Global vision comes into focus through scholarship program
By Karin Dienst
Davis United World College scholars bring their experiences from around the world to their academic and extracurricular activities at Princeton. This year's scholars include (from left): Rina Ayob of Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, who has studied in New Mexico; Dorian Needham of Victoria, British Columbia, who has studied in Wales; Saed Shonnar of Ramallah, Palestine, who also has studied in New Mexico; and Scott Moore of Louisville, Ky., who has studied in Hong Kong. Pictured on page 3 is Bettina Miguez of Salto, Uruguay, who has studied in New Mexico and is spending the fall semester in Australia.
Princeton NJ -- Global understanding may be an abstract ideal, but to some 70 Princeton undergraduates representing 30 countries, it has very real relevance. These students are part of the Davis United World College Scholars Program, which was established in 2000 by alumnus Shelby M.C. Davis and his family to sharpen Princeton's global vision by helping bring students to campus from a wide variety of cultures and nations. The program provides need-based financial aid to students who come to Princeton from pre-university schools known as the United World Colleges.
The popularity of the Davis UWC Scholars Program is skyrocketing as awareness of it grows. This is particularly evident at Princeton, which is one of five pilot institutions for the program, along with the College of the Atlantic, Colby, Middlebury and Wellesley colleges. In 2004, the first Princeton cohort of five scholars graduated; now, arrived in the class of 2008, are 27 new scholars. Nationwide, the program has expanded to provide financial assistance to UWC scholars at more than 50 U.S. universities, but the most comprehensive support from the Davis family remains centered at the five pilot institutions. To fund the program, Davis has made an open-ended commitment involving tens of millions of dollars per year.
In announcing his family's multi-year, multi-million-dollar commitment to the scholarship program, Shelby Davis said: ''I believe that recognizing and building on international diversity through education at an influential age is central to the possibilities for global harmony in this new millennium.'' The program is an extension of the financial support Davis already provides to many students so that they can attend a UWC in the first place.
The United World Colleges are 10 schools located on five continents where some 2,000 students, who hail from more than 100 countries, study and live together. The schools, the first of which was founded at the height of the Cold War in 1962, stress international understanding and community service. The UWC schools offer the International Baccalaureate and are located in Canada, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Norway, Singapore, Swaziland, the United States, Venezuela and Wales.
The founder of a $30 billion mutual fund and money management firm, Davis graduated from Princeton in 1958. He returns to the campus every year to meet with the students he is helping. This month he will be at Princeton for the annual visit and to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies (see box). The center is named after his father, who was a member of the class of 1930 and a generous supporter of the scholarship and teaching of history.
''We are enormously indebted to Shelby Davis for helping us to extend the benefits of a Princeton education to so many talented international students,'' said President Tilghman. ''The Davis UWC scholars arrive with many different perspectives on the world, and contribute their unique knowledge and experience to making Princeton a much more interesting and cosmopolitan place in which to live and learn.''
Davis Center to mark 35th
To celebrate its 35th anniversary, the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies is holding a conference on ''The Discipline of History'' Friday and Saturday, Nov. 19-20, in 211 Dickinson Hall. Panel discussions featuring former Davis Center directors and fellows will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. For a copy of the conference schedule, e-mail Jennifer Houle. Registration is not required, and there are no pre-circulated papers.
Committed to expanding the international scope of Princeton's undergraduate curriculum, Miguel Centeno, director of the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies and a scholar of Latin American studies, said, ''I have rarely seen such a wise and efficient use of a donor's generosity than with the Davis UWC Scholars Program. For the individual students, this is an amazing opportunity. For Princeton, it allows us to take a significant step toward becoming the global university we aspire to become.''
Philip Geier, the director of the Davis UWC Scholars Program and the president of the UWC in the United States, compares what Davis is doing for international education -- albeit through the private sector -- to what Sen. J. William Fulbright did in 1946 to establish the worldwide scholar exchange program that is sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
Geier says that the Davis program applies ''fresh thinking to bringing different cultures together.'' He explains that it is ''creating clusters of students who can make a greater impact on the undergraduate experience as a whole.'' According to Geier, what is special about the Davis scholars is that they come from such diverse backgrounds and yet share a similar educational experience before attending university. ''The program does more than just bring bright international students to the university,'' he said. ''These students arrive with a sense of community and a willingness to engage. Many are service-oriented, and they want to continue and expand on their UWC experience. Their openness tends to attract and motivate others.''
Reinforcing these comments, Janet Dickerson, Princeton's vice president for campus life, said, ''Individually, these students are focused scholars and engaged citizens in our community. Collectively, their imagination knows no bounds.''
Dickerson specifically acknowledged the ''imagination'' of the Davis UWC scholars who, in September 2003, brought President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan to Princeton. The visit was an outcome of earlier efforts by the student service group SPARKS (Students Providing Aid, Relief and Kind Services) to found a non-profit, K-12 school in war-torn Kabul. SPARKS drew on the leadership of a number of Davis scholars, including: Karim Thomas '04 and his sister, Rishma '05, who are from Vancouver, British Columbia; Ashirul Amin '04, who is from Bangladesh; and Ana Barfield '04, who is from Serbia and Montenegro. These students attended United World Colleges in Canada (Karim Thomas), Wales (Rishma Thomas, Barfield) and Norway (Amin).
Karim Thomas, who majored in the Woodrow Wilson School and earned a certificate in Near Eastern studies, is now back in Kabul working for Karzai and supporting the school. He said that ''a lot of UWC ideals were involved in much of what we did with SPARKS, and much of what we still hope to accomplish.'' And Amin, a computer scientist who is working at ALK Technologies in Princeton, said that the University gave him the opportunity to ''challenge UWC ideals and experience how they play out in our everyday lives.''