Program Development and Delivery

Holistically Vetting New Education Abroad Program Providers

Contributors from the 2023 Education Abroad Knowledge Community (EAKC) Jessica Fetridge, Northwestern University Emily Dougherty, Cornell University Vetting new partners is an important part of adding new programs for affiliation or exchange. Education Abroad offices should have clear processes and
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2023 Spotlight Cedar Crest College

Cedar Crest President Elizabeth Meade
Elizabeth Meade, president of Cedar Crest College, announces the 2023 Sophomore Expedition to Rome. Photo courtesy of CCC. Watch President Meade accept the Simon Award on behalf of Cedar Crest College.

Cedar Crest College (CCC) is a private college, primarily for women, with 1,300 total students located in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Since 2018, the Carmen Twillie Ambar Sophomore Expedition has provided a no-cost, guaranteed study-abroad opportunity for second-year students, who participate in a global service-learning experience together as a class. The program, which meets the college’s global studies requirement, has significantly boosted the number of education abroad participants and increased the diversity of students going overseas. Today, more than two-thirds of the college’s undergraduates have studied abroad.

For students at Cedar Crest College, first-year orientation in August isn’t just about getting to know their campus and classmates. It’s also the day of the big reveal: where they’ll be going for spring break their sophomore year. Amid an explosion of confetti and screaming students, President Elizabeth Meade announces the destination, which has in past years included Brazil, Greece, England, Costa Rica, Morocco, and—most recently—Italy. The 2024 expedition will take students to Ireland.

"It has a high level of anticipation," says Kelly Hall, director of global initiatives and international programs. Hall is also the director of the program that sends second-year students abroad­—the Carmen Twillie Ambar Sophomore Expedition—and leads students while they are overseas.

Professors find out the destination of the Sophomore Expedition the same day as the students. “It’s very hush-hush,” says Jill Purdy, a professor of education who is also a seminar director for the program. Then, she says, faculty have two or three months to develop and submit course proposals based on the location and common themes. Previous courses have included a Jack the Ripper forensic science class in London, England, and a history of the spice trade in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Providing Equitable Access to Education Abroad

CC Kelly Hall, Director of Global Initiatives
Kelly Hall serves as the director of global initiatives and international programs at CCC and directs the Sophomore Expedition. Photo courtesy of CCC.

The Sophomore Expedition began as part of an effort to enhance internationalization on Cedar Crest’s campus. As part of the college’s 2016–22 strategic plan, the college committed to providing additional support for programming that prepares students to be global leaders. College leaders knew that students who study abroad maintain higher GPAs and are more likely to go to graduate school, but they also knew that there are several barriers to studying abroad, ranging from costs to family concerns. 

“In order to combat all of those challenges, as well as really being a part of the growing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts of the college, this program was conceived so that all undergraduate students coming in would have the ability to have a study abroad experience,” Hall says.

Cedar Crest covers the cost of all flights, transportation, meals, academic excursions, and additional programming for participants. For those who need extra support to pay for their passport and incidentals, the college has additional emergency funds available. All students fly with a designated professor and fellow classmates, and the entire group stays at the same hotel. Classes typically go in separate directions during the day for their academic visits, but sometimes classes are combined. While the program is currently financed partially through general operating funds, the college is conducting a capital campaign to raise an additional $2 million for the Sophomore Expedition endowment. The college intends to have the program fully funded by donors within the next 10 years.

The Sophomore Expedition generally takes place over spring break, allowing students to pay full attention to their experience abroad. The exception was during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the 2021 expedition was moved to December and the 2022 expedition to May.  
Students must have a 2.5 grade point average to participate in the expedition. Those who don’t meet the academic requirement can participate in a recovery program where they work with their adviser and professors to raise their grades. The college has also recently expanded opportunities for transfer students to participate. In addition, the director does personal outreach to students who decline to participate to see if they can alleviate any concerns of the students or their families. Students who don’t participate with their class can in some instances defer to another year or take other courses to fulfill the college’s global studies requirement.

Global Service Learning

CC Dr. Jill Purdy
Jill Purdy is chair of the Department of Education at Cedar Crest and academic codirector of the Sophomore Expedition. Photo courtesy of Jill Purdy.

To prepare for the Sophomore Expedition, students participate in a semester-long global seminar in the spring that is focused on a special topic related to the expedition destination. Students can choose from six to 10 different courses in a variety of disciplines. Professors teach content related to their specific discipline, and predeparture information on issues such as travel security, mental health while abroad, and logistics are embedded into the course to prepare students for the experience abroad.

