International student numbers have shot up at Davidson College this year because of a hefty scholarship donation made by one of the school's trustees.
Carlos Alvarez, a trustee who lives in San Antonio, donated $10 million to the school with his wife, Malu, in January. Funds from the Alvarez Scholars Program started circulating this fall to help students pay for part of their tuition.
"I've seen in various discussions at Davidson the orientation toward creating a greater global community that is more engaged internationally," said Alvarez, who owns a craft brewing and sales and marketing organization in San Antonio. "With the scholarship fund, the school will be able to attract a larger group of international students, and domestic students will benefit from engaging with them."
The gift is the fourth largest in Davidson's history.
Alvarez's family has close ties to the school: his daughter, Malu, graduated from the college in 2002, and a niece, Matty Villareal-Alvarez, is an international student at Davidson from Mexico. Carlos Alvarez has also been on Davidson's board of trustees since 2003.
Jennifer Glass, the international student adviser, said this year's freshman class has 41 students, nearly four times the size of the sophomore class, which has 13. The junior and senior classes have 20 and 22 students respectively.
Glass said although the focus now is on getting more international students to campus, the school will eventually use input from those students to transform the international program's curriculum.
"Having more students helps build the morale of the international community so they don't feel as isolated," she said. "It builds excitement and pride for them because they're a part of something bigger than themselves."
Lionel Adabayeri, 19, of Ghana and Monserrat Jácome, 19, of Ecuador, are both freshman at Davidson. Both of them said that Davidson was always on their radar - for its size, reputation and academics.
But it was the financial aid that sealed the deal. "You don't have that extra stress to deal with," Adabayeri said.
Jácome and Adabayeri said they view the international student group as a tight-knit group of friends, even though members are from such diverse regions of the world.
The international student program at Davidson has students from 44 countries, including China, Korea, Ghana, Germany and Zimbabwe.
"But the size alone of the school makes us all one big family," added Adabayeri. There are 1,920 undergraduate students at Davidson.
School officials and students agree the program will help prepare students for an increasingly connected global community. Students will be able to learn about global perspectives inside the classroom and on campus, said Glass.
Added Jácome, "We can all learn from each other's cultures and beliefs. It helps us when we can learn about a different way of thinking."