Director on mission to produce internationally educated college students

Photo: David Jolkovski. Anthony Pinder is the director of internationalization at Georgia Gwinnett College.

Photo: David Jolkovski. Anthony Pinder is the director of internationalization at Georgia Gwinnett College.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Anthony Pinder is a man with a big mission: Internationalize Georgia Gwinnett College's campus.

Since his appointment a year ago as the college's first director of internationalization, Pinder has worked to increase students' access to international education through both an expansion of study abroad programs and the implementation of events such as International Week.

Now, on the cusp of the college's sixth year, Pinder is also leading the effort to bring international students to campus. GGC's application to become an institution sanctioned to receive students from foreign countries is currently pending adjudication by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Pinder said the college expects to receive the official stamp of approval this month, which would allow international students to start studying at GGC in January.

"Getting international students on our campus from countries around the world that are particularly interesting to this region -- to this county -- is critical," Pinder said. "Not every student out of 8,000 students is going to have the opportunity to study abroad, so we've got to bring the world to the campus."

Pinder's job supports the college's mission of developing graduates with global competence. It's a job that he approaches as a ministry, with a passion explained by his extensive background in international education.

His father was a foreign service officer who traveled extensively to exotic places. Because Pinder's parents divorced when he was young, he settled into a more traditional lifestyle with his mother.

"But I assumed that spirit, and as soon as I could travel, I did it," Pinder said.

Pinder joined the Peace Corps and worked as a small business volunteer in Ecuador. He later served as country director for the Peace Corps in central Africa.

His experiences in living abroad only heightened his interest in travel.

Pinder said he's been to more countries than he has states in this nation.

On holidays, Pinder said he and his mother typically visit foreign countries.

"The thing that the Pinders do is travel," he said with a laugh.

During President Bill Clinton's administration, Pinder received an appointment as the national director for minority recruitment with the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C. When Clinton's second term neared its end, Pinder started looking for another job, as a change in staff is routine when a new president takes office.

Although he said he wasn't looking for a job in higher education, Pinder was persuaded to accept the role of associate dean of global studies at Dillard University in New Orleans after doing some contract work for the school.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, Pinder said he evacuated to Atlanta, where he took a job at his alma mater, Morehouse College. There, he served as executive director of the Andrew Young Center for International Affairs.

Even though he lived in the Atlanta area, Pinder said he had never heard of Georgia Gwinnett College when a friend told him the school was looking to hire a director of internationalization. He said he was surprised that someone at the college had the wherewithal to do the research and know what internationalization in higher education was.

"They wooed me," he said. "Once I sat down with Dr. (Daniel) Kaufman, that was it."

Pinder said he was impressed by Kaufman's understanding of the intricacies of internationalizing a college campus. A retired brigadier general, Kaufman held senior administrative positions at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and is considered an expert in global politics.

"Tony's experience and enthusiasm will ensure that we have a strong international program," Kaufman said when Pinder was hired. "International students contribute significantly to an academic community by introducing a vibrant and diverse mix of perspectives. Study abroad programs and a curriculum infused with international dimensions also are keys to a robust educational experience. In today's global economy, it is more important than ever for students to develop an understanding of, and appreciation for, people and cultures from around the world."

Pinder said the college has a responsibility to its students to make sure they are competitive when they leave the school.

"We're very, very conscious of the fact that we are an open access institution," Pinder said. "However, we have a secondary responsibility to produce the graduates at the same level as many of our peer institutions, especially our peer institutions in the University System of Georgia. So internationalization and the production of globally competent graduates is key to that."

As Pinder approaches the upcoming academic year, he's not only thinking about bringing international students to campus and opportunities to send students abroad, but activities that will engage students on campus and ways to infuse a more robust international dimension into the curriculum.

"There are some very specific strategies that together form a very comprehensive approach to internationalization, and I think that's really one of the main jobs of my office is to integrate all of these usually disparate activities and roll them into a very integrated and comprehensive approach," Pinder said.

"We're on our way to doing some really incredible things. I can't wait to look back 10 years from now and wrap my head around what we've done."