One of the highlights of the Sophomore Expedition program is the service-learning project that students complete abroad that complements their academic coursework.

In Athens, Greece, Purdy’s class visited a Syrian refugee camp, where they worked with children. Other projects have included planting trees in Brazil and picking coffee for a small cooperative in Costa Rica.

Suzanne Weaver, professor of social work, taught a course on migration when the program went to Athens. Like Purdy’s, her class also visited a refugee shelter. “I'm very careful about the ethics of service in a country. We can sometimes not really honor those who we are trying to serve,” she says. “So, we spend a lot of time in class talking about that.”

After students return to campus, the director of career services presents information to help students learn how to talk about their time abroad with prospective employers or to find international postgraduate opportunities.

A group of CC students in canoes cleaning waterways in London
Students on the 2020 Sophomore Expedition in London, working on a canal cleanup project. Photo courtesy of Global Initiatives at CCC.

Study Abroad Creates Global Outlook in Students

CCC tracks its abroad engagement, noting a strong increase after the implementation of the Sophomore Expedition. In the decade before the program started, about 40 students would study abroad each year. After the program started in 2018, that number grew to 132. More than 600 students have participated in the program. As a result, the number of Cedar Crest students who have been able to have an international experience has tripled.

It also has also encouraged many students to study abroad again after the Sophomore Expedition. Around one-fifth of students who participated in the first program to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2018 went abroad again, and 67 percent of students who responded to surveys conducted after the trip said they would like to study abroad again.

Cedar Crest senior Carolyn Weiss isn’t sure if she would have gone abroad without the opportunity offered by the Sophomore Expedition program. “I don't know if I would have personally carved out time to study abroad,” she says. 

As a business administration major with a concentration in health care management, she decided to take a course focused on holistic medicine in Morocco. “They did an incredible job building a trip that you couldn’t do by yourself,” she says. “I would have never chosen to go to Morocco, to go to a village in the Atlas Mountains, and meet with a midwife and a shaman. I would not be as open-minded of a person and as a student if it weren’t for the Sophomore Expedition.”

CC Students planting trees in Brazil
Students planting trees in the Brazilian rainforest with a local guide during the Sophomore Expedition to Brazil in March 2018. Photo courtesy of Global Initiatives at CCC.
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2023 Spotlight Arizona State University

ASU President Crow
ASU President Michael Crow. Photo courtesy of ASU. Watch President Crow accept the Simon Award on behalf of ASU.

Located in Tempe, Arizona, Arizona State University (ASU) is a public research university with more than 125,000 students. Through its Education for Humanity (E4H) program, the university has been supporting refugees by offering online courses with support from community partners abroad for the last six years.  In partnership with the resettlement organization the International Rescue Committee (IRC), ASU created the Afghan Women’s Education Project in 2021 to host refugee students on campus for the first time as part of a campuswide initiative.

When Zakia Muhammadi fled Afghanistan two years ago, it was just the start of her journey. She had been a student at the Asian University for Women (AUW) in Chittagong, Bangladesh, until the COVID-19 pandemic forced the college to temporarily close and she had to return to Afghanistan. When the United States pulled its troops out of Afghanistan in summer 2021, the Taliban quickly took over the country.

Muhammadi was one of 148 AUW students who fled Afghanistan by a plane from Kabul, traveling to Saudi Arabia, then Spain, Virginia, and, finally, Wisconsin, where they were among 13,000 Afghan refugees being processed for resettlement at U.S. Army Fort McCoy. After arriving to Wisconsin, Muhammadi wasn’t sure if or when she’d be able to continue her education. So it was unexpected but welcome news when she found out she had been admitted to Arizona State University. “To be honest, we didn't have any idea that we would get a scholarship,” she says. 

Muhammadi was one of 64 young Afghan women who had previously been at the AUW who were able to enroll at ASU. The group arrived in Tempe in December 2021. ASU officially cosponsored the students alongside the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and a local organization, Welcome to America. Arizona State also partnered with local nongovernmental organizations and volunteer groups, which donated clothing and household goods. Brown University, Cornell University, the University of Delaware, DePaul University, Georgia State University, the University of North Texas, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the University of West Virginia enrolled the other AUW refugee students.

ASU was able to host the largest group of Afghan students because ASU President Michael Crow supported the Afghan Women’s Education Project from its inception, says Pamela DeLargy, executive director of the Education for Humanity (E4H) program and a professor of practice in global studies.  Crow’s early support also helped mobilize the rest of the campus community. 

An ASU student sits on a crowded military plane
ASU student Humaira Zafari inside a U.S. military plane that evacuated Afghans from Kabul. Photo courtesy of ASU.

