Internationalization in Action: Using NAFSA Webinars to Foster Campus Discussion

November 15, 2012

By Sarah Andrews

As institutions work to internationalize their campuses, gathering leaders from various offices to share ideas can be difficult. NAFSA webinars present a unique opportunity to bring multiple departments together to collaborate on university-wide issues related to international education.

“Your challenge on a big campus is how to get people involved and how to get them to take ownership of something that they don’t view as their responsibility,” said Joe Potts, associate dean of International Programs and director of International Students and Scholars at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Purdue University is one of several schools that hosted individuals from nearly every campus department for the first webinar in NAFSA’s “Today’s Chinese Student” series. Purdue currently has more than 3,900 Chinese students on campus, representing 45 percent of their international student population. These students bring unique language, cultural, and adjustment needs on a large scale.

“Everyone is interested to learn more about Chinese students and how they can better serve them,” explained Potts. Through the webinar, Purdue was able to “cast a wide net” and share the information with everyone at the same time.

Purdue’s Campus Partners group met before the webinar to discuss how to get the most out of the event. They developed the following strategy to maximize the benefit for participants:

• Maintain an “open-door” policy to ensure that webinar participants can come and go as their schedules allow.

• Before the webinar, distribute several questions for participants to review.

• After the webinar, moderate a discussion for those able to stay.

• Assign homework to those unable to stay for the discussion.

“We wanted something with an ongoing element to it,” said Potts. “We wanted people to communicate more and be more connected across campus with an awareness of shared purpose and shared concern. We also wanted to share ideas.”

About 50 of Purdue’s 70 participants stayed for the discussion. Around 10 of those who were not able to stay submitted the homework assignment, which focused on valuable lessons from the webinar and what ideas or information could be shared with everyone.

“It was exciting to hear what people had been doing. The interesting part of it all is that it’s coming from different perspectives – it’s all these other technically non-international offices that are doing things to try to serve international students,” Potts elaborated.

Potts plans to host a similar gathering for the next webinar in the “Today’s Chinese Student” series, which will take place on December 4, 2012.

Have you used webinars or other learning opportunities to advance internationalization on your campus? In the comments, share what methods worked for your institution and what plans you have for collaboration.


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