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2023 Latin America and Caribbean Forum

June 1, 2023 | 1:00 pm
Integrating Diverse Views and Perspectives in Collaborative Alliances NAFSA welcomes you to join us at the 2023 Latin America and Caribbean Forum on June 1 in Washington, D.C., a special Signature Program included with registration for the 75th NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo. The 2023 Latin America
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Advocacy Strategies for Advancing International Education

On November 1, 2022, NAFSA’s International Education Leadership Knowledge Community held an informative panel discussion on successful strategies to use when advocating for international education, including best practices for working with a government relations office. Panelists included seasoned
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Latin America and Caribbean Forum 2022

NAFSA welcomes you to join us at the Latin America and Caribbean Forum 2022, a special Signature Program included with both All-Access Pass and Virtual-Only Pass registrations for the NAFSA 2022 Annual Conference & Expo. The 2022 Latin America and Caribbean Forum provides the opportunity to hear
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2021 Comprehensive Santa Fe College

By increasing its study abroad offerings, internationalizing the curriculum, and hosting international students, Santa Fe College has brought the world to the 20,000 students studying on its main campus and six education centers near Gainesville, Florida. Participation in a number of federally funded programs has helped the college build robust partnerships with institutions abroad, leading to student and faculty mobility, virtual exchanges, and institutional collaboration. The community college, which offers both associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs, has also developed an international studies certificate that allows students to showcase their global engagement.

Building On Decades of Global Engagement

Santa Fe College began its internationalization efforts in the early 2000s under the leadership of Jackson Sasser, PhD, its former president. “When we first started this journey, those of us working in academic affairs thought of internationalization as internationalizing the curriculum and study abroad—nothing else,” says Vilma Fuentes, PhD, assistant vice president for academic affairs and senior international officer. Over time, there was a gradual understanding that “internationalization must be seen as a multifaceted process.”

Paul Broadie II, PhD, president of Santa Fe College
Paul Broadie II, PhD, president of Santa Fe College. Photo courtesy of Matt Stamey/Santa Fe College.

As a department chair in 2002, Ed Bonahue, PhD, who served as provost from 2009 to 2021 and is now president of Suffolk County Community College in New York, was involved in creating Santa Fe’s first plan for international education. The plan had four pillars: (1) boosting international student enrollment; (2) creating globally focused and multicultural programming on campus; (3) internationalizing the curriculum and developing study abroad; and (4) internationalizing workforce and economic development efforts. The plan paved the way for a series of external grants and an internal structure that helped the college become an international education leader.

“Internationalization goes directly to our college mission,” Bonahue says. “When I think about what that mission means, it’s always connected to the idea that we are educating students and educating our community—that we’re part of an interconnected world.”

In 2004, Bonahue also helped author the college’s first Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education that provided funding for international studies and world languages. The college has subsequently received two more grants and expanded its foreign language offerings to include American Sign Language, Chinese, French, and Spanish, as well as Italian, Portuguese, and Swahili periodically.

In addition to a variety of internationally focused campus programming through Fulbright and other initiatives, the college runs six faculty-led study abroad programs per year and hosts approximately 350 international students. Early internationalization focused more on liberal arts and sciences, while more recent efforts have focused on internationalizing the career and technical fields.

In 2018, the college brought together the International Education Office, International Student Services, International Student Support and Advising, and English for Academic Purposes into one physical location, the International Center. Santa Fe invested more than $700,000 to renovate an existing building.

Students in Santa Fe’s new International Center
Students in Santa Fe’s new International Center. Photo courtesy of Matt Stamey/Santa Fe College.

“We wanted to create a physical space where international students and domestic students interested in the world could interact and mingle, synergies could be created, and opportunities could be developed that maybe we weren’t otherwise seeing,” Fuentes says.

Santa Fe President Paul Broadie II, PhD, joined the college in February 2020. “One of the things that truly attracted me to Santa Fe College was its focus on internationalization of the curriculum and how expansive it was,” he says. “Other institutions, they may do study abroad, and you will have a few faculty members that embrace that global curriculum, but this was widespread across our entire institution.”

Growing Expertise Through the Community College Administrator Program

Santa Fe has co-administered U.S. Department of State-funded Community College Administrator Programs (CCAP) since 2014. Together with Florida State University, a 2017 Simon Award recipient, Santa Fe has hosted 10 CCAP cohorts from 10 different countries: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, and Ukraine.