Creating Local and National Partnerships

“This was the first cosponsorship between a higher education institution and a resettlement agency,” DeLargy says. “We worked for many months ahead of time to coordinate how we were going to handle things like health care and getting Social Security numbers.”

ASU was well positioned to develop the Afghan Women's Education Project, building on the work the university had already been doing through E4H. Since 2017, the program has supported more than 5,700 learners in 15 countries, mainly in Africa and the Middle East. Previously, E4H focused primarily on serving refugees abroad by offering blended learning opportunities in collaboration with partners such as the United Nations’ refugee agency—UNHCR—and the Norwegian Refugee Council. 

Two years prior to the arrival of the Afghan students in 2021, ASU launched a concerted effort to make its campuses more “refugee friendly.” This effort grew out of the desire to better serve the resettled refugee communities in Arizona and to sensitize a wider community of ASU faculty, staff, and students about forced migration and the educational challenges faced by refugees.

ASU had also started working with resettlement agencies during the pandemic when the university began offering online English classes to local refugee communities. The university  reached out to the IRC about cosponsoring the Afghan students when it knew they were coming to campus.

“We already had some experience with trying to think about what kind of special services needed to be arranged for those coming from this background,” DeLargy says. “This was kind of a shock to the system, but [it] also helped us in many ways to build out the system so we can be more supportive of those others who are coming. We had Ukrainian students who were already at ASU who became refugees. We also have large Congolese, Sudanese, Somali, Iraqi, and Syrian communities in Phoenix.”

Hosting refugee students is different from serving the general international student population, DeLargy says. “The difference is that the students are with us 24/7, 365 days a year,” she says. “Most universities have moved away from in loco parentis status. But with this population of students, you actually become responsible if somebody gets hurt or sick. They don't have parents or family in the country.” The university becomes the students’ local support system, she adds. 

Mobilizing Campuswide Resources

To bring the Afghan students to campus, ASU mobilized a university-wide set of resources and, in some cases, changed institutional policies and procedures to provide full-time and full-year care for the students. ASU's Global Launch program provided intensive English courses, social support, and cultural orientation throughout their introduction to the United States. “We got the chance to explore more about the university and learn about the system here,” Muhammadi says. 

Admission procedures were adapted to handle the lack of transcripts and other documentation. Special housing considerations were put in place to ensure access to kitchens so that students could prepare their own meals, especially during Ramadan, since cafeterias are not accessible before dawn or after dusk. 

Because of the unique needs of trauma-affected refugees, ASU Counseling Services engaged in targeted outreach and employed a Dari-speaking counselor. Faculty and staff, including resident assistants in the dorms, were also trained to provide trauma-informed instruction and include more culturally sensitive support. ASU's Project Humanities worked with an Honors College student who conducted participatory research on refugee mental health needs and analyzed campus resources to aid these efforts. “We all have a need to talk about these traumas we went through, because we didn't have normal lives for six months,” Muhammadi says. “When we went to counseling, there were some people who could not share their feelings in their second language.”

ASU also had a number of student organizations that were already working with refugee communities in various capacities and so were equipped to jump into supporting the new students. In addition, the incoming students revived the Afghan Student Association, which has hosted a number of well-attended educational and social events on campus. “These have raised awareness of the current Afghan situation and also of the challenges of Afghans awaiting regularization of their immigration status,” DeLargy says.

ASU Refugee Students
ASU refugee students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Photo courtesy of ASU.

ASU also increased its involvement with local and national groups focusing on refugee education and employment. ASU now serves as a partner to Arizona resettlement programs and has engaged in a multifaceted national research collaboration with the IRC. The university is also an active participant in the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, Welcome Corps on Campus, and Every Campus a Refuge, all of which are groups of universities that share lessons they have learned hosting refugee students. 

DeLargy recommends that higher education institutions that host refugee students work closely with resettlement agencies and their state arm of the Office of Refugee Resettlement because they have expertise in all the processes that refugees need to go through to complete necessary federal and state registrations and be eligible for various benefits.

Student Success

ASU Students with skateboards
ASU students Arifa Sanjar and Hadisha
Rezayee skateboarding in Arizona. Photo
courtesy of Nisha Datt, IRC.

As of October 2022, seven of the refugee students were enrolled in graduate programs at ASU and 42 in undergraduate programs. In January 2023, another 18 had completed their English studies and moved onto their degree programs. As for Muhammadi, the move to Arizona gave her the opportunity to realize a childhood dream she had long given up on. “This is not the first time I'm a refugee,” she says. “I'm originally from Afghanistan, but I grew up in Pakistan as a refugee. And there, I didn't have an opportunity to get an education.”

