Comprehensive internationalization strategies can be designed to fit campuses of every description.
By Charlotte West
There is no one-size fits-all approach to internationalization as institutional needs and interests vary dramatically due to size, resources, student population, and mission. Some strategies for successful campus internationalization, however, are the same regardless of institutional type. These include finding ways to engage faculty and staff, developing mutually beneficial partnerships, providing students with international learning opportunities on campus and abroad, and integrating an international focus into existing curricula. Cross-campus collaboration that engages multiple stakeholders is another common theme. Fitting these to the individual circumstances of the institution is the key to developing successful strategies for comprehensive internationalization.
Define What Internationalization Means for Your Campus
Beloit College, a small liberal arts institution in Wisconsin, involved multiple stakeholders in the conversation when they embarked on the path to internationalization. "When we decided to move from a reliance on student mobility as a stand in for international to institutional transformation through internationalization, we held collegewide discussions to discuss concepts and strategies and to define what internationalization should look like at Beloit College. This led to the development of an international education mission statement and learning goals for study abroad, and sent the message that everyone had a stake in the college's internationalization," says Elizabeth Brewer, director of international education at Beloit.
Daniel J. Paracka, director of education abroad at Kennesaw State University (KSU) in Georgia, advises senior international officers and others charged with promoting internationalization on campus to seek to understand the specific culture and context of their institution. "Don't apply a cookie-cutter approach. Develop a specific strategy based on the unique characteristics of your campus and community," he says.
KSU has leveraged the quality enhancement plans (QEP) they used as part of their accreditation process to help define what internationalization means for their campus. "One of the most important and influential aspects of this process has been a focus on articulating the meaning of global engagement and intercultural competence," Paracka says.
Furthermore, he adds that using the QEP as a mechanism for internationalization "demonstrated the importance of assessment as a mechanism for engaging academic departments in meaningful discussions about global learning."
KSU has subsequently focused its internationalization strategy on helping students develop intercultural competence. Like Beloit, they have engaged in campuswide conversations and continually evaluate their international programs. "We have approached international education from every angle we can think of in order to make it more accessible and meaningful. Most importantly, we have repeatedly and intentionally engaged in long-term strategic planning and continuously conduct program reviews to assess the ongoing effectiveness of our internationalization efforts. We have emphasized and invested in professional international education development opportunities for faculty and staff, have focused on curriculum development and student learning outcomes, have involved students by asking them through surveys and other means for their input and support, developed a broad array of education abroad options, and provide numerous cocurricular programs focused on global learning and community engagement," Paracka explains.
Similarly, Bellarmine University, a small private liberal arts college in Louisville, Kentucky, has also linked its internationalization efforts to the development of intercultural competence among its students. When Bellarmine launched its strategic plan in 2008, for example, faculty across campus voted to establish learning outcomes in terms of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that were desirable for a twenty-first century Bellarmine graduate across all disciplines. Bellarmine also has its students take part in an annual Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) and Global Perspectives Inventory (GPI) to assess and monitor their intercultural development over their four-year undergraduate experience. This helps determine whether or not the institution is meeting established learning outcomes and helping its students develop the desired intercultural competence.
At Columbus State University (CSU), an urban campus in Columbus, Georgia, internationalization efforts have been focused on providing students with multiple points of contact with international learning experiences throughout their entire undergraduate career. "We started with parts of a comprehensive strategy and then built the other components to try to bring the process to a full circle. We want students to have an experience with global education from the time they are freshmen through their whole time on our campus," says Neal McCrillis, director of the Columbus State University Center for International Education.
McCrillis adds that any internationalization strategy has to be tailored to the particular institution: "You can look at what everyone else does, but it has to work on your campus."
A hallmark of many successful internationalization strategies is faculty engagement. Experts argue that it is essential to get faculty on board with efforts to promote global opportunities. Faculty involvement is key to both impacting the curriculum as well as creating a campus culture that supports internationalization.
Bellarmine's efforts to engage faculty have been twofold: (1) recruiting faculty champions (called "liaisons") in each of the academic units and (2) introducing new faculty to international opportunities at Bellarmine as soon as they arrive on campus. "I meet with all new faculty as a group, followed by individual appointments prior to the start of the semester. Approximately six weeks into the beginning of the academic year, we offer a faculty ‘lunch and learn' seminar for the entire campus and have the new faculty joined by seasoned faculty leaders from across the campus, experienced in travel, teaching, research, and accompanying students abroad. This has traditionally been quite successful in that it builds intrinsic motivation and an ‘I can and will do' attitude among the new faculty from the start," Bosley says.
She adds that Bellarmine offers generous stipends for the development of new international initiatives both on campus and abroad. As a result, Bellarmine's faculty engagement abroad has doubled over the course of five years.
Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is another institution that offers funding to encourage faculty to engage internationally. According to Gil Latz, associate vice chancellor for international affairs, IUPUI offers an international development fund for faculty to seek seed funding for research projects, a travel grant for faculty and staff who participate in school-approved international undergraduate student recruitment efforts, and program development grants that allow faculty to explore the academic and logistical arrangements for prospective faculty-led study abroad programs.
At Beloit, Brewer says that their focus on faculty development has been beneficial not only for the instructors involved but also for the students they teach. "Our real achievement in terms of internationalization… is the decision to concentrate on faculty development, which has led to considerable innovation in teaching and has also meant that students across the campus have the opportunity to engage with the wider world in their courses, even if they never leave the U.S.," she explains.
For example, a group of faculty worked with the international office to create a Caribbean initiative, which brought guest speakers and performers to campus and ultimately led to a faculty reading group focused on Cuba. With support from Beloit's Weissberg Program in Human Rights, the group spent 10 days in Cuba in January 2014. One participant returned to Cuba in summer 2014 to study Spanish and gather materials for a course she is now teaching on the history of U.S.-Cuban relations. Two other faculty members are teaching about Cuba's health care system and health outcomes, another updated the sources he uses to teach about Cuba in international relations courses, and three people are teaching Cuban literature.
Despite the vast array of international initiatives on their campuses, not all faculty members are interested in or willing to get involved with internationalization efforts—and that's okay. Try to understand the concerns of those who are reluctant, but focus your efforts on those who are already enthusiastic.
"Don't dismiss their concerns, but also don't expend undue energy on them, at least not at first. If you want to convince them that internationalization matters, you have to have examples of why and how it does, and that may mean you need to focus on those more willing," Brewer says.
Paracka suggests spending time with more reluctant faculty in order to better understand their constraints and concerns about internationalization. He also suggests building relationships with those who are already engaged internationally. "Find the low hanging fruit and ally within the program with those who you can establish rapport with to create some small successes to build upon," he advises.
Bosley concurs that having faculty champions within academic units can help get others on board: "Sometimes leading from the middle is a useful and effective strategy by capitalizing on the buy-in from enthusiastic faculty in key academic units who have the capacity to motivate the less enthused."
Brewer adds that it's important to keep in mind that departments can change as new faculty arrive on campus—especially if international engagement is considered during the hiring process. "Ten years ago, the Beloit College English Department sent few students abroad; now, through faculty development activities, curriculum development projects, service on the international education committee, and study abroad site visits, it is one of the departments sending the highest percentage of students abroad," she says.
Share Stories to Make International Education Visible on Campus
Another key strategy for promoting internationalization on campus is highlighting success stories and making the wider campus community aware of the positive impacts of international education. "You have to constantly find ways to both share ideas and information and invite ideas and information," Brewer says.
Although Beloit College has been sending students abroad since the 1930s and had high study abroad participation rates in the early 2000s, the wider campus community lacked information about what study abroad students were actually learning.
In 2002 they established an annual International Symposium, a day-long conference that provides a forum for returned study abroad students to discuss the field research they conducted and the intercultural lessons they learned while abroad. The event is low cost—the only cash outlay is for print costs to produce a program with a schedule and abstracts—but the impact is huge.
"First-year students begin to imagine what they will be capable of with two or three years, student presenters draw new lessons from their study abroad, and faculty members now see study abroad as an integral part of a Beloit education, and something they want to invest in through advising and teaching," Brewer says.
In addition to the International Symposium, the international education office at Beloit also holds three briefings on international education developments and priorities for faculty and staff every fall. "We do this over the noon hour on consecutive days, and it is a way for my office to look back and forward on its work, but also to inform and invite ideas from the larger campus," Brewer says.
Another example of how success stories are shared at Beloit was the international education office's recent participation in a faculty forum series to discuss curricular innovations resulting from the faculty seminar and trip to Cuba. "Chairs had to be brought into the room to accommodate the overflowing audience, and attendees were excited to learn how the presenters were translating what they had read and then what they had observed and experienced into teaching," Brewer says.
At IUPUI, having a dedicated communications officer in the Office of International Affairs has been instrumental in getting the word out about the role and importance of internationalization on campus. "Instead of just my individual efforts, we have someone who is helping us tell our story on campus and in the community on a daily basis, and that's an extremely important part of what we do and how we build a new consciousness about how the world is globally interconnected," Latz says.
He adds that every campus has amazing stories to tell about their international engagement, but there is not always someone to tell it: "There are gems of international activity on every campus and rich outcomes that have come from it, but no one may know about them."
