FOR countries that once comprised former Yugoslavia, internationalizing higher education has been doubly hard. Not only did the region have to contend with the collapse of communism in the region, it was rocked for nearly a decade by violent wars.
Now international higher education can have an impact in helping to bring peace to the area. "Higher education has a role in changing perspectives in the way people think about one another," says Jim Myers, associate provost of international education and global programs at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), which has campuses in Kosovo and Croatia.
One prime example is RIT's campus in Dubrovnik, Croatia. It's a stunning coastal city, and its old town is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The city was shelled by Yugoslav forces during the war. At the time, Yugoslavia was composed of Serbia and Montenegro.
In 1997, just two years after the war in Croatia ended, RIT opened its Dubrovnik campus at the behest of the Croatian government, offering dual U.S. and Croatian degrees in hospitality and information technology.
Shortly after the school was created, a U.S. Agency for International Development grant was used to fund a controversial program- bringing Montenegrin students to study at the school.
The Montenegrin students had a "pioneering spirit," Myers says, and quickly became popular with their fellow classmates, taking part in activities and being elected to the student government. "It was the best imaginable outcome in building bridges."
Since that time, RIT has opened a campus in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, and added undergraduate and graduate business courses.
In 2003 RIT opened American University of Kosovo (AUK), in the capital. Pristina, with a variety of graduate and undergraduate programs. …