She was thankful to eventually receive a scholarship to the AUW, where she studied politics, philosophy, and economics because her preferred major was unavailable. “It was my childhood dream to be a computer scientist,” she says. Now she’s taking prerequisites to double major in politics and computer science. She’s also doing an internship at a tech company, and she gives credit to ASU for her new path. “Because of all the support, they gave me this confidence to be who I am now,” she says.  

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2023 Spotlight Albany State University

UA President Marion Ross Fedrick
Albany State President Marion Ross Fedrick. Photo courtesy of Albany State University. Watch President Fedrick accept the Simon Award on behalf of Albany State University.

Albany State University is a public institution and HBCU in Albany, Georgia, with more than 6,000 students. Because few of its students study abroad, the university has successfully launched a professional development program that trains faculty across multiple colleges and disciplines to internationalize their courses. As a result, thousands of students have had access to global learning opportunities

When Christian Andrade Herrera traveled back to his native Mexico during the winter break of his first year at Albany State University to visit his family, he decided to take a six-hour trip to the village of Real de Catorce in the Sierra Madre mountain range. It’s a pilgrimage site for the indigenous Huichol people.

Even though he grew up in the same region as the Huichol, Herrera had never heard of the group before he took an introduction to anthropology class at Albany State. That class inspired him to travel to meet the people he studied about. “It was a great experience to see the things I learned in the classroom outside in the real world,” says Herrera, a biochemistry major who graduated in spring 2023. “I was able to immerse myself in the rich culture of the city and meet some of the Huicholes who owned a folk-art store in the city.”

That anthropology class was just one of around 100 classes at Albany State that have been infused with global content through a curriculum internationalization initiative. When Professor of English Nneka Nora Osakwe started at Albany State in 2004, she joined the ongoing curriculum internationalization initiative, assisting to train other faculty members on how to globalize their courses. Six years later, she became the director of the university’s Office of International Education, a position she held until 2021 before transitioning to her current role as an English professor and the provost’s special assistant for internationalization and global engagement.

A Renewed Focus on Curriculum Internationalization

Nneka Nora Osakwe
Nneka Nora Osakwe is a professor of English and the provost's special assistant for internationalization and global engagement at Albany State. Courtesy of Albany State University.

Over the years, support for curriculum internationalization waned under different university administrations, Osakwe said. When it became clear that it was difficult to recruit students to study abroad, Osakwe sought the support of a new president and renewed the focus on curriculum internationalization as a way to promote global learning in 2016. This trend accelerated in 2018, when President Marion Ross Fedrick enrolled Albany State in the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Internationalization Laboratory, which expanded global learning awareness on campus. Since then, external grants from organizations such as the U.S. Department of Education have helped institutionalize Albany State’s curriculum internationalization framework.

At the beginning of every semester, during the faculty-staff conference, the Center for Faculty Excellence schedules professional development sessions, which include curriculum internationalization. The Office of International Education partners with a select team of faculty internationalization mentors to train a new cohort of faculty to internationalize their courses and earn the designation of curriculum internationalization fellows. These faculty development projects and workshops also continue each summer. The Office of International Education has also collaborated with the Distance and Online Learning Department to develop an internationalization training portal in the University System of Georgia’s GeorgiaView learning management system for faculty who want to complete the training online. Faculty members are incentivized to participate through additional pay, publication opportunities, and favorable consideration during the tenure and promotion process.

Additionally, the Office of International Education organizes regular faculty forums where fellows share creative teaching and evidence-based approaches used in their internationalized courses at home and abroad. The forums serve as venues to train the cohort as they work toward becoming curriculum internationalization fellows. The faculty members become fellows after they submit proposals, go through the internationalization professional development, revise their syllabi to include six critical global learning elements, implement their revised course, and share their implementation outcomes in any of the forums.

One of the key components of Albany State’s approach to curriculum internationalization is through experienced faculty sharing best practices as curriculum internationalization fellows. Over the past two decades, more than 100 faculty members have earned this designation, leading to the internationalization of more than 100 courses. In addition, 24 of the fellows have published articles and book chapters that are used as models for training new and existing faculty members who also infuse global learning into their courses.

Thousands of students like Herrera have taken Albany State's internationalized courses. The College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Business, Education, and Professional Studies both require all their students to take at least one internationalized social science or humanities course, and the Darton College of Health Professions also requires first-year bachelor's degree students to take a cultural diversity course that has been internationalized. Having these policies in place signals buy-in at an institutional level, which sets the tone for faculty.

