When accepting a Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Women’s Network Champions of Change Award in May, Daniel Boylan, assistant professor of accounting at the Doermer School of Business, took some time during a group Q&A with the other honorees to help those attending the ceremony better understand one way Purdue University Fort Wayne has changed in recent years.
Discussing the kind of things he does to provide inspiration in the classroom, Boylan mentioned the positive impact international students have had on the PFW campus—and more specifically— on students from this region.
“To me, [international students] add a lot because, for a person from Allen County who hasn’t been able to travel that much or hasn’t been able to travel to so many countries, they have access to those countries right here on campus,” Boylan said. “One of my favorite things to say is, if you’ve never been to Korea, you can go to Korea over lunch by talking to an international student.”
That’s an interesting perspective, but it’s not unique for Boylan because of how he grew up and the tenets he continues to promote in his classrooms and professional life.
Teachers at South Side High School and Weisser Park Elementary School, Boylan’s parents had four children, but they were also foster parents to 67 others. They adopted four: one from Korea, African American twins, and a Native American from the Chippewa tribe.
Boylan attended South Side, which has long been known for its racial diversity among Fort Wayne Community Schools. Boylan became a Mastodon for his undergraduate study, which is where he encountered international students for the first time, mostly from Sri Lanka and Pakistan. He graduated with an accounting degree in 1991 and his MBA in 1996.
“We didn’t have that many international students at the time, and I knew maybe 10,” Boylan said. “They were our friends. When they come from another country, they are very well prepared because they are the elite. The things that we can learn from those students on their thinking, and all the lifestyle things from their context, I thought it was a great experience.”
After teaching at Ball State University and then Widener University in Philadelphia, Boylan came back to PFW in 2019 and immediately noticed the increase in international students on campus. During Boylan's student days, he mentioned there were more adult students bringing their work experience and maturity into the classroom. Now they have mostly been replaced by international students.
“I thought that was awesome,” he said. “I’m a diversity kid from a biracial background, and there are so many things people from other places can teach us. I think they add a lot to our community.”
Boylan also lives by the principles he learned growing up. He started the Archer Leadership Academy at South Side in 2022, offering activities at the school for 10 weeks each in the fall and spring. The group awarded $84,150 in scholarships during its first year. He also founded the South Side Mastodons club for Archer graduates on campus to help them feel more comfortable and included, and those students have flourished with a 100% graduation rate.
“If I was going to come back to Fort Wayne, I wanted to do something special, and one of those things was going back to South Side,” Boylan said. “I came back because I thought, ‘I’m in the middle of my life, my kids are getting ready to graduate college, and the next phase of my life has to be something cool. I’m only coming to PFW if I can make something special happen.’ I knew I could make a difference.”
The key, Boylan said, is trying to be the community people want to be. As an example, he pointed out his advisor asked him if he was going for an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. Boylan had no idea, but the advisor checked off a bachelor’s degree. Someone was looking out for him.
“What if he hadn’t done that? I don’t know how that would have changed me,” Boylan said. “I knew nothing coming here and had to learn everything the hard way. Now, kids are coming here and are even a little more disadvantaged, and they can have somebody on the inside who is not going to let them get hurt before they get crushed.
“We can provide hope to people, an avenue to success, and help them thrive and make their lives better. And they make our lives better, too.”