Visiting administrators spend 2 weeks of a six-week program at Santa Fe seeing the daily operations of a U.S. community college.

Santa Fe student ambassadors pose with two representatives from CCAP South Africa
Several Santa Fe student ambassadors pose with two representatives from the CCAP South Africa delegation. Photo courtesy of Matt Stamey/Santa Fe College.

“We’re very happy to be involved with that training program because it brings a lot of know-how that’s unique to [U.S.] higher education to the rest of the world, to other kinds of tertiary educational institutions,” Bonahue says. “The more that we take part in that program, the more that we realize that the transparent governance of [U.S.] community colleges, the way that we collaborate with our workforce community, these are things that we should treasure because they don’t happen all over the world.”

The primary focus of the program is for the visiting administrators to interact with their counterparts at Santa Fe and learn about best practices for community college management. Approximately 50 Santa Fe administrators interact with each visiting cohort from abroad. Conversations quickly shift from practical knowledge about how to run a department to deeper cultural exchange, Fuentes says.

She added that the institution is intentional about having the cohort interact with students, meet with student government leaders, and visit classrooms. The visiting administrators also give public presentations for students.

For example, a group of higher education officials from Pakistan wanted to counter U.S. misconceptions about their country, so they developed a presentation on the hidden beauties of Pakistan that focused on food, music, and culture. Another participant talked about how the educational system in Eastern Ukraine had been disrupted by war with Russia. “It is one thing to read about what is happening in the news, but hearing directly from people who had their university bombed makes it very real,” Fuentes says.

“The Community College Administrator Program has not only impacted administrators, but it’s also directly impacted students, faculty, and staff,” she adds.

Vilma Fuentes, PhD, with CCAP South African participants
Vilma Fuentes, PhD, with CCAP South African participants. Photo courtesy of Matt Stamey/Santa Fe College.

History professor David Price, PhD, has interacted with visiting administrators in his role as president of the faculty senate. He says that participation in the CCAP and Fulbright programs provides excellent opportunities for Santa Fe staff and faculty to learn about other educational systems and interact with colleagues from abroad. “These have been great professional development opportunities for our faculty, given our high teaching load and limited resources provided by the state compared to research universities,” he says.

The CCAP program shifted to virtual operations and suspended in-person travel from April 2020 through July 2021 due to COVID-19. Santa Fe plans to receive delegations from the Caribbean, Egypt, the Philippines, and an additional country in upcoming years.

Fostering Partnerships Abroad Through Federal Programs

Participation in Fulbright, the CCAP, and other federally funded programs has helped spur comprehensive campus internationalization at the college, Fuentes says. All of the international partnerships that Santa Fe College has started began as a result these programs.

In the wake of September 11, 2001, Santa Fe hosted a Fulbright scholar-in-residence through the U.S. State Department’s Fulbright Specialist Program: Direct Access to the Muslim World. Since then, the college has hosted four more Fulbright scholars-in-residence.

Svitlana Sharkova, PhD, a Fulbright scholar-in-residence
Svitlana Sharkova, PhD, a Fulbright scholar-in-residence (2017–18) from Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Matt Stamey/Santa Fe College.

Participation in the Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Program has led to the creation of faculty and students exchanges with partners in countries such as Brazil, China, Egypt, Indonesia, and Ukraine. Santa Fe has signed cooperation agreements with several visiting scholars’ home institutions that led to further collaboration, Fuentes says. For example, the college developed its first study abroad program to China after hosting a scholar from Beijing Union University in 2006–07.

“All of those [collaborations] came about as an extension of the Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Program,” Bonahue says. “Often, we’ve worked on shared interests that relate to, for example, a sector of industry. That program has really opened the door not only for students but also to institutional collaboration.”

Another example of partnerships to come out of participation in federal grant programs is the online Certificate for Accessible and Inclusive Practices (CAIP) that Santa Fe professionals created in collaboration with Brazilian counterparts from Universidade Estadual Paulista “Júlio de Mesquita Filho” (UNESP). CAIP is a self-paced online course designed to promote an inclusive pedagogy through the application of universal design principles. Dozens of Santa Fe faculty members have participated in the online training and earned a certificate of completion.