Internationalizing the Health Sciences

Albany State’s professional development opportunities make it much easier for faculty to take on the challenge of internationalization, says Andrea Dozier, the interim chair of Albany State’s Department of Nursing and a curriculum internationalization fellow.

It wasn’t until Dozier accompanied nursing students on a study abroad trip to Jamaica in 2019 that she began to understand the importance of curriculum internationalization. “I hadn’t ever been outside of the United States,” says Dozier. “I had to internationalize myself before I could internationalize the course.”

Dozier realized how important having a global perspective was for anyone working in the health care field. She chose to internationalize Conceptual Basis for Professional Nursing, a class taken by students who have received their nursing license and are already working in the field.

She was teaching online and wanted to create opportunities for those studying remotely to participate in internationalization. The assignments of the internationalized version of the course ask students to reflect on situations where nurses might not speak the same language as their patients and think about stereotypes they might hold about certain groups of people.

Now, nursing is becoming a model for the other health sciences. Sarah Brinson, dean of the Darton College, says that it’s her goal for all 13 of the health science programs to have at least one internationalized course. The introductory course taken by all physical therapy students, for example, now includes content related to how patients might need to be treated differently depending on their cultural background.

University of Albany Students at international fair
Albany State students attend a fair celebrating international cultures and experiences. Photos courtesy of Albany State University

Faculty Buy-in and Global Learning for All  

Some faculty were initially skeptical about internationalization, either because it would be too much work or because they didn’t understand why it was important. “I think that from a faculty standpoint, we get bogged down into the weeds and have so many other duties that the thought of doing something different is just overwhelming,” says Dozier.

Patrick Whitehead, associate professor of psychology, joined a faculty learning community sponsored by Osakwe because he was interested in taking students abroad. He was surprised when he suddenly had several new ideas for his classes. He spent three semesters refining an internationalized course on human development, which covers topics such as the transition from childhood to adulthood. He added international content, such as looking at childbirth and child-rearing in indigenous Canadian cultures.

When he first launched his new course, he tried to incorporate global material on top of the content he was already teaching. “I had 100 things that I wanted to cover,” he says. “And about halfway through that semester, I was like, ‘I don't think they're getting it.’”

He quickly cut down on the number of activities he was trying to do and found the students responded much better. “I understood that less can be more beneficial,” Whitehead says.

Whitehead says that curriculum internationalization is particularly important for a university like Albany State, where around two-thirds of the students are eligible for Pell Grants and may not be able to pursue study abroad opportunities.

“It’s really accessible, and that, in my opinion, makes internationalization probably more powerful at our school than studying abroad,” he says. “Even though study abroad is life changing, it still has limits in terms of who can do it just by the price tag. I see curriculum internationalization as even more valuable for our school as a whole.”

University of Albany Students
Students on campus at Albany State University in 2023. Photos Courtesy of Albany State University
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2023 Comprehensive University of Kentucky

UK President Capilouto
UK President Eli Capilouto. Photo courtesy of Mark Cornelison, Ukphoto. Watch President Capilouto accept the Simon Award on behalf of UK.

Located in Lexington, Kentucky, the University of Kentucky (UK) is a public research university with almost 33,000 total students, including 1,300 international students. The university has developed a strategic plan for global education called Global UK, which aligns with its overall strategic plan. Global UK guides a broad array of international programs and initiatives, including professional development opportunities for both faculty and staff; equity-focused study abroad programs, including an education abroad program for first-generation students; and a focus on data collection to assess the impact of its strategic initiatives.

Ana Carolina De Souza Goncalves has had a lot of firsts in the last year. Not only is she the first in her family to go to college, she’s part of the first cohort of a new study abroad program at the University of Kentucky geared toward first-generation students—Explore First: Careers, Cultures, and Connections. 
Coming to study at the University of Kentucky as an international student from Brazil created unanticipated opportunities, including the chance to spend three weeks in London through Explore First. 

“I had the opportunity to go to the U.S., and by doing that I created an opportunity to come to London,” says De Souza Goncalves, a second-year student majoring in aerospace engineering. “I think if you're already the first to go to college, then just embrace that and be the first to do a lot of different things.”

UK Associate Provost Sue Roberts
Senior International Officer and Associate Provost for Internationalization Sue Roberts. Photo courtesy of UK.

