Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Celebrating International Students at Mizzou

An display celebrating Mizzou's International Student history is currently on view in the Lower Lair Lounge in the MU Student Center. The exhibit features photographs and Savitar yearbook spreads dating back to the early twentieth-century. This display will be up through the summer, so come check it out!

"Celebrating International Students at Mizzou" display in the Lower Lair Lounge of the MU Student Center.
For those of you who cannot visit the exhibit in person, I will be sharing some of the photographs and research here on my blog. I thought I would start by highlighting individual international students from Mizzou's early history:

Jose Santiago, 1905 Savitar.
Jose Santiago was a Missouri medical student from Puerto Rico at the turn of the twentieth-century. Notably, Puerto Ricans were not granted U.S. citizenship until 1917 with the passage of the Jones-Shafroth Act. While at Mizzou, Santiago was highly regarded by his peers for his skillfulness as a surgeon. Years later, in 1923, Dr. Jose Santiago M.D. wrote to the Missouri Alumnus to comment on a recently published Mizzou songbook: "I have been waiting for such a songbook... Such a book will shed light and fill the heart with happy remembrances. In my lonely hours, I like to sing in low tones the dear old melodies, and they never fail to bring back something of the dew of youth and they comfort me. The continued progress and future grandeur of our Alma Mater is the most ardent wish of mine" (Missouri Alumnus, Dec. 1923).

Hin Wong, 1910 Savitar.
Hin Wong, a Mizzou student from China, was the first international student to graduate from MU's Journalism School. Wong later served as Chair of the Department of Journalism at Yenching University in Beijing, China. Notably, Yenching's Journalism program was sponsored by and modeled after Missouri's.

Hugh J. MacKay, 1913 Savitar.
Hugh J. MacKay, a Mizzou student from Nova Scotia, was one of the earliest presidents of the Cosmopolitan Club (an International student organization). In Nov.1913 he wrote an article for the Missouri Alumnus about his experiences as an international student. In it, MacKay light-heartedly describes a few cultural difficulties he faced at MU, such as his own inability to distinguish between the U.S. affirmative "uh-huh" and the negative "huh-uh." Despite these differences, he ultimately states that "Missouri has made [him] feel at home." After returning to Canada, MacKay became a successful journalist and eventually purchased The Evening Province, a daily newspaper in Saskatchewan, Canada (Missouri Alumnus, Nov. 1913).

May Day Lo, 1934 Savitar.
During the first half of the twentieth-century, American universities had very few female international students. Nevertheless, some exceptional international women earned great respect from their peers at Mizzou as well as great professional success later in life. For example, May Day Lo, a Hawaiian of Chinese descent, was the first international female president of MU's Cosmopolitan Club in 1933 (Hawaii was not a U.S. state until 1959 and Hawaiian students were regarded as 'foreign' by the student body).

After graduating from MU, Lo quickly became a prominent journalist in Hawaii. Along with her peer Ah Jook Ku (another Journalism alumna discussed below), Lo made waves as one of the first Asian American women to work for an established paper. Employed by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Lo published stories about World War II's impact on Hawaii, among other topics. In 1945 she was named president of the Associated Chinese University Women (Missouri Alumnus).

Ah Jook Ku, 1934 Savitar.
Unquestionably among Mizzou's most prestigious international graduates, Ah Jook Ku was the first Asian American (female or male) invited to work for the Associated Press (AP). After recieving a degree in education from the University of Hawaii in 1933, Ku was accepted into the MU Journalism graduate program on scholarship. Nicknamed "Jookie," Ku was a peer of May Day Lo and a member of the Cosmopolitan Club. When she graduated in 1935, she was only the third woman of Chinese descent to recieve a degree from MU's Journalism School.

During her later career, Ku was internationally recognized as a Hawaiian political advocate. Arguably, her advocacy stemmed back as far as her time at Mizzou, when she periodically appeared on campus radio stations to debate Hawaiian affairs.

In 1975 Ku was named executive director of the Honolulu Community Media Council (Missouri Alumnus and "Star-Bulletin reporter pushed for free press" in Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Sept. 2009).

Authored by Niki Eaton, PhD student, Art History and Archaeology


Brawner Bevis, Teresa and Christopher J. Lucas. International Students in American Colleges and Universities: A History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Missouri Alumnus, University of Missouri Alumni Association.

Savitar, University of Missouri.

"Star-Bulletin reporter pushed for free press." Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Sept. 2009) pg 4.

***Stay tuned--more International Student info to come!!!