Promoting Internationalization Through Virtual Programming

Another way that Santa Fe is bringing global perspectives to its campus is through the development of virtual programs. Fuentes says the college worked with partners to come up with ways that they could engage students virtually during the pandemic—and many of these innovations will likely persist even when travel fully resumes.

The college pivoted to offer online its International Lecture Series, which began in 2010. Speakers include visiting scholars, Fulbright scholars, and Santa Fe faculty. In 2020–21, the college offered 14 virtual events. “The virtual International Lecture Series has allowed us to make things more accessible to students,” Fuentes says.

Santa Fe also organized a series of four “virtual world tours” in 2020 in collaboration with partner universities. The events connected nearly 400 Santa Fe faculty and students with peers abroad in Bolivia, Brazil, and Ukraine. The tours taught participants about food, music, and culture, but organizers recognized they needed to create opportunities for more robust cultural exchange, says Jessica Surana, LSM, international education coordinator.

One way to do that was through virtual exchanges that allow students to interact with their peers abroad. A few professors had already been doing virtual exchanges for several years, but the pandemic helped spur wider participation across the college. “There have been sprinklings of informally organized virtual exchange for a long time here at Santa Fe, but when the pandemic hit, we really focused our energies on developing programs that students can still participate in,” Surana says. Since 2010, more than 800 Santa Fe students have participated in virtual exchanges.

Fuentes says that the college will develop more comprehensive trainings to teach faculty about how to incorporate virtual activities into their classrooms, starting in fall 2021.

Surana helped arrange a student virtual exchange with the college’s partners in Egypt and Ukraine that paired students to discuss current events and culture. Her unit worked with EDU Africa, a third-party provider based in Africa, to develop exchanges focused on global legacies of racial injustice and street art as a voice for social transformation in South Africa. The college also implemented virtual exchanges with Iraq and Jordan through a program funded by the U.S. Department of State through the Stevens Initiative and implemented by IREX.

“What we’ve realized is that we’re able to access and provide opportunities for so many more students than we have in the past with just offering study abroad and in-person events,” Surana says.

ASL faculty and students interact virtually with Palestinian students in the West Bank
ASL faculty and students interact virtually with Palestinian students in the West Bank. Photo courtesy of Matt Stamey/Santa Fe College.

Professor Michelle Freas, MA, has included virtual exchanges in her American Sign Language (ASL) and deaf culture classes since 2014. She began doing virtual exchanges with a school for deaf students in the West Bank in Palestine. In 2017, she also worked with advanced ASL students and Palestinian students to create an online video dictionary that translates Arabic/ Palestinian Sign Language into ASL/English.

Freas says that the virtual exchange with Palestine was her first international experience. It was challenging at first because the students in Palestine did not know English and the U.S. students did not know Arabic. To overcome the language barrier, they would draw pictures and use props. “What’s interesting with sign language is that it’s very easy to gesture and get your point across,” she says.

Freas has also done virtual exchanges with partners in Sweden and Ukraine.

“Not many colleges with American Sign Language programs have international experiences,” Freas says. “I’ve been very fortunate to be able to have experiences with three different countries and involve my students and have the deaf culture course that’s offered at Santa Fe become part of our international coursework.”

Freas says that virtual exchange has been a significant source of growth for her as an educator. “It keeps me motivated to learn more and to find ways to reach the students and the deaf community in those countries, but [it] also gives my students different outlets to be involved in their college experience.”

Fuentes says that virtual exchanges are a way to provide international opportunities to students who might not be able to study abroad. “Even though we’ve been able to provide funding and scholarships, study abroad is often inaccessible to [community college] students,” Fuentes says. “We realized there might be other ways that we can expose students to the world without actually ever having them leave the country. That prompted us to begin exploring virtual student exchanges.”

Internationalizing The Curriculum Through Grants

In addition to virtual exchanges, Santa Fe has created opportunities for its students to learn about the world by incorporating international perspectives in the classroom. Since 2016, the college has provided internationalizing the curriculum grants to 19 faculty to develop new or modify existing courses with a global perspective.

Several faculty members have also received curriculum enhancement grants through the University of Florida (UF), which received NAFSA’s Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization in 2018. The result has been more than 50 general education and elective courses with significant international content. Many of these classes meet the college’s multicultural and global awareness requirement for all students pursuing associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.

Price has received several grants from UF to enhance his courses. At the time when the United States was implementing the Affordable Care Act, he received a grant from the UF Warrington College of Business to create a module on comparative health care policy for students to learn about how insurance works in different countries.