The Explore First program was developed as a joint effort between UK’s International Center and two units in the university’s Office for Student Success— First-Generation Student Services and the Stuckert Career Center. “It started as a concept that we wanted to bring to life to introduce career readiness within a global context for first-generation students as part of their academic experience at UK,” says Niamh Larson, executive director of education abroad and exchanges.

A total of 60 students traveled to London and Dublin in June and July 2023. Students took classes in the mornings and in the afternoons participated in cultural activities or employer visits. Companies included Accenture, Handshake UK, and LinkedIn. Students participated in résumé reviews, panel discussions, job shadowing, and informational interviews to learn more about their career options. 

 Around 27 percent of UK undergraduate students are the first in their families to go to college. The Explore First program, which covers all costs for students, was started with a grant from the Kentucky state legislature and support from the university administration. The Education Abroad and Exchanges unit plans to scale participation from 60 students in 2023 to 240 students in 2026.

While the program included international students like De Souza Goncalves, the majority of the participants were domestic students who had limited international experience. Some had never been on a plane before, and most had never left the United States. Program participants said that it boosted their confidence and gave them experiences they thought were out of reach. And the focus on career readiness expanded their understanding of what they could do with their degree. 

Recognizing the importance of scholarships in opening global learning to all students, UK awards more than $380,000 in education abroad scholarships annually. “We are increasingly committed to serving students who are underrepresented,” says Sue Roberts, senior international officer and associate vice provost for internationalization.

Based on data from 2018–19, around 19 percent of all UK students participating in education abroad identified as non-White, which is slightly higher than their proportion of the entire student body. The number of first-generation college students who study abroad rose from 105 in 2017–18 to 127 in 2018–19, or around 13% of education abroad participants. That’s a number that international education staff would like to see increase due to UK’s ongoing investment and strategic focus on comprehensive internationalization.

Creating an Inclusive Strategy

Education abroad is just one area of international education that the university has been expanding in recent years. The University of Kentucky International Center (UKIC) serves as the engine for international activities on campus, housing education abroad; international student and scholar services; international partnerships and research; international enrollment management; and international risk management. UK’s Global Health Initiative, which draws on the university’s expertise in life sciences and medical sciences, and the Office of China Initiatives are also under the umbrella of the UKIC. 
In 2021, UK launched a new strategic plan for global learning, Global UK 2021–26. The five-year plan built on the university’s previous internationalization efforts, which included participating in the American Council on Education’s Internationalization Laboratory and a long history of partnerships with different countries, including Ecuador. “It laid a really strong foundation for all our work but just didn't have a kind of coherent coordination function at the university level,” says Roberts. 

UK student holds the Afghan flag during International Day
A student holding the Afghan flag leads the parade of flags during UK International Day. Photo courtesy of Daniel Flener, UK.

Coordinated through the UKIC, Global UK was the result of a yearlong process that consulted stakeholders across campus and in the wider community. More than 45 leaders from across the university’s 17 colleges, research enterprise, UK Healthcare, and administrative units as well as  Lexington’s city government gave input on the plan as it was being developed. The plan aligns with the university’s overall strategic plan, UK Purpose. The plan aims to “facilitate learning, informed by scholarship and research; expand knowledge through research, scholarship, and creative activity; and serve a global community by disseminating, sharing, and applying knowledge.”

These efforts were supported by the university’s International Advisory Council (IAC)—a group composed of faculty leaders from each college that advises Roberts on relevant college-level academic and research initiatives. IAC subcommittees, such as the Education Abroad and Exchanges Committee, ensured that all aspects of internationalization also aligned closely with academic priorities.

The lull in the day-to-day operations of international education stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to reflect and look forward, Roberts says. The global plan has three pillars—inspiring global learning and discovery; fostering a globally engaged Kentucky; and creating a UK global hub—that guide all internationalization efforts. 

“One of the main things that came from this planning process is that we wanted internationalization to be integrated into all of the university’s missions and operations,” says Timothy Barnes, executive director of international partnerships and research. “We want not only research administrators, but also people in housing, purchasing, risk management, and human resources to be thinking about what internationalization means for them.”  

Mapping Internationalization

UK student Princess Magor Agbozo
International student Princess Magor Agbozo sits outside on the UK campus.
Photo courtesy of Mark Cornelison, Ukphoto.

Barnes oversees the Global Footprint Initiative, a data mapping and analytics project that tracks and provides visibility for the university’s partnerships, collaborations, research output, and other engagement. The data also help the institution assess the goals outlined in Global UK, with the plan to eventually launch a new website that visualizes the university’s progress towards each goal. The Global Footprint Initiative is also used to develop an annual global engagement report for each of the university’s colleges. 

