Through an International Lens

International Lens Student Profiles

Ralph Bunche Center provides students from Howard and beyond with opportunities to explore race, ethnicity and careers abroad.

For Andrea Corey (B.A. ’05), her career in foreign affairs began with an unassuming stroll down Sixth Street on Howard’s campus. 

That one stroll led to inquisition, followed by a meeting with the former director of the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center, before ending with her prestigious award as a 2005 Rangel Graduate Fellow. Fast-forward 11 years to today, and Corey works in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the U.S. Department of State. She previously served as the assistant cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Panama City. For Corey, who has traveled to the Dominican Republic, China, Panama and more, the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program has opened doors she never imagined walking through. 

“My last assignment, I was in Panama for the Summit of Americas, and I remember working in a meeting between President Obama and Raul Castro,” Corey said. “I was right there helping to make sure that everything was in place. I was just like, ‘Wow…I never thought I would do this.’”

The Rangel Graduate Fellowship Program—which selects 30 outstanding fellows each year from a nationwide pool of applicants and supports the fellow through two years of graduate study, internships and professional development activities, and entry into the U.S. Foreign Service—provides students with the opportunity to see the world through an up-close-and-personal lens.

“The Rangel Program absolutely positively changed my life and it changed my trajectory,” Corey said. 

Howard prides itself on exposing its students to the best educational and cultural benefits there are to offer. For current and former students, the path to studying abroad and beginning a career in foreign services begins at the Ralph Bunche Center. Founded in 1993 with this intention, the Ralph Bunche Center is the pillar upon which many of the University’s international activities and interests rest. 

For students seeking to study foreign affairs or simply to travel abroad for a semester, the Ralph Bunche Center houses the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program, the Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship Program, and study-abroad opportunities.

“The Ralph Bunche Center is the vehicle through which Howard students can meet the world, and change the world,” Tonija Navas, deputy director of the Ralph Bunche Center, said. 

Exposing African-American students to the diversity and benefits of studying abroad increases their confidence to influence the world on a global level. It also provides them with good exposure, a term Julius Johnson, deputy director of the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program, refers to as “international awareness.”

Johnson proposes that, in order to increase the number of students traveling abroad, they must be reintroduced to the rich tradition and legacy of Howard, and they must capitalize on their opportunities to travel.

“We need to talk to students and share with them the rich tradition of where they come from and who they are. We must deepen their self-perception and make sure Howard students know their own historical narrative and the great shoulders they stand upon,” Johnson said.

“We need to ensure that their course selections are right and rigorous, and that we are preparing them for the challenges of tomorrow. As a part of that education process, in terms of course work and the faculty that they meet, we’ve got to get them to foreign countries where they will learn, grow, and develop, as well as interact with the world as part of their Howard University educational experience,” countries are seeing few African Americans,” Navas said. “They’re not seeing a true refl ection of the face of the United States of America if they’re seeing mostly White women. …It is important because we need to be represented abroad.” According to both Navas and Johnson, studying abroad encourages the development of a student’s abilities to be creative, problem solve, adapt and develop a sense of intercultural communication and competency. “All of those things are things that you will learn when you have to fi gure out how to function in a different culture, in a different country with different ways of doing things,” Navas said. “You come back independent with all of these other skill sets. Not enough African Americans are getting out there to do that. There is no fi eld, there is no job in the world, at this point in the 21st century, that couldn’t benefi t from a person with skills that involve having intercultural competency.” Through the Rangel Fellowship and her experiences abroad, Corey began walking the path to her career in diplomacy. “Without the Rangel Program, there’s no way I would be where I am,” Corey said. Johnson continued.

International travel for Howard, as an HBCU, has become an increasingly important topic of discussion, as President Wayne A. I. Frederick (B.S. ’92; M.D. ’94; MBA ’11) desires to push the number of undergraduate students traveling abroad up to 10 percent by the year 2020. According to Navas, Howard currently sends just under 2 percent of students abroad.

Navas defi nes the importance of studying abroad for African-American students to be crucial, as Black students represent a minority within the United States. According to an annual report by the Institute of International Education, over the past 10-15 years, White females are the largest group to study abroad, accounting for 88 percent of the undergraduate students traveling abroad from all higher education institutions in the country. Both male and female AfricanAmerican students account for only 5.6 percent of students traveling abroad. 

“That means that people in other countries are seeing few African Americans,” Navas said. “They’re not seeing a true refl ection of the face of the United States of America if they’re seeing mostly White women. …It is important because we need to be represented abroad.” According to both Navas and Johnson, studying abroad encourages the development of a student’s abilities to be creative, problem solve, adapt and develop a sense of intercultural communication and competency. 

“All of those things are things that you will learn when you have to fi gure out how to function in a different culture, in a different country with different ways of doing things,” Navas said. “You come back independent with all of these other skill sets. Not enough African Americans are getting out there to do that. There is no fi eld, there is no job in the world, at this point in the 21st century, that couldn’t benefi t from a person with skills that involve having intercultural competency.”

Through the Rangel Fellowship and her experiences abroad, Corey began walking the path to her career in diplomacy

“Without the Rangel Program, there’s no way I would be where I am,” Corey said. 

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