A community conversation sponsored by the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, the Office of International Education and the Department of Modern Literatures and Cultures recently gave international students, scholars and students who have studied abroad a chance to discuss how the rest of the world views the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

The First Jepson International Forum in conjunction with the Culture Klatsch series, held Friday, Oct. 24 in Jepson Hall, was an open forum for students to discuss their views about the election and the candidates, how the candidates are perceived abroad, U.S. media coverage of the election and international media coverage.

“This election is going to be hugely important in terms of the way the world sees us and it is going to determine the direction of the world for many years,” Sungmoon Kim, an associate professor of leadership studies, political scientist and the facilitator for the event, told the tightly packed room. “We are eager to hear what you think about this presidential election – both your opinion and how your home countries understand or cover what’s going on in this country.”

The students responded by saying that they thought world opinion largely favors Barack Obama because of his views on health care, education and the Iraq war, although one student said that people from his home country of Swaziland prefer John McCain because of his age.

Two students, Xenia Schneider, ’09, and Laura Musser, ’09, gave short presentations to start the event. Schneider, a double major in leadership studies and Latin American and Iberian studies from Germany, said she thought most people in her country favor Obama.

“I talked to a lot of people to make sure it wasn’t just my perspective, but it really seemed like most people had this perspective on the U.S. elections and the campaign,” she said, adding that McCain is not widely discussed in her country.

Musser studied abroad in Cambodia last summer and discussed how elections there differ from U.S. elections. Although Musser said the U.S. election was not a popular topic of discussion when she was there, most international students agreed that the election is a hot topic  in their home countries.

Scholars and international students who attended the forum represented 13 countries including Great Britain, China, Germany, Bulgaria, Swaziland, Jamaica, Jordan and South Africa. Austria, Croatia and Spain were among the countries represented by students who participated in study abroad.

The Jepson School of Leadership Studies plans to sponsor a second international forum during the 2008-09 academic year.

Posted: Oct. 24, 2008