OSU President Burns Hargis talks international issues in OKC

By Andrew W. Griffin

Red Dirt Report, editor

Posted: August 18, 2009

reddirtreporter@gmail.com

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis was the special guest of the Institute of Interfaith Dialog and the Raindrop Turkish House Tuesday during a special luncheon and discussed OSU’s international legacy.

The good-natured university president said that OSU has 1,700 students from abroad and said that the university needs to do more to integrate international students into the larger college community and the local community in Stillwater.

Talking about a recent trip to Thailand, Hargis said four Thai university presidents and two Thai governors are OSU graduates.

“We have a strong relationship with countries around the world,” Hargis said, adding that 100 different countries are represented at OSU.

“(Students) have an ability to meet people from around the world without leaving Stillwater, Oklahoma,” Hargis said.

And with that relationship and with all those intercultural opportunities, Hargis said a major goal at OSU will be to make sure every student spends a semester studying overseas.

Of course there are financial issues to consider, as well as language barriers for some.

“I think it’s critical for our students to round out their (college ) experience” by seeking such an experience overseas.

At the same time, many international students come to Stillwater, earning master’s degrees or Ph.D.’s and then go home.

“We lose them,” Hargis said. “A lot of them never really bonded with the university community and that’s our fault.”

“I don’t want anybody to be a stranger on the campus of Oklahoma State,” he added.

Hargis said the big job now is to “break down these barriers and integrate these students into our community.”

“Find out what you want to do,” he said, aiming the comments at his school’s students. “Never let money trump your passions.”

During a question and answer segment at the end, Hargis was asked about the balancing act schools like OSU have to do when it comes to funding athletics and academics.

Hargis said that if one is intellectually honest about the subject, they will realize that heavily funding athletics draws many people to the university and often results in media exposure nationwide. He also mentioned the multi-million dollar donations OSU has received lately.

State Sen. Andrew Rice was in attendance at the luncheon and asked Hargis if matching American students and international students together – like Rice was when he was an Oklahoma football-playing student at college in Maine, matched with a poet from Virginia –  would make sense.

Hargis clarified and said that these students are graduate students and the scenario wouldn’t apply.

The IID and Raindrop Turkish House are both located at 4444 N. Classen Blvd. in Oklahoma City. For more information call (405) 593-1778 or (405) 426-5425 or visit online at www.interfaithdialog.org or http://www.raindropturkevi.org.

Copyright 2009 West Marie Media

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