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SAFETI Clearinghouse
Special Issue: Tragic Events at Boston Marathon and Support for International Students at U.S. Colleges and Universities

Tragic Events at Boston Marathon and
Support for International Students at U.S. Colleges and Universities

by Gary Rhodes, Ph.D., Director
Safety Abroad First - Educational Travel Information (SAFETI) Clearinghouse
Center for Global Education
California State University, Dominguez Hills

First, I'd like to express my support and sincerest sympathies to all those who have been directly impacted by the tragic incident at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2013. I'm sorry that a positive event like the Boston Marathon has been impacted by violence resulting in injuries to some of the people who competed and others who welcomed runners to the finish line, participating in what is annually a special day in Boston. One of the images that stood out were the flags of many countries around the world by the finish line, representing the people from many countries who participate and have participated in and supported the Boston Marathon. I've heard from colleagues throughout the U.S. and internationally who have expressed their concerns for all those impacted by these tragic events.

The Boston Marathon has brought people from around the world together in support of promoting a healthy lifestyle through sports, especially running. The impact of the Boston Marathon goes beyond one race. Through the Boston Marathon, the Boston Athletic Association has provided over $133 million dollars in donations to many important charities in the past 25 years, more than $11 million dollars each year as well as developing youth training programs.

According to BU Today, a website of Boston University, one of the victims killed by blasts at the Boston Marathon on Monday was identified as Lu Lingzi, (GRS'15), a graduate student in mathematics and statistics. She was one of three friends who watched the race near the finish line. Another of the three students, also in graduate school at the University, was injured, and is in stable condition at Boston Medical Center. In 2011/12, U.S. colleges and universities enrolled 764,495 international students, with 194,029 coming from China (IIE Open Doors). International students provide an opportunity for U.S. students to learn about countries around the world through interactions inside and outside of the classroom with those students.

Bringing international students to study in the U.S. as well as sending U.S. students to study abroad is an important part of how American colleges and universities provide international learning for their campus. The Center for Global Education developed the Online Courses for International Students to help international students maximize the impact of their studies in the U.S. and the Project for Learning in the U.S. Outreach resources to support international students' sharing of the knowledge they bring with them when they study in the U.S. The Center for Global Educationat CSUDH serves as a national research and resource for the higher education community and developed many of these and other resources with support from the U.S. Department of Education including the website to recognize the importance of international athletic events to support international cooperation and understanding.

Lu Lingzi represents the many international students that U.S. colleges and universities host for their studies. Going to the Boston Marathon is something that colleges and universities would promote to invite international students to experience the best of what you find in the U.S. It includes a combination of sport, local pride, and a welcoming atmosphere for runners and many others who celebrate a positive connection between people there each year. I know that Boston University is reaching out to Lingzi's family to provide any support that they can.

The connection between the U.S. and China is of critical importance. Along with receiving many Chinese students in the United States, the U.S. government has created the 100,000 Strong Initiative to increase the number of U.S. students of diverse background who are studying in China. The 100,000 Foundation works to create global ambassadors from American students who traveled to China, studied there, and have learned about the Chinese culture, language, and the people and learning to speak Mandarin.

As highlighted on 100,000 Strong Initiative's website by the U.S. Department of State:

"The need for Americans to gain greater exposure to and understanding of China is clear: there is perhaps no more important or complex relationship in the world than that between the United States and China in terms of securing global peace and security. Virtually no major international issue whether global economic recovery or climate change or nuclear non-proliferation can be solved without the active engagement of both the United States and China, working in concert."

Chinese students who study in the U.S. as Lu Lingzi was doing, are also critical for making these connections. I think I could say that I am speaking for faculty, staff, and students at colleges and universities across the United States when I say that we all grieve for her and her family at this very difficult time. At the same time, I know that U.S. colleges and universities are providing support to all students, faculty, staff, and people in their communities who have been either directly or indirectly impacted by the tragic events of April 15th.

This has not just impacted international students on our campuses. U.S. study abroad students, as well as faculty and staff, in China and other parts of the world also feel this loss as well as other friends and family across the world with connections to the U.S. I know that Universities are providing messages to faculty, staff, and students as well as alumni and others connected to their university who feel personally impacted by these recent events. Many will need personal and psychological support to deal with these tragic events. This could be any faculty, staff member or student, but especially those who have friends or family personally impacted or who have not yet had contact from someone a loved one who was at the Boston Marathon, who might have been impacted.

Although it is currently not fully clear who caused this to happen, it may bring concerns of the impact of violence and terrorism to students and their parents, even if they are thousands of miles away from Boston. I know that people from across the U.S. and around the world are providing the support they can at this challenging time.

For those who are trying to do something locally, I know that faculty, staff, and other students at U.S. colleges and universities will make special efforts to support international students from China and other parts of the world, providing support a clear message that we care about their well–being and appreciate that they are here as our guests to share in learning across cultures and supporting international understanding. It is a good time to check–in with coleagues, friends, faculty, staff, students, and families in Boston and around the world to remind them that support is available for them if they need it.

As colleagues from Boston University highlighted on campus: " We Must Stand Together". From the perspective of the U.S. college and university community, as we mourn the passing of Lu Lingzi and injuries to all others from Boston, accross the U.S., and around the world, we are all international students and we are all Boston Marathon participants and supporters. Sincerest sympathies to all those with friends and family impacted by these sad events of April 15, 2013. Providing direct support and a clear message of support in responding to this tragedy can assist in making a positive difference at this challenging time.


Gary Rhodes, Ph.D., Director
Safety Abroad First - Educational Travel Information (SAFETI) Clearinghouse
Center for Global Education
California State University, Dominguez Hills