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Event explores importance of international education, UCLA’s efforts in the area

Chancellor Gene Block (right) spoke with Jayathi Murthy (left), the dean of the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, about the importance of international studies at an event for UCLA’s International Education Week on Tuesday. (Daanish Bhatti/Daily Bruin)

By Elaine Chen

November 21, 2019 12:30 am

This post was updated Nov. 21 at 5:00 p.m.

Chancellor Gene Block said he thinks it is essential that UCLA remains a globally welcoming institution at a campus event Tuesday.

Block spoke with Jayathi Murthy, the dean of the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, about the importance of international studies at UCLA’s annual “Global Conversation.”

The event is a part of UCLA’s International Education Week. IEW was launched in 2015 by the U.S. Departments of State and Education with the intention of celebrating international education and exchange.

UCLA’s IEW, held from Monday through Friday, is offering a wide variety of events to promote international studies, such as an alumni career panel Tuesday and a World Café event Thursday featuring coffees and teas from around the world.

Block said at the event that he thinks it’s beneficial for students to immerse themselves in a culture that challenges their perspectives, adding that some of the best work is done in diverse environments.

Block described global access as UCLA’s ability to serve as a home for students from all over the world.

“Global access is one of the kinds of diversity that we celebrate,” Block said.

Block said adopting a global perspective isn’t limited to studying abroad, adding that UCLA’s diverse environment and international student body allow international interaction without having to leave campus.

He also shared two initiatives that UCLA is working on in order to leave a larger global footprint: creating a sustainable community and reducing the burden of clinical depression. Both of these goals make up the university’s Grand Challenges.

C. Cindy Fan, vice provost for international studies and global engagement, said she thinks universities need to reiterate the importance of an international education to all students regardless of major.

“The global conversation is always one of the highlights of International Education Week,” Fan said. “Anyone on this campus can benefit from a global perspective.”

Fan added she hopes the event, as well as the rest of IEW, will inspire others to think more about making a commitment to international education.

Block answered questions from both Murthy and audience members following his speech.

Steven Pham, a first-year communication student, asked Block what UCLA is doing to ensure students from developing countries were represented on campus and in the student body.

Block said such students primarily need financial support to come to the U.S., which could be provided through philanthropic funds. He recognizes that UCLA is missing students from important parts of the world, and said there is a full-time effort to promote UCLA globally.

Pham said he thinks UCLA is not accessible to prospective international students who are not from wealthy backgrounds, which made Block’s message feel disingenuous to him.

“The international student body right now is primarily people from affluent countries,” Pham said. “There’s a lot of third world countries that have students who have incredible promise and potential but it’s being unfulfilled because they don’t have the adequate resources.”

A student ambassador from Hong Kong expressed her frustration to Block with trying to find psychological support on campus given the political and social situation happening in Hong Kong and major delays in getting an appointment with a counselor.

Block noted that UCLA was attempting to keep up with the number of students who want access to one-on-one counseling and that the administration was also trying to find methods of mental health access that go beyond in-person counseling.

Luiza Kinzerska-Martinez, a second-year graduate student in Latin American studies, said she liked the pressing questions students asked Block during the Q-and-A section.

She added she thinks UCLA isn’t looking into what international students from disadvantaged backgrounds have to offer.

“The way that international education is being targeted at UCLA is that it’s being catered towards a specific group of countries,” Kinzerska-Martinez said. “We are an international community, but we need to work on expanding that more.”

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