More recently, he was awarded a grant from the UF Center for European Studies to travel to the United Kingdom to do research in the British National Archives on the country’s first attempts to enter the Europe Union in the 1950s and 1960s. He was able to connect it to contemporary discussions about Brexit.

“Without the college putting the focus on international education, we wouldn’t be able to get these opportunities from other entities to really enhance our course offerings, keep them fresh, make them more vibrant, and tie them to things that are going on in the real world so that students see more of a connection,” Price says.

Showcasing International Experience

Santa Fe has brought together its global curricular and co-curricular initiatives through the International Studies Certificate, which it launched in fall 2013. In addition to completing 12 credit hours of internationally focused courses, recipients are required to participate in international activities, such as study abroad or events on campus. In addition, they must compose an e-portfolio showcasing their global engagement. Many Santa Fe students transfer to the nearby UF, which applies some of the work done for the International Studies Certificate toward its International Scholars Program.

“The International Studies Certificate program is a way for students to codify their international experiences,” Surana says.

Building on the work that has already been done, President Broadie says the next step in internationalization at Santa Fe is to link the college’s global engagement with his goal of creating a college-going culture in the two counties in Santa Fe’s service district. That includes creating more scholarships for students to participate in international activities. “We want to get as many students in the doors as possible to create that college-going culture, and then expose them to our focus on internationalization,” Broadie says.

In order to accomplish this, the college is creating 22 new scholarships to help underrepresented students with financial need participate in study abroad. These will become available beginning in 2022.

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2021 Comprehensive Florida International University

Founded in 1972, Florida International University (FIU) is Miami’s first and only four-year public research university. A designated Hispanic-serving institution, FIU currently serves more than 58,000 undergraduate and graduate students, including 4,000 international students and more than 37,000 Hispanic students (66 percent of the student body). The university promotes global learning throughout the curriculum for all undergraduates, international research opportunities, and strong partnerships abroad. Building on the strategic efforts to internationalize over the past decade, the new Global Strategy 2025 will also help the university leverage its existing relationships around the world.

Mark B. Rosenberg, PhD, president of Florida International University
Mark B. Rosenberg, PhD, president of Florida International University. Photo courtesy of Florida International University.

Ana Rojas, MS, never imagined she would become an expert on invasive species—particularly when those invaders are 3,000-pound mammals with an affinity for the water. When she was a graduate research assistant at FIU, Rojas traveled to the Magdalena basin in central Colombia to study the social and ecological impacts of hippos introduced by narcotrafficker Pablo Escobar.

“We call it ‘hippo heaven,’” says Rojas, who now works as a research development officer at FIU. “They have no natural predators, and they’re multiplying at an unprecedented rate. And the people [of the region] actually love them, even though they could become a really bad threat to the ecology of this system.”

Rojas started at FIU as an undergraduate and then stayed to earn a master’s degree in environmental studies. In addition to studying hippos, she did her master’s thesis on arapaima, a giant freshwater fish that lives in Colombia’s Amazon basin.

Her research abroad was about more than just academics. She was able to return to the country that she fled as a child. “I feel extremely privileged and very happy because I got to kind of reconnect with the country that I was born in,” she says.

Rojas is one of the many students who have benefitted from the university’s engagement around the world. Rojas credits the faculty she worked with at FIU for her interest in international work. She wants to pursue a doctorate eventually and possibly do conservation and restoration work in the United States and Latin America, including in Colombia. “I like making those connections and seeing how my two countries can work together,” she says. 

An International Beginning

One of the guests of honor and the keynote speaker at FIU’s groundbreaking in 1971 was U Thant, a Burmese diplomat who served as the secretary-general of the United Nations from 1961 to 1971. The ceremony was held at the base of an air traffic control tower, a remnant of the campus’s former use as an airport, which served as the university’s very first building. Today, the tower, situated in the center of campus, houses FIU’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs. Current FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg, PhD, has commissioned a bust of Thant, who received FIU’s first honorary doctorate degree, to commemorate his presence at FIU’s groundbreaking.

FIU’s 1971 groundbreaking ceremony with guest of honor U Thant, secretary-general of the United Nations, underscoring the university’s mission to foster greater international understanding.
FIU’s 1971 groundbreaking ceremony with guest of honor U Thant, secretary-general of the United Nations, underscoring the university’s mission to foster greater international understanding. Photo courtesy of Florida International University.

