June 30, 2014

University is hosting 20 central Asia students

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale is hosting 20 of central Asia’s most promising undergraduate students will be on campus for the next four weeks to study the United State’s political system and gain a better understanding of Southern Illinois. 

Students from Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are visiting as part of the  “Study of the U.S. Institute on Government and Public Policy for Student Leaders.”  The U.S. Department of State program designed to promote a better understanding of the U.S. abroad and to help develop future world leaders. 

The students arrived on campus June 21 and will spend the next three weeks participating in a variety of classroom activities and lectures featuring university officials.  The students will also sit in on classes and gain insights from faculty in the political science, history, economics and philosophy departments, as well as the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and the SIU School of Law 

The final five days of the students’ visit in the United States will be in Washington, D.C., where activities include a wide variety of cultural tours and attractions and sessions with Illinois U.S. senators Mark Kirk and Richard Durbin, and U.S. Rep. William L. Enyart, D-Belleville.  The students return home July 26.

Media Advisory

Reporters, camera crews and photographers may cover some of the activities listed on the schedule during the students’ stay in Carbondale.  Students may also be available for interviews.  The program overview is available at institute.siu.edu. For more information and to arrange interviews, contact John L. Foster, institute director at 618/453-3172, 618/549-7760, or at jlfoster@siu.edu, or John S. Jackson, visiting professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at 618/453-3106 or at jsjacson@siu.edu.

The SIU Carbondale program will cover a range of subjects necessary to understand the functioning of American government, politics and policy.  The American studies topics will include democracy, political culture, demographic diversity, the creation of a civil society built on an extensive network of non-profit organizations, the U.S. Constitutional framework and the Rule of Law, leadership techniques within a democratic system, and the position of the U.S. within the global economy.  Public policy topics of particular interest are education, public finance and the Rule of Law. 

In addition, students will also tour Carbondale city government operations, attend a minor league baseball game, Sunset Concerts on the SIU campus, spend a weekend with families in the Chester area, and participate in the Kaskaskia Island Fourth of July celebration. 

The students will also take cultural trips to St. Louis, Chicago and Springfield and also meet with policy makers on a variety of topics including public financing. 

This is the 16th institute the university has hosted dating back to mid-1990s. The initiative began with hosting international faculty members, with the focus switching in 2003 to students. More than 310 students and faculty have participated in SIU’s program. 

John L. Foster, emeritus faculty in the Department of Political Science, is administrative director. John S. Jackson, a visiting professor with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and Barbara Brown, a statewide political party leader, are academic co-directors for this year’s event. 

Foster said that this is the first visit to the U.S. for all but one of the undergraduate students.  He notes three of the four neighboring countries -- with the exception of Turkey -- at one time were states under the former Soviet Union.  

“It’s in our interest in international affairs to have people who know something about us and have them know something about each other too,” he said, adding that what the students learn here and what they are able to take home with them will affect their perception of the United States. 

“This is an opportunity for these students who are also leaders in their universities to see Middle America up close and realistically,” Jackson said.  “They often have distorted views of the U.S., particularly because they get those views from movies and television exports and we know that is not a terribly realistic representation of the United States.  What they learn is we are ordinary people with the same problems and same aspirations they have.” 

The Study of U.S. Institutes is designed and funded by the Study of the U.S. Branch in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).