Make International Education Accessible to All
Both Beloit College and Columbus State have also concentrated on finding ways to make international education accessible to all of their students. Beloit's international education office has collaborated with other departments that are dedicated to helping at-risk students succeed. They've worked with the Office of Intercultural Affairs and its Student Support Services office to hold gatherings with first-generation and domestic minority students and with international students. Brewer and the director of student financial services also personally reach out to every Pell-eligible student who has been approved to study abroad to encourage him or her to apply for Gilman scholarships. In addition, Brewer says that when returning first-generation and minority students present in Beloit's International Symposium, they send a very strong message that study abroad is possible for these populations.
To help fund study abroad for all students, CSU charges every student a $14 international education fee every semester and this is used to fund study abroad grants. Any student who is in good academic standing is eligible to apply for and receive the grant. CSU did not want to restrict the grants to students with strong academic backgrounds. According to McCrillis, research shows the positive correlation of study abroad to retention, progression, and graduation for all students, but the greatest improvements in students' academic outcomes are among at-risk students and students traditionally underrepresented in study abroad. "These form a large part of CSU's student body," he adds.
Develop Mutually Beneficial Partnerships
IUPUI has very much focused its internationalization efforts on forging close, multifaceted relationships with a limited number of university partners abroad. This idea is embedded into IUPUI's definition of internationalization: "active involvement, across the teaching, research, and engagement missions of the university, in global networks of knowledge and collaboration." One of the key ways that IUPUI participates in global networks is through its international partnerships that involve student and faculty exchange, joint research, and curriculum development.
"Our goal is to develop mutually beneficial partnerships. We want multiple layers of faculty and student involvement on both sides," Latz says.
One of IUPUI's longest standing relationships is with Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya. IUPUI helped Moi build its school of medicine in the 1980s and over the years, they have collaborated in academic disciplines spanning education, social work, informatics, engineering, and business, among others. In 2011, for example, seven master's students travelled from Moi University to Indianapolis to do research and a practicum in bioethics, while 12 undergraduates from Indiana University's (IU) School of Journalism went to Kenya to report on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Each year IU medical resident students also rotate through the Indiana House, which is affiliated with the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.
IUPUI also has a close relationship with Sun Yat-Sen University (SYSU) in Guangzhou, China. Sun Yat-Sen has established a Confucius Institute in Indianapolis and the two institutions have recently started offering a 2+2 bachelor's degree program. SYSU students can complete two years of academic study at SYSU and then transfer to IUPUI to earn a degree from either Indiana University or Purdue University in business, communication, government, engineering, math, and a number of other fields. According to Latz, almost every school at IUPUI has sent a high-level representative to SYSU and last year they established a high-level cooperative development committee. In 2014 IUPUI hosted a visiting Fulbright scholar from SYSU, and the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy sent a music troupe to Guangzhou to celebrate anniversary events at SYSU.
"It is a strategic partnership that is very deep and leads to a high degree of interaction between the two campuses," Latz says. "Depth allows for efficient use of resources and a degree of connectivity for exploring new ideas."
Similarly, Beloit has developed close ties with Henan University (HU). In 2006 Beloit initially approached HU about the possibility of sending exchange students, and the director of HU's international office responded positively but also wanted to discuss possibilities for deeper cooperation. The next fall, Beloit sent three of its recent graduates to teach English at Henan, and subsequently began sending students to study Chinese. Since then both institutions have hosted each other's delegations as well as individual faculty and staff for job shadowing, lecturing, and teaching. Student and faculty exchange eventually led to joint research collaboration.
"Right now we are embarking on an initiative with Henan University to study social, economic, and environmental sustainability along the Yellow River," Brewer says.
Maintaining partnerships, however, comes with challenges, especially for smaller campuses such as Beloit with a limited number of faculty members. "We struggle with some of our exchange partnerships. As an institution with only some 100-plus faculty and 1,250 students, we're limited in what we can teach," Brewer explains.
She says that they've ended relationships that no longer made sense in terms of their curriculum or strategic interests, but they have also found innovative ways to maintain other partnerships: "We've looked for new ways to reinvigorate the relationships, for example, by creating a faculty-led short-term program that could be based at the partner institution for a portion of a course," Brewer says.
Find Synergies Across Campus
Bellarmine University has built relationships across campus through curriculum integration (CI), which helps make study abroad a possibility for all students regardless of their major. In the CI model, because study abroad is integrated into degree programs, it is not viewed as an "extra" but rather as an integral part of the college experience.
According to Bosley, each school or large academic unit has an appointed faculty liaison that serves as the bridge between the academic departments and the International Programs Office. The faculty liaison works with the respective dean, chair, and study abroad adviser to assess their academic units and to match them with the curriculum of Bellarmine's 38 partner universities in 22 countries. "This expands the course offering for our departments…and eases the credit transfer process, and thus reduces the departmental burden upon return from study abroad, creating much good will. Due to our large number of partnerships, exchanges are our preferred long-term study option… Students unable to go abroad will still benefit from the contributions and perspectives brought into the classroom through international students replacing domestic students who ventured abroad," Bosley says.