When FIU first opened its doors to students in 1972, its founding goals were educating students, enacting service to the community, and fostering greater international understanding. “We have had the mission to foster greater international understanding since our founding, [and] we’re still delivering on that today,” says Birgitta Rausch-Montoto, MS, director of global strategy and faculty success.

Rosenberg, who began his career at FIU in 1976 as a political science professor, was involved in some of FIU’s earliest international endeavors, such as the establishment of the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center (LACC) in 1979. He says that the center’s activities slowly shifted from language and area studies to a broader framework focused on global awareness.

“It provided us a more systematic framework for infusing more cosmopolitan thoughtfulness about what was going on in the world that went way beyond language and area studies,” Rosenberg says. “It was really remarkable how the faculty were willing to go beyond narrow boundaries and try to find ways to infuse that thinking in classes way beyond the social sciences.”

Internationalization Through Accreditation

While FIU implemented some international initiatives throughout the 1980s, it was in the mid-2000s that the institution began reconsidering its approach to internationalization in preparation for its 2010 reaffirmation of accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, says Hilary Landorf, PhD, founding executive director of the Office of Global Learning Initiatives.

Reports from different units on campus showed that global learning was a focus for the institution, but it was not evident in what students were experiencing in the classroom. At the same time, the university was going through a branding exercise, and surveys showed that campus stakeholders found diversity to be FIU’s greatest strength. As a designated Hispanic-serving institution, the university graduates more Hispanic students than any other university in the continental United States.

“There was this disconnect. We weren’t capitalizing on our diversity of the classroom,” Landorf says. “You have students from all over the world and first-generation students who have Hispanic and other backgrounds. Their knowledge, their capabilities, their skills weren’t being used in the classroom. And that led to Global Learning for Global Citizenship as an initiative.”

Landorf, who is a leading scholar of international education and coauthor of Making Global Learning Universal, copublished by NAFSA and Stylus, says that the Global Learning for Global Citizenship initiative consolidated disparate efforts to internationalize FIU. “Global Learning for Global Citizenship really focused all of us faculty, staff, students, and administrators on obtaining and internalizing our three global learning outcomes: global awareness, global perspective, and global engagement,” she says.

FIU adopted global learning, defined as the process of diverse people collaboratively analyzing and addressing complex problems that transcend borders, as the focus of its quality enhancement plan for reaffirmation of accreditation. As of 2010, all incoming freshmen are required to take two global learning courses, one general education class, and one upper-division class in their major area. In 2011, the requirement was extended to incoming transfer students.

Rausch-Montoto says that the internationalization of the undergraduate curriculum was a “real game changer” in terms of wider efforts to internationalize the institution.

The university currently offers more than 250 global learning courses throughout the curriculum in all 72 of its undergraduate academic programs.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re an engineering major or a business major; [global learning] is built into these courses,” Rausch-Montoto says.

Steven Oberbauer, PhD, and students work in the field to study the impact of climate change in the Arctic.
Steven Oberbauer, PhD, and a student work in the field to study the impact of climate change in the Arctic. Photo courtesy of Florida International University.

To complement global learning in the curriculum, FIU offers a set of co-curricular programs that provide students with the opportunity to practice what they learn in the classroom. For instance, the Global Learning Medallion program engages students in high-impact practices, such as globally focused internships, fellowships, and research projects. The Millennium Fellowship program enables students to design and implement projects that address the Sustainable Development Goals in their local campuses and communities, and the Peace Corps Prep program prepares them to serve abroad. The Office of Global Learning Initiatives manages all of these programs, and they all have similar missions: to engage students with collaborative local and global problem-solving.

Global Learning For Faculty And Students

As of 2021, FIU trained more than 1,100 faculty to turn their classes into global learning courses. Hands-on interdisciplinary, interdepartmental workshops enable faculty to develop, revise, and lead courses, activities, and assessments that address FIU’s global learning outcomes of global awareness, perspective, and engagement. Faculty may receive a stipend as an incentive for attending these workshops and infusing global learning elements in their courses. All courses in global learning are reviewed every 3 years to ensure fidelity to the global learning elements is retained, Landorf says.

Graduates and global learning staff celebrating their Global Learning Medallion
Graduates and global learning staff celebrating their Global Learning Medallion, awarded to students who hone their global competencies through extensive curricular and co-curricular engagement. Photo courtesy of Florida International University.

