Kent State University's associate provost for global education gave an outsider's analysis on the growing presence of international students in Kenton Wednesday, during his speech at the 50th annual fall Bowman Breakfast.
Marcello Fantoni is a native of Tuscany, Italy who, prior to moving to Kent in 2012 for his position at KSU, directed both the university's Florence, Italy program and Geneva, Switzerland campus. He called Kent a "global microcosm," noting its embracement of diversity and retention of local identity.
KSU now has about 2,400 international students coming from 100 different countries, he said, adding that when factoring visiting scholars' families, Kent's international visitors may account for about 10 percent of the city's population.
"It's already above the national average," Fantoni said. "For a small town in the midwest, this is an extraordinary percentage of international population in this city."
Fantoni said Kent can be viewed as a laboratory for understanding intercultural relations because of its isolated nature and people of diverse backgrounds and ethnicity.
"It's definitely a bizarre outcome of what globalization is, because when we think of globalization, we think of Hong Kong or London, but there are bubbles of international human environments that have developed around the world and Kent is one of them," he said. "And as such, I think we have to consider this place both local and exemplary at the same time."
He recalled growing up in Tuscany, when at 8 years old, Americans began buying up land for vacation homes at a rapid pace. Meeting foreign people allowed him to gain a broader understanding of the world, he said.
Fantoni said his daughter, a Theodore Roosevelt High School student, is now going through the same experience.
"My daughter is in school with people from Saudi Arabia, from Spain, from Finland," he said. "She will understand when she is older, but all these seeds are planted into her by the diversity of this place and will bloom someday."
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