One initiative that aims to help meet the global plan’s goals is the Explore First program, which focuses on inspiring global learning and discovery among more UK students. In addition to student involvement, another area of strategic focus for the university is faculty development and engagement in internationalization efforts. Faculty who support global engagement and advance campus internationalization are recognized annually with Global Impact Awards, and UK has also been actively engaged with hosting inbound scholars from partner institutions as well as through various Fulbright programs. In 2019, the university was also recognized as a top producer of Fulbright scholars.

In spring 2022, UK launched the Global Engagement Academy, a professional development program for faculty and staff that offers short courses on various topics related to internationalization. The academy offers foundational courses on internationalization at UK and intercultural communication as well as electives on topics such as advising international graduate students, how to encourage students to study abroad, and international travel readiness. Employees completing certain requirements receive certificates and digital badges and can apply for professional development grants. As of spring 2023, 234 UK faculty and staff had participated in the 90 sessions that have been offered so far.

“Our colleagues can build up their knowledge about internationalization,” Roberts says. “We've gotten to know folks who are interested in international work, even though that might not be their primary responsibility. So we’ve cultivated a bunch of allies and champions all over campus.”

In collaboration with the vice president of research, the UKIC also recently launched a funding program for international research collaboration, Roberts says. UKinSPIRE began awarding between $10,000–$20,000 per project starting in July 2023. Project proposals are required to demonstrate a significant international collaboration component and identify at least one collaborator who is primarily affiliated with a research or higher education institution outside the United States. UKinSPIRE proposal reviewers are particularly looking for projects that address one or more of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals; develop or expand collaborations with UK’s existing international partners; or include campus engagement events that highlight the collaboration and the benefits of global engagement to the campus communities. 

Roberts says that the new strategic focus on internationalization—with its commitment to increasing opportunities for both domestic and international students as well as supporting faculty in their international research and teaching—builds upon UK’s mission as a land grant university. Additionally, the comprehensive internationalization efforts at UK foster opportunities not only with key stakeholders on campus but also in the local community. “Everything the university does should be at least in large part geared towards benefiting the citizens of Kentucky,” she says. “The more internationalized the university is and the more opportunities there are for global engagement and for global learning, the better off the commonwealth is.” 

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2023 Comprehensive Northwestern University

Northwestern University President Michael H. Schill
Michael H. Schill took office as Northwestern’s 17th president in September 2022. He also serves as a professor of law in Northwestern's Pritzker School of Law and a professor of finance and real estate in the Kellogg School of Management. Photo courtesy of Northwestern. Watch President Schill accept the Simon Award on behalf of Northwestern University.

Located in Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern University is a private research university with 22,000 total students, approximately 4,000 of whom are international. Comprehensive internationalization at Northwestern is driven by the institution’s quest to foster a campus culture focused on addressing the world’s most pressing challenges. The university offers its students access to opportunities such as global internships and curricula built around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It also supports interdisciplinary research focused on global issues such as climate change and social and economic inequality.

In 2021, Northwestern became the first university to serve as secretariat of the U7+ Alliance of World Universities, an international alliance of university presidents who have committed to taking steps to address the most pressing global challenges. The first U7+ gathering, held in Paris in the context of the 2019 G7 Summit, brought together university leaders to discuss a common agenda and establish a framework for collective action on global issues such as climate change and sustainability; peace and security; and artificial intelligence. Today, 50 presidents from universities in 18 countries have joined the alliance.

“We see universities as critical platforms for global engagement,” says Annelise Riles, executive director of the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs. “Universities are unique institutions in our societies, at the crossroads of global and local. They are deeply connected to their cities but also networked with one another and governments in this rich way. That means we have tremendous convening power.”

In its role as secretariat, Northwestern led the charge to bring almost 50 universities around the world on board with a set of commitments to peace and security. In the coming year, the U7+ aims to formalize its connection with the G7 as an official engagement group. Northwestern has also hosted virtual Worldwide Student Forums and Intergenerational Roundtables as part of this relationship in order to lower the barriers to engagement in discussion and debate on critical global challenges among students and scientists worldwide.

“Higher education is the only sector in society that's endowed with responsibility to think about the long term,” Riles says. “We are actors in global governance, and we have a responsibility and an opportunity to lead in that space.”

Educators come together in a summit held in a historic room
The fourth annual U7+ Presidential Summit was hosted by Université Côte D’Azur in France in July 2022, with support from Northwestern University, which serves as secretariat of the U7+ Alliance of World Universities. Photo courtesy of Northwestern University Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs.

