The International House at Davis hosted the first Vanderhoef International lecture Monday night in honor of Chancellor Emeritus Larry Vanderhoef and his distinguished efforts toward resolving international conflict via academic diplomacy.
The inaugural address kicked off International Education Week, a weeklong, UC-wide series of events designed to promote awareness and understanding of cultural diversity, increasing cross-cultural interaction and furthering worldwide interdependence.
“[Vanderhoef] has really made this an international campus,” said Elisabeth Sherwin, executive director of the International House. “We wanted to recognize him for what he has done for international students.”
The theme of the speech was “building bridges,” or creating connections between countries and peoples to help promote greater stability and mutual understanding in the world.
During the inaugural lecture, Vanderhoef presented anecdotes of his travels in his efforts to bring better cultural understanding through improving academic relations with the many countries he visited.
“These are the first steps to peace in the world,” Vanderhoef said. “We need to bring people together to live and get to know each others’ values, so [we] won’t jump to conclusions based on headlines.”
Vanderhoef cited the increasing number of students electing to study abroad in the past years, but emphasized these numbers should be much higher. This could be remedied by easing misconceptions about study abroad program expenses.
He also proposed making graduate-requisite coursework more widely available to students that elect to study abroad.
“He placed a special emphasis on international education,” said Sean Duggan, president of the International House board of directors. “He wanted to make international thinking central, and we’re pleased to be having him for this first lecture.”
Vanderhoef recounted some of his experiences during his 25 years of work with UC Davis. He warned the audience of general issues with traveling abroad, such as the initial culture shock and also health and safety concerns in dangerous areas.
Vanderhoef also shared some eye-opening experiences with this audience. In one such anecdote, he recounted a conversation he had with an Iranian schoolgirl during his visit to Iran in 2004. The girl had asked Vanderhoef whether or not America perceived all Iranians as terrorists. Discussion regarding cultural barriers and misconceptions ensued.
Vanderhoef addressed some of the successes UC Davis alumni were making possible. He noted a recently bolstered program to bring students to learn at the newly reconstructed Globe Theater in London, his meeting with four of the Egyptian Ministry – two of whom were UC Davis alumni, as well as a newly instituted school for the handicapped in Japan, with a winery courtesy of yet another UCD alum.
“[Such partnerships allow] people to interact with different cultures,” Vanderhoef said. “We have to overcome the problem of understanding one another because of their culture – it’s one of the most important things we can do.”
ARNOLD LAU can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.