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Cranwell family gifts $7 million to Virginia Tech to support international students

Cranwell family gifts $7 million to Virginia Tech to support international students

International Street Fair

Egyptian calligrapher Fatma Elzahraa Eid shows off her work for sale to festivalgoers during the 2016 International Street Fair that the Cranwell International Center supports. The words read “Virginia Tech” in Arabic. The Cranwell family donated $7 million to support the international community at Virginia Tech.

A Southwest Virginia family has given Virginia Tech $7 million to support programs and services for international students, the university announced Wednesday.

The Cranwell family’s donation — the largest the university’s student affairs has ever received — will benefit the Cranwell International Center, which is named after the family. The center responds to the specific needs of the international community, which is made up of 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 100 countries.

Bill Cranwell and his wife, Ellen, and his brother Bob Cranwell and his wife, Susie, pooled together the donation. The brothers are graduates of Virginia Tech.

The family’s donation has already been put to use on some initiatives, including pre-departure programs in China, the International Street Fair, various intercultural training programs and the Global Fellow in Residence Program that provides short-term housing for a globally-oriented researcher or speaker. The funds will also be put toward improving the center’s Mozaiko Living-Learning Community, which opened four years ago for U.S. and international students to live together with the mission for students to learn about one another’s cultures.

Newer initiatives supported by the Cranwells’ gift include the center’s new program development grants that will begin this fall. The grants will support initiatives from student organizations, living-learning programs, and departments that have an impact on the international student experience or on international growth with Virginia Tech community members. Money will also go toward endowing a full scholarship for as many as five years of study, to benefit one undergraduate international student at a time.

The investment comes as universities across the country are discussing how to ensure they are providing culturally responsive programs so that international students have the resources to respond to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The center’s support makes it feel like someone at Virginia Tech cares about us,” Jianuo Huang, a graduate student from Wuhan, China, who has been involved with the center since he was an undergraduate, said in a statement. “The team spends a lot of effort making Virginia Tech a second home for all international students. Their team reacted quickly before COVID-19 reached the U.S. based on what they were hearing from students. We felt heard — and proud of their fast reaction.”

The Cranwell family has been a longtime financial supporter of Virginia Tech, with an emphasis on improving the campus environment for international students. The family donated its home to the university in 1986 to serve as the Cranwell International Center. The center was relocated to another building in 2014, but the house is still a community space for international students.

“Our family wants international students to know how valued they are by the entire Hokie community,” Bill Cranwell said in a statement. “Their contributions to Virginia Tech help make our university and the Southwest Virginia region the special place that it is. These gifts represent our family’s promise to international students that the university is committed to building a welcoming community where they can thrive.”

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