowed me to grow, both intellectually and socially," he said. "This is an experience that I know I couldn't receive anywhere else and the support I've received for being the first international student ever to serve as president has definitely made me value Richmond that much more."

He also said that the center "symbolizes progress and embodies the growth and increasing importance of international education at the university."

President Ayers agreed.

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"The center sets a new standard," he said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "We have a lot to live up to."

Weinstein herself expressed her desire to see it become "an ongoing circle of conversation and connection."

Junior Gabrielle Misiewicz remarked that she hoped to be "delighted with all who take their first steps right here."

The event concluded with an address by renowned New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who writes frequently about energy issues.

He spoke mainly on his bestselling book "The World Is Flat," but also had a few pointers for students.

"The most important economic competition," he said, "is between individuals and their imaginations."

Friedman also praised Richmond's liberal arts system and encouraged students to become "untouchable" by obtaining jobs that cannot be outsourced or are specially attuned or localized in some way.

He spoke to a full Jepson Theater, with more spectators accommodated in Camp Concert Hall to fill the overflow demand.

Contact reporter Milos Jovanovic at milos.jovanovic@richmond.edu

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