As a result of CI, around 35 percent of Bellarmine's full-time students engage in an international experience of some sort during their undergraduate program. Study abroad is available in all of Bellarmine's schools and majors, and is accessible to all students, regardless of economic background. This strategy has proven to be invaluable in making study abroad a possibility for students enrolled in professional schools such as education and the STEM fields.
At Beloit, the International Education Office has used a similar approach in partnering with its athletic department to encourage student athletes to study abroad. "We've also been collaborating with our athletic department to let student athletes know they can study abroad and play a varsity sport. Among the list of study abroad options are opportunities that can accommodate the basketball schedule, for example," Brewer says.
Focus on a Particular Country or Theme
Other institutions have chosen to focus on a particular country or theme and plan their internationalization efforts—including faculty development, academic courses, and cocurricular activities—around it. For example, KSU's Annual Country Study Program (ACSP), also known as the "Year Of" program, engages a wide array of stakeholders both on- and off-campus. Every year since 1984 KSU has chosen a specific country or region and will host a series of lectures, performances, exhibits, and films, using a multidisciplinary approach to examine the country or region from its earliest history through present day. In 2013–2014, programming was focused on Japan and in 2014–2014 KSU celebrated the Arabian Peninsula. Credit-bearing courses include "Understanding Societies in the Arabian Peninsula" and "Women, Peace, and Islam," and KSU also hosted a conference on "Women of Oman: Changing Roles and Transnational Influence" and organized an Arabic Festival featuring traditional music and dance, henna hand painting, fashion, and food. The idea is that every student will develop intercultural competence by learning about four different countries and regions of the world over the course of their four-year undergraduate program. In the last 7 years the ACSP has led to the creation of more than 60 new courses, 11 new education abroad programs, and 14 new international partnerships.
According to Paracka, one of the early successes of the program was the establishment of faculty learning communities focused on different world regions. "These teams of faculty became driving forces for the development of the Year of Country Study Program, the development of area studies majors and minors, the development of new education abroad programs, and many other on-campus programs," he says.
Columbus State University has taken inspiration from KSU in its development of its International Learning Community (ILC), which is a group of faculty and students who have a particular interest they pursue together over an academic year. Instead of focusing on an individual country or region, the ILC focuses on a particular theme. The 2014–2015 theme is "Food and Hunger."
Faculty members develop classes related to the theme, which are designated as an "I" course, and students participate in a range of related cocurricular activities. Seven hundred to 900 students take part in the ILC per year and CSU offers 15–20 campus events per semester, such as international films, international guest lectures, and "Global Dialogues," which are structured discussions led by international students on a variety of topics.
McCrillis says their thematic approach works well, as does bringing international programming to campus. CSU has a nontraditional student body and many students are first generation and are receiving financial aid. "Many of these students have never met anyone from another country," he says, adding that the ILC allows them to have a no-cost international experience on their own campus.
Build on Existing Programs
Another internationalization strategy is to build upon international programs that are already successful, or to find ways to add an international component to already existing curriculum. "Recognizing and building upon success is far more productive than starting from scratch…There are many types of successful programs on our campuses and adding a global dimension to a successful program will add value to both the original program and to the process of campus internationalization," Paracka says.
CSU, for example, has recently created an International Studies Certificate (ISC) that built upon the long-term success of the International Learning Community program. The ISC, which must be at least 18 credits, is a credential that is in addition to a student's major. All students who complete the program must take Introduction to International Studies and Cross-Cultural Learning, participate in courses offered through the ILC program, take an upper-division class with an international focus, participate in an international learning experience, and complete a capstone project. McCrillis says the ISC helped CSU to integrate the disparate elements of their internationally focused activities into a whole from the perspective of the students' experience and to relate it to their own academic program.
Another approach is to revamp existing programs to more clearly reflect campus internationalization goals. Brewer stressed that intentionality is key: "When I came to Beloit College, there was an existing Asian Studies program that awarded funds to individual faculty members to travel to Asia. While they needed to have some academic purpose, there was no expectation of curricular impact. We changed the program to focus on group seminars that essentially formed faculty-learning communities, and we asked faculty to identify in their applications to join the seminars the courses they hoped to modify or create. This focus on intention had greater yield in terms of changes in teaching and the development of shared knowledge and innovation." IE
Charlotte West is a freelance writer in Seattle. Her last article for IE was "Enrollment Is Up!" in the special supplement on German higher education that was published with the September/October 2014 issue.