Fostering Interdisciplinary Research, Teaching, and Learning

That’s an ethos that Northwestern embraces in its overall approach to comprehensive campus internationalization. Since 2015, when Northwestern was endowed with a $100 million gift from Northwestern alum Roberta Buffett Elliott, the university’s Buffett Institute has played a central role in the university’s efforts to expand its global presence. The institute oversees international student and scholar services; global safety and security; education abroad; and global research. Its mission is to promote interconnections between research, teaching, and learning; foster research that will solve global challenges; and prepare the next generation of global leaders, Riles says.

“We're imagining that our graduates are going to go out into the private sector, into NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], into the creative fields, into the tech fields, and they're going to be doing global governance in all those spaces,” she says. “We really want to prepare a much broader swath of students with the skills they need to lead in this multimodal world.”

One example of the unique global learning opportunities Northwestern provides to students is the Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI), which has offered summer internships focused on international development since 2007. Students spend eight to 10 weeks abroad, live in a home stay, and complete a 30-hour per week internship at an NGO in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uganda, or Vietnam.

The front of the Northwestern building in Qatar
Northwestern University in Qatar is the university's campus in Education City, Doha, Qatar, founded in partnership with the Qatar Foundation in 2008. Photo courtesy of Northwestern University Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs.

Northwestern provides need-based financial assistance to students for tuition, travel, and living expenses thanks to funding from private donors. All GESI partner organizations also receive support from Northwestern in the form of seed grants to fund the projects that students work on during their internships. The Buffett Institute also provides need-based financial aid to some international students, who make up around one-fifth of Northwestern’s student body, which has helped increase the diversity of countries that international students come from. In addition, its virtual visitorship grants create an accessible opportunity for faculty from across the university to virtually host scholars who might not be able to travel to campus. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Northwestern adapted the GESI program to create a remote internship opportunity, Virtual Global Development in Action, which won the 2022 NAFSA Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award. In its first year, 65 percent of virtual GESI participants were students of color, while 71 percent of students who studied abroad nationally were White.

Funding for virtual international engagement is also available through International Classroom Partnering Grants, which support faculty in establishing new relationships with international collaborators or strengthening existing ones. Ultimately, the aim is to create additional, regularly offered courses that will provide students with opportunities to build their global perspectives and intercultural competencies “at home.” Such courses could provide greater access to global learning for students lacking the financial means or the time in their programs to study abroad.

To ensure an interdisciplinary focus in its work and promote collaboration across the university, several Northwestern schools have established joint faculty appointments with the Buffett Institute. Additionally, the institute’s Global Learning Office appointed an associate director for curriculum and instruction, who also serves as a faculty member in the Anthropology Department. This position has resulted in a set of core learning outcomes for international program development and assessment that embeds ethical global engagement as an integral component of all global learning programs. The Buffett Institute also led Northwestern’s global strategic planning process in consultation with more than 200 faculty, staff, students, and alumni. The plan established the Global Council, a governance structure composed of senior leaders—representing each of Northwestern’s schools—who are charged with defining key priorities for globalization.

Law Professor Jim Speta oversaw the international portfolio of the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law for 13 years. When he first started, internationalization was done within each school at the university. The Buffett Institute and structures such as the Global Council and a faculty advisory committee have helped promote coordination and collaboration across the university. “The schools still have a lot of autonomy, but we’re much more connected as a university,” Speta says. “There are many programs which bring faculty and administrators from different schools together in ways that never happened before.”

Addressing Global Challenges Through the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

The Northwestern Global Strategic Plan also integrates the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) into its overall approach to internationalization. In 2022, Northwestern launched a new tagging initiative that allows students to search for and enroll in courses related to the UN SDGs.

The Buffett Institute also promotes research that supports the SDGs through its annual Idea Incubation Process, which came out of the global strategic planning process. The goal is to encourage faculty to engage in interdisciplinary, transnational research aimed at addressing one or more of the SDGs. So far, the institute has provided up to $300,000 to each of 11 interdisciplinary global working groups dedicated to addressing global issues ranging from antibiotic resistance to disproportionate impacts of environmental challenges. In addition, the Buffett Institute offers Graduate Student Research Travel Awards for research focused on one or more of the SDGs.

“The UN SDGs have proven to be a useful framing device for the Buffett Institute, as they point both to the specific nature of the global challenges we all face and the way in which they are so thoroughly intertwined with one another,” says Baron Reed, deputy director of the institute. “In structuring our work in this way, our aim is to help researchers—as well as the rising generation of leaders, inside and outside of the academy—find the avenues that will allow their work to have the greatest impact in the service of humanity.”

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