International Doors Opening for TCU Students

Feb 15th, 2010 | By | Category: 21-3: Tribal College Faculty, Spring 2010
By Carrie Billy, J.D.

Last year, College of Menominee Nation President Verna Fowler and I were fortunate to take a fascinating trip to Turkey. For 10 days, we explored awe-inspiring coliseums, palaces, churches, statues, and cities built during the Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, visited breathtakingly beautiful mosques, navigated the busy and colorful streets of Istanbul, and explored quaint Mediterranean villages by the sea, walked on a sandy beach that Hector or Achilles may have touched, and grew accustomed to the comforting chant – the Call to Prayer – that woke us every morning as the sun rose and caused us to pause and reflect every evening as the sun set.

Ours was a remarkable journey, not only because of the rich history and beauty of the land, but because of the lessons we learned about a people and a place with so much to share. With land in both Asia and Europe, a secular government, and a predominately Islamic population, Turkey is a pivotal country in the effort to achieve world peace. Its political importance cannot be understated; but in addition to this, we learned that Turkey has a top-notch higher education system, vibrant and colorful cities that never seem to sleep, an extensive agriculture industry that enables the country to produce nearly 100 percent of its own food supply, generous people who love to share stories and who feel a strong connection with American Indians, and a culture whose core is founded on tradition and religion.

Our trip was hosted by the Turkish Coalition of America and included representatives from AIHEC, the National Congress of American Indians, and several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The goal was to begin a dialogue between Turkish institutions of higher education and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) in this country. As we toured the country, we were planting seeds that we hoped would grow into longstanding partnerships between tribal colleges and our Turkish counterparts. In addition to educational partnerships, we hope that we can also begin to grow new economic development opportunities and partnerships as well. I am pleased to report that the seeds we planted are beginning to thrive and TCU faculty and students stand to benefit. Shortly after our trip, a group of Turkish faculty visited the U.S., traveling to TCUs in South Dakota and New Mexico, and faculty from the Institute of American Indian Arts, along with other Native faculty, visited Turkey this past fall. In the future, we hope that longer-term exchanges involving TCU faculty will occur because the exchange of ideas and stories will enrich all of us. Even more important, we hope that TCU students will consider spending a semester at a Turkish institution of higher education and vice-versa. To help make this a reality, Istanbul Technical University (ITU) and Bahçeflehir University, also in Istanbul, are offering generous one-semester scholarships to TCU students. Bahçeflehir’s scholarships, which cover the full cost of tuition, are available for up to two TCU students per semester. In addition, university staff will help the students secure room/board and transportation. ITU has committed to offering up to 10 scholarships per semester for Native students. ITU’s comprehensive scholarships include full tuition, lodging, board, and a monthly stipend. Awardees are also eligible for a $2000 grant from the Turkish Coalition of America to cover airfare.

The ITU and Bahçeflehir University scholarships mark the first time that an international opportunity of this magnitude has been available to TCU students. These scholarships represent a tremendous opportunity for adventurous TCU students interested in sharing their stories and gathering unique global experiences and friendships to bring back home.

Turkey may be thousands of miles away, but a Call to Prayer, no matter the language, always brings a peace worth sharing.

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