With two weeks’ respite to reflect on my extraordinary time in Nigeria, I thought it important to commit to writing a capstone entry for the Beacon community and those who wish to know more about our College and our growing international reach. This contribution is offered immediately preceding another international milestone for Beacon: the arrival on campus of seven students from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the COMPASS Program, a one-month pre-collegiate experience in which current high school seniors and recent graduates will be totally immersed in an American undergraduate adventure of self-discovery and skill-building.
The College’s invited global outreach of the past year to audiences beyond our national borders has reinforced an unequivocal reality: that the need and search by students and families for meaningful undergraduate opportunities like Beacon is international and not solely domestic in its scope. College students who learn differently can and do pursue enormously successful careers and lives if they are empowered by an undergraduate preparation that is individualized and rigorous. This is a reality that knows no borders.
Even for its challenges, the U.S. system of K-12 instruction and services framed in law here since the 1970s has afforded our students the proverbial “leg up” in educational and specialized support in the context of the global experience. It is, however, at the point of entry to undergraduate preparation where the pathway for students who learn differently appears to narrow considerably worldwide for the population of students who Beacon is uniquely motivated to serve.
It is why a College such as ours is truly viewed by an international audience as a “beacon,” shedding perspective on what is possible at the undergraduate level for young adults who learn differently. Experiences in settings like Riyadh and Lagos this year have taught us that the “Beacon model” is singular in a diverse international higher education arena, as it is in the United States. So it is not surprising that information about “who we are” (as an institution), “what we do,” and “how we do it” is much sought after in any international venue to which we have been invited.
And so, for Oksana and me, Lagos was both personally and professionally rewarding. Our time immersed in the culture and with the people of Nigeria is unforgettable and will endure. What stood out for us, as it did in Riyadh, is how similarly expressed the needs and hopes of students and parents are to the experiences and storylines shared by our own undergraduates and families at Beacon. Here, too, dreams and ambitions know no borders.
I do know that, with respect to the undergraduate preparation of students who learn differently, there is much work to be done, and the landscape upon which our labors might be pursued is vast. If, in the future, the Beacon community – our faculty, staff, students, and alumni – can make a small contribution by reaching out internationally through sponsored visits abroad and receiving foreign delegations on our campus, we will have had a mighty impact on what is now an unserved population of students, families, and educators.
Although we are certainly consumed by our own work on campus now, I do hope that we will find the time and purpose to extend ourselves to international audiences now unknown to us, and that my sponsored travel this year may prove to be the vanguard of other College ambassadors – our faculty, staff, and students – who can touch the lives of world citizens whose need for knowledge and affirmation are truly global.
~Dr. George J. Hagerty