Educating International Students about 'Race'

By Althen, Gary | International Educator, May/June 2009 | Go to article overview

Educating International Students about 'Race'

Althen, Gary, International Educator

U.S. NEWSPAPERS FREQUENTLY REFER TO BARACK OBAMA as "the first black president" of the United States. But observers from overseas, including foreign students and scholars, may quickly note that Obama's mother was white. Why, they may wonder, is Obama considered black? Couldn't he also be considered white?

The answer to these questions lies in Americas peculiar race-relations history.

Nearly all the countries in the world, including the United States, are racially heterogeneous. Different countries have attempted to deal with racial differences in different ways, ranging from genocide to the embrace of "multiracialism" or "multiculturalism." Each country has its own idiosyncratic race-relations history.

Consequently, students coming to the United States have their own ideas about racial differences. When they get to the United States, they will encounter a new set of attitudes and practices regarding those differences, whether or not they themselves are members of what Americans consider a racial minority group.

What, if anything, do U.S. international student offices do to help foreign students understand race relations in the United States? Not much, at least not directly, according to many advisers. Many international student offices address the general issue of intercultural relations, without a particular focus on race relations. It is usually other offices, with names such as "multicultural affairs," that address race issues. The international student office may co-sponsor or otherwise support these activities.

Initial Steps

Among those international student offices that do make efforts to educate international students about race relations in the United States, there are a number of approaches. Central Connecticut State University's international student office touches upon racial issues in the context of cultural differences. Toyin Ayeni, international student and scholar services coordinator says that during orientation, "rather than talk specifically on race, we enlighten the students on differences that exist among cultures." A faculty member with considerable international experience discusses many manifestations of cultural difference, and also "talks about race with more emphasis on cultural differences."

Christie Ward, associate director of CCSU's Muirhead Center for International Education and coordinator of the intensive English language program, says English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are the main venue for discussing race relations in the United States. Teachers use films and essays to encourage conversation about racial matters. "We try to help our students understand the diversity of the United States, its history, and the challenges that the country has faced in trying to realize the value of human rights for all," she says.

In their orientation program and student handbook, Oklahoma State University's International Students and Scholars Office seeks to convey the message "tolerance towards all people, regardless of race, gender, etc., is expected," says Tim Huff, the office's manager. His office uses materials that relate to cultural differences in general, rather than race relations more specifically. "We are not quite there yet," he says, but it is "where we need to be going."

During its orientation for ESL students, Gonzaga University's intercultural relations specialist has introduced the topic of race relations with a presentation on African American history, according to Melissa Heid, international student program assistant. The students then have an opportunity to ask about race-relations matters.

Through their orientation and other programs, Webster University tries to make the point that "Race is a very complex topic in this country," says Director of International Services Bert Barry. "[Our] goal is cross-cultural understanding and, ultimately, harmony, but that goal is far from being realized. The only reason Webster University's orientation program deals a bit more explicitly with race than others may be that orientation is the responsibility of the Office of Multicultural and International Student Affairs. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Educating International Students about 'Race'


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.