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Spring 2006 | Volume 29, Number 2 | From the President

President Eaton Invited to Washington, D.C., Summit on International Education

“Our students are facing an education and ambition gap,” warned Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in an address at the University Presidents Summit on International Education January 5–6, 2006, in Washington, D.C. The summit, co-hosted by Spellings and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was a first-of-its-kind dialogue between academic leaders and government officials about the future of U.S. higher education in the global arena.

Seattle Pacific University President Philip Eaton was among 100 university presidents from public and private institutions in all 50 states who participated in the invitation-only event. Eaton was the only Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU ) member president in attendance.

“SPU ’s invitation to engage in this conversation is significant,” notes David McIntyre Jr. ’86, president and CEO of TriWest Healthcare Alliance and an SPU trustee. “It’s a testament of confidence in President Eaton’s leadership and in what Seattle Pacific stands for.”

Engaging the tough issues of the day is one of the University’s signature commitments in 2014: A Blueprint for Excellence — Seattle Pacific’s guiding document for the next decade. “We are committed to knowing and understanding what’s going on in the world,” says Eaton. “We want to be part of national conversations, to be an institution that makes an impact. In a small, but symbolic, way that was confirmed by this invitation.”

The summit emphasized the importance of attracting foreign students and scholars to U.S. universities, as well as the value of encouraging American students to study abroad. Although international student enrollment has declined in the wake of 9/11, Secretary Rice assured participants, “The United States has never been more eager to welcome foreign students to our country.” An equal focus of the summit was the need to strengthen U.S. education systems so American students are better equipped to understand and compete in the global economy.

During the event, President Bush unveiled the National Security Language Initiative, a proposal that aims to expand opportunities for U.S. students to learn nontraditional languages such as Arabic and Chinese. “Learning a language — somebody else’s language — is a kind gesture,” said Bush. “It’s a gesture of interest. It really is a fundamental way to reach out to somebody and say, ‘I care about you. I’m interested in not only how you talk, but how you live.’”

Summit organizers challenged attendees to assess how well their institutions are preparing students to live in a global world. How does Seattle Pacific University measure up? “I am proud of our commitments at SPU ,” says Eaton. “We have outstanding programs in science, math, technology, and teacher education. And the advantage of a Christian institution is that we were established to educate and train missionaries. We have always had a global vision. Of course, we can do more — we will — and this summit has given me fresh impetus to move forward.”

When it comes to the future of this fledgling partnership between government and higher education, Eaton says he is hopeful. “I take people at their word, and I was impressed by the genuineness of this attempt to bridge the gap that so often divides us,” he says. “I believe that there will be follow-through on both sides.”


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