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International Reach, UNT fosters global understanding, prepares next generation of world leaders by Ellen Rossetti


story extras

Jon Gilliam, Nepal

Heather Lacy, India

Mary Ellen Scribner, Ghana

other features

Gone to North Texas

Sleepless Nights

Suiting Up

International Reach



Mary Ellen Scribner ('63), librarian and teacher in international schools, now in Ghana

Mary Ellen Scribner at the Cape of Good Hope. Ocean in the background, rocky cliffs building on the left and rounded boulders the site of watermelons scatter around the beach

Mary Ellen Scribner at the Cape of Good Hope

Mary hiking near Sapa in Vietnam. Hilly countryside, with stepped farming terraces in the background.

Hiking near Sapa in Vietnam

I grew up in a very small Texas town with a segregated school and thus attended a school where everyone was pretty much like me — white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant. At North Texas (which seemed huge coming from a high school graduation class of less than 50), I found myself sitting in class with blacks, Jews, Hispanics, Catholics who were not Hispanic, and not a few "foreign" students. I was very proud of the way the university and President J.C. Matthews had managed integration and publicity about it in such a low-key manner.

My international experience has been special in that it has allowed me do important work that I greatly enjoy while expanding my opportunities to travel to so many places that I read about as a child or saw on TV as a teen. At times I've been present for some momentous event such as living in Beijing through the SARS epidemic and in Vietnam through an Avian flu epidemic, wandering through the streets of Saigon as the 30th anniversary of its fall to the Communists was being celebrated, or taking part in Ghana's celebration of 50 years of independence and then the soccer madness that accompanied its hosting of the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.

The students in international schools are such an interesting mix of languages, cultures, nationalities and ethnicities. Frequently, the parents are different nationalities and/or ethnicities, and this can result in kids who struggle with figuring out who they are and where they belong in the world. We educators talk about these "third culture kids" a great deal. A treasured letter from a former student, a third culture kid with a Japanese father and a Philippine mother, thanks me for teaching him "how to tell my own stories."


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