University of Oklahoma President David Boren had a lot to smile about Wednesday as he announced the creation of a new College of International Studies and a $2 million gift to help jump-start a $14 million fundraising campaign for the college.
The OU Board of Regents approved the new college during a meeting Wednesday at the OU Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.
“This is a major milestone for the university,” Boren said. “I think when we look back on the history of the university a hundred years from now, we’ll say that this was a very important step.”
The new college will help prepare students for international careers in a variety of fields, including engineering, fine arts and sciences, Boren said. He said today’s students will be living and acting in a global environment and preparation for that international environment is vital.
“It’s as basic as learning to read and write,” he said.
The college is being established in response to a growing demand from students, Boren said. He said international programs are so popular among students that the new college won’t be OU’s smallest.
International and Area Studies is among the fastest growing fields of study at OU, Boren said. About 450 undergraduate students are majoring in that field.
World events such as the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, have motivated many students to seek to understand other languages and cultures, said Suzette Grillot, who was named associate dean of the new College of International Studies.
During the past 15 years, the number of undergraduate students who study abroad has increased from about 5 percent to 25 percent, Boren said.
L. Francis and Kathleen Rooney, of Tulsa, have pledged $2 million for the new college. Their gift will help launch a campaign to raise $14 million to support new faculty positions, renovations of OU’s facility in Arezzo, Italy, and more.
The college will be housed in Hester Hall. It will include OU’s International Programs Center, the school of International and Area Studies and the offices of Education Abroad and International Student Services, among other programs.
The creation of the new college was one of several exciting announcements Boren made Wednesday.
OU is establishing an Institute for Water and Sustainability. It will include an Oklahoma Water Survey modeled after the Oklahoma Geological Survey, Boren said.
Corix, a multi-utility infrastructure company, has donated $2 million to create an endowed faculty position for the new institute.
Boren also announced a $6 million gift from Law Professor Emeritus Frank Elkouri and his wife, Edna Asper Elkouri, to support scholarship programs in the OU College of Law. The donation is the largest one-time donation in the College of Law’s history.
The Elkouris are longtime supporters of OU. Edna Elkouri served on the staff of the International Revenue Service Chief Counsel. Frank Elkouri graduated from the OU College of Law in 1947 and joined the faculty in 1952.
“This gift that they’re giving to the College of Law is absolutely typical of the values that they both demonstrated,” Boren said.
Boren told regents that OU has achieved the Carnegie Foundation’s highest tier of research activity classification, which has been a goal of the university’s for 30 years. He also announced that OU has the most National Merit Scholars of any public college or university. OU ranks fifth in the nation among public and private schools, Boren said.
Also Wednesday, regents approved a change to academic fees for 2011-12. In the past, OU has had more than 2,000 course-specific fees.
Officials decided to simplify the structure by eliminating many of those fees and creating about a dozen consolidated course and program fees. The fee consolidations will not increase costs for students, Boren said.
DARLA SLIPKE, newsok.com