America needs our international mission

Mark Shryock--MSSU alumnus

[Editor’s note: Letters may be edited for length and clarity.]

I came to college later than most. As an English undergraduate student, at the age of 33, I went to listen to a lecture by a professor from Africa. He lectured on a play I had never heard off, Death and the King’s Horseman, which is an incredible story based on actual events in Nigeria during British colonial rule. It is a story of two cultures and world views clashing when the ritual suicide of the horseman of an important chief is prevented by the intervention of the British. The professor who told this story, written by Nobel writer Wole Soyinka, had been brought to MSSU through the international studies department’s funding.

After this lecture, I took every class that the international studies department offered. I began to dream of somehow seeing another culture outside of America because I knew the experience would be life altering. But this dream seemed forever impossible because I was always struggling for money. The international department’s funding changed this. I received a scholarship that allowed me to leave American soil for the first time at the age of 35. I attended an international journalism seminar for two weeks in Paris in the spring of 2001, with several other very lucky students and three faculty members of the international studies department. This trip changed my life in many ways, but most importantly, it broke the artificial barrier I had set in my mind that travel was far beyond my reach.

What a tragedy it would have been for my life had the international department and its funding not been there. I would never have heard the life-altering words from the professor from Africa who said to me get out of the box that is American culture and study other cultures. At that time I did not even know there was a box or that I was in it. The funding allowed the life blood, the soul of Southern, to pulse through the veins and heart of an international campus, into every department, reaching students daily, always whispering and sometimes shouting, “There is an enormous world waiting beyond America desperately waiting to speak with you!”

I am sad the funding for the department is being cut so deeply. I think it shows an incredible lack of insight into what many perceive MSSU to be and our hopes for its future.

More than this it is simply wrong. What is needed today to save America from its present downward spiral, brought on in large measure because of an incredible lack of understanding of the rest of the world, is more international exposure not less. Missouri Southern State University was a bright light because of its international mission. I cannot believe any good will come from diminishing this light despite whatever short term budget gains may be realized.