One on One With Amir Reza

Amir Reza

This year has been an amazing one for Amir Reza and his team in Babson’s Glavin Office of Multicultural & International Education.

It was a year, Reza said, that would be “the envy of any institution in the United States.” Once you take a look at all the Glavin team has accomplished—and the recognition that it has received—it’s easy to see what he’s talking about.

The accolades started with Forbes naming Babson the No. 1 institution for international students for the second year in a row. Then, Babson was recognized as a top producer of students for the Fulbright program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. And, the Institute of International Education Open Doors report on international educational exchange listed Babson as a top institution for sending students to study abroad.

The year culminated with the most prestigious honor of them all. In March, Babson was chosen as one of five recipients of the 2018 Sen. Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization from NAFSA. Named after the late Senator Paul Simon of Illinois, the NAFSA Simon Awards recognize outstanding innovation and accomplishment in campus internationalization. Specifically, Babson earned a Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization which distinguishes excellence in integrating international education throughout all facets of university and college campuses.

During International Education Week, Reza joined President Kerry Healey in Washington, D.C., for the Paul Simon Award Ceremony. The event featured a panel of leaders (including President Healey) from Simon Award-winning colleges and universities discussing successes and challenges in campus internationalization.

We spoke with Reza about the importance of internationalization at Babson, the impact of his team’s work on the campus, and what’s on the horizon.

How did you share the news of the Simon Award with your team?

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime award. When Lorien [Romito, Director of Education Abroad] and I found out we won, we decided not to tell the team at first. We wanted to make it ceremonial. So, we invited President Healey to a special meeting, and, in that meeting, we revealed the news with a cake. The team was thrilled. President Healey thanked and congratulated them. My comment was that it was just the start of celebrations; we had the awards ceremony in November.”

What inspires you to do this type of work?

“I grew up on four continents. I was born in Iran, lived briefly in Switzerland, then moved to Niger inWest Africa, where I went to an American school and learned English. I came to the United States for high school and college and have been in the New England area for 31 years. I’ve been in Boston longer than I’ve lived in any other place, and it’s become my home. My parents and I were born on a different continent, and my children were born here. It’s an in-between that a lot of our students can relate to.

“When you ask me what drew me to this field I can’t help but reflect on my own journey.My childhood was very much impacted by war. In my experience war is the worst dehumanization of the other. My memories of war stand in stark contrast to my undergraduate years as an international student, where at any given gathering of my friends at least 5 countries were represented and we would engage in the most heated international debates. Our words were fierce, and we invoked morality as on our side, yet at the end of the day we respected and even loved one another. The deep sense of humanity in the room was above all conflict. Here was a microcosm, I saw, that focused on the universal things that united us instead of the particular things that separated us. And so I thought: if we are to rid the world of misunderstanding and violence, we’ve got to bring people together. I was certain that I wanted to contribute to that. International education facilitates this important exchange of ideas and people to foster tomorrow’s peace makers.”

What does internationalization look like at Babson?

“There are so many activities and initiatives to discuss, but to be brief let me use our international student body as an example. At most institutions, there is an international office responsible for international students. But, at Babson, where one in three of our undergraduate students are international in their identity, we take a unique approach. Our effort, our vision, our goal has been to engage the campus community and our partners to create an ecosystem that thrives on internationalization and engages with it successfully. So, our office is a guide and an advocate. And, our partners—faculty, residence life, class deans, graduate programs, health services, for example—integrate internationalization into their work. Whether it’s support for international students, education abroad and internship and service learning abroad, or global university affiliations, that ongoing partnership prevents it from being a siloed activity in one corner of the campus. Babson has embraced internationalization to benefit our students’ education and to fulfill our mission to education entrepreneurial leaders who are also mindful members of our global community.”

What is your message for international students considering an education at Babson?

“We at Babson, are proud of our international character and will warmly welcome students from all corners of the globe. International students will find this is the best place for them in terms of feeling welcomed, integrated, and cared for. Here, they’ll engage with students from more than 80 different countries and make lifelong friends. We are here with open arms, ready to welcome them.”

With the launch of the Babson Academy for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurial Learning, you’ll take on a new role. How does this new role relate to our campus internationalization efforts?

“The Babson Academy is the primary lens through which we educate educators, university professors, and non-Babson students from around the globe. We want to create access, inspiration, and connection to the Babson entrepreneurial ecosystem. That amplifies our entrepreneurial approach and reach, and helps us achieve our mission of educating entrepreneurial leaders everywhere.

“My constant advice for others has been: do something you’re a little scared of. Learning starts at the end of your comfort zone. And, this will put me at the edge of my comfort zone. And, I’m really thrilled to be taking on this new role as Dean of the Babson Academy and continuing to oversee the internationalization of our institution.”

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