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PITTSBURGH, Aug. 28 -- La Roche College welcomed its first eight students from the Republic of Burundi at a ceremony in the Zappala College Center today. The students have enrolled in the College under the auspices of the Pacem in Terris Institute.

The Institute, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has granted full four-year scholarships to 25 students from the Great Lakes region of Africa, which includes Rwanda, the Congo, and Burundi. The Rwandan students are already at the College, and the Congo students will be enrolling in 2002.

In welcoming the latest group of international students to the campus, La Roche College President Msgr. William A. Kerr noted that the entire College community benefited from the students’ presence. “An essential and defining element of the La Roche tradition has always been our commitment to meeting the needs of those we serve. In recent years we have witnessed a dramatic change in the scope of those needs, both educationally and geographically. There is no question that our US students need to have greater exposure to other peoples and other cultures if they are to reach their full potential as members of the global village. And there is no question that the world needs efforts aimed at forging a better, safer, and more humane existence for those in the developing and conflict-torn areas of the globe,” he said.

He added that by providing an education rich in the Catholic tradition and infused with an authentic world view through the Pacem in Terris program, La Roche College is uniquely positioned to make a real and substantial contribution toward meeting those needs. “The significant international population at the College promotes cross-cultural learning and provides experiences that transcend the classroom and prepare all students for today’s diverse world,” Kerr said.

Catholic Relief Services coordinated the selection process for the students from Burundi. A panel of judges from the business, government and non-profit sectors in Burundi considered academic excellence and leadership capabilities as the most important criteria, as well as the needs of the country. In addition, the panel considered ethnic balance, geographical distribution, and level of poverty.

Congresswoman Melissa Hart participated in the welcome ceremony to express her support for the College’s efforts to promote global understanding. “The Pacem in Terris program is truly visionary. By fostering appreciation for other cultures among young people from the United States and around the world, La Roche College is making a real contribution to creating a better world for us all,” Hart said.

The Ambassador from Burundi to the United States, His Excellency Thomas Ndikumana, was on campus to greet the students. Ndikumana, former director of cabinet at the Ministry of Education in Burundi, expressed his appreciation for the possibilities for his country when these students return home. “The Great Lakes Region in particular, and Africa in general, cannot achieve and sustain rapid economic growth without investing in its people. When these young people return home in four years, they can begin to play a role in rebuilding and improving the critical area of infrastructure. Before they even arrived here, I know they had already begun to dream about how they can work together to make things better when they return home,” Ndikumana said.

Msgr. Kerr established the Pacem in Terris Institute in 1993 to provide scholarship assistance to students from conflict, post-conflict, and developing nations. In return for the scholarships, the students pledge to return to their countries upon graduation to work towards improving conditions in their homelands. Since the first students from Bosnia and Herzegovina entered the program in 1993, more than 300 young men and women have come to La Roche College from Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Caribbean. More than 50 have alread

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