Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Minorities Shy from International Studies, Careers

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Minorities Shy from International Studies, Careers

Article excerpt

The demand today for employees who I speak foreign languages and are internationally savvy is greater than ever. But I few minorities enroll in college international programs, and few choose careers that involve global work. Two scholars speaking at a national education conference in Durham, N.C., say the problem is compounded by a dearth of research on the subject.

A comprehensive national study should be done to determine the number of students and the characteristics of those who enroll in international disciplines, say Mark Chichester, director of the Institute for International Public Policy at the United Negro College Fund's Special Programs Corp. and Dr. Olusoji Akomolafe, associate professor of political science and director of International Programs at LeMoyne-Owen College in Tennessee.

The two scholars spoke on the necessity of research at the Conference on Global Challenges and U.S. Higher Education: National Needs and Policy Implications held at Duke University in January.

There is no question, they say, that demand for international skills in government, business and education far exceeds the supply of employees. More than 80 federal agencies and offices rely on employees with foreign-language proficiency. But whatever the reason, few minorities are entering careers in defense, intelligence, foreign policy, commerce and other fields, which require international skills.

Figures from the United Negro College Fund report that in 1999, African Americans comprised only 3.3 percent of students who studied abroad, Asian Americans comprised 4.4 percent, and Latinos made up 5.2 percent. No college serving minority communities ranked in the top 50 schools offering international programs.

The lack of minorities in international programs and global arenas has significant effects, say the two scholars. In their paper, "Minorities and Underrepresented Groups in International Affairs and the Foreign Policy Establishment," Chichester and Akomolafe state that the underrepresentation of minorities in the nation's foreign policy circles deprives the country of a range of perspectives, input and human resources to draw upon in meeting today's international challenges.

"The implication of minority underrepresentation can only be detrimental to minority interests and, as important, to the collective American interest in having representative foreign policy that reflects the will of the American people," write Chichester and Akomolafe.

Chichester and Akomolafe also are interested in the role of higher education in integrating minorities into the foreign policy establishment. …

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