January 29, 2017
Supporting our international scholars and students
On Friday morning, I had breakfast with David Bonderman, an alumnus who completed his undergraduate degree in Russian at the UW, and then a law degree at Harvard. He is best known to our students as the man who established what they call “the Bonderman,” a scholarship for our undergraduate, graduate and professional students to travel abroad to multiple countries over an eight month period. It is not for a formal study program, but to “wander and wonder,” learning through personal experience about unfamiliar people and places.
The scholarship is modeled after Harvard’s Sheldon Fellowship, which he received at the end of his studies there. He then traveled to Cairo, Egypt to study Islamic jurisprudence and law before embarking on an illustrious and varied career. One of this country’s most successful businessmen, investors and philanthropists, David talks eloquently about how profoundly this experience with other cultures shaped his work and his life. Learning and working side-by-side with others from different backgrounds, life experiences and world views is one of the most important educational experiences we can offer our students; and it is key to the scholarship and research of many, if not most, of our faculty.
Having just talked with David about the impact his gift has had on the lives of our students, and the impact that they, in turn, are having on the world, it is especially difficult and painful for me to have to recommend that members of our community from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen avoid international travel at this time due to the recent presidential executive order.
This is a dynamic and rapidly changing situation, which is even changing as I write, but given reports that individuals with visas, and even legal permanent U.S. residents, from these seven countries are being denied entry to the United States, we recommend community members from these nations avoid international travel. The Office of Academic Personnel and International Student Services have been contacting scholars and students from these nations, who can utilize these offices for personalized assistance. We will provide these community members with updates directly as the situation becomes more clear.
I also want to state in the clearest possible manner that the University of Washington is proud to be the home to students, staff and scholars from around the world. We stand with them and will provide them with support as needed. As Provost Baldasty and I emphasized to the community in November, we are fully committed to providing a safe, secure and welcoming environment that protects the privacy and human rights of all members of our community.
When I arrived to this country in 1959 it was as a political refugee from Cuba. I then became an immigrant on a “green card” and fifteen years later, a U.S. citizen proud to commit to the values that have made this country great, including its almost singular ability to welcome the world’s tired, poor and huddled masses “yearning to breathe free,” as well as its artists, scholars, and scientists coming here to study or to teach. My commitment to the excellence of our University and my own life experiences only strengthen my determination to uphold those values now and always.