Alok Deoraj, PhD, is an environmental health science professor in the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work. Originally from India, he was immediately intrigued by the Global Learning for Global Citizenship initiative. “I was looking for a venue to share my experiences with students,” he says.

He integrated global learning elements into his general education public health class, Health Without Borders, which explores the interrelatedness of social, economic, demographic, and cultural factors affecting health. For instance, Deoraj says that during the pandemic, he broke up his students into groups by country and asked them to research how each country managed its COVID-19 response, looking at factors such as mask mandates and quarantine regulations. Then the groups made recommendations based on their country’s local situation.

“I have found that it’s very much eye opening for [students to see] that there is a similar problem on the other side of the world, but they have a different way to tackle it,” Deoraj says.

Beyond enhancing undergraduates’ studies, participation in global learning courses can help spark interest in international careers. When Camila Uzcategui, PhD, started as an undergraduate at FIU, she thought she wanted to be a doctor because it was a way she could have a positive impact on her community. But taking a global learning medical anthropology class broadened her perspective. “I think the global learning curriculum really allowed me to understand medicine from a different perspective,” she says.

Uzcategui ended up double majoring in physics and anthropology. “It really reshaped my whole career,” she says.

Instead of becoming a medical doctor, she recently earned a PhD from the University of Colorado-Boulder in material science and engineering. Her research focuses on biomaterials and increasing access to medical devices in underserved communities.

“When you’re seeing all these things occurring in the world, whether it’s a global pandemic [or other] things, FIU global learning gives us the tools to understand them and to be able to draw connections between them,” she says. 

Global team leaders advancing campus internationalization
Global team leaders advancing campus internationalization, including global mobility, global learning initiatives, Collaborative Online International Learning, English language programming, international admissions, international student and scholar services, world locations operations, and global strategy leadership. Photo courtesy of Florida International University.

Consolidation of Global Efforts

To uncover and visualize the breadth and depth of internationalization activities, FIU published its first biannual Global Programs Summary infographic, which summarized key metrics, quantified outcomes, and created awareness of its successes. During the review process, it became evident that multiple departments were duplicating processes and procedures because they were working in isolation. The same audit uncovered many hidden pockets of specialized internationalization expertise, such as more than 40 Fulbright program alumni across campus.

To consolidate institutional internationalization efforts, in 2015 Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton, PhD, created the Office of Faculty & Global Affairs. Three years later, the office was rebranded as FIU Global. The reorganization brought together FIU’s Offices of Study Abroad and International Student and Scholar Services, the English Language Institute, and FIU Genoa in Italy.

Rausch-Montoto says that FIU Global’s commitment to documenting progress, reflecting on results, and using them to map more efficient and effective routes has strengthened the institution’s comprehensive internationalization efforts.

“While we’ve [always] had a lot of different units that worked on international education, we never had an umbrella office serving as a clearinghouse and working toward synergizing all of our efforts,” says Rausch-Montoto, who heads the FIU Global unit. “We have so many administrative leaders who have deep experience and knowledge in regards to internationalization. We have a lot of faculty who do brilliant things. And so nobody had ever harvested that across campus to get us together and say, ‘If we work together, we can do even more.’”

Aquarius Reef Base, seen here as a model traveling across campus with a marine biology student, is the world’s only underwater research lab used by scientists hailing from all across the globe to study marine ecosystems, test new underwater technology, and train divers and astronauts
Aquarius Reef Base, seen here as a model traveling across campus with a marine biology student, is the world’s only underwater research lab used by scientists hailing from all across the globe to study marine ecosystems, test new underwater technology, and train divers and astronauts. Photo courtesy of Florida International University.

Internationalization Via Programs and Partnerships

In addition to FIU Global, FIU has a number of programs and partnerships that contribute to wider campus internationalization efforts, including the LACC. Established in 1979, the center continues to serve as a hub for FIU’s extensive engagements in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, PhD, former president of Costa Rica, is the interim director of LACC. The center currently has approximately 200 affiliated faculty across the university. Solís Rivera says that the center’s areas of expertise include migrations, security, and gang violence in Central America and public health in Puerto Rico with a focus on HIV issues and other infectious diseases. As a Title VI center, LACC also does outreach and instruction in local schools in Miami.

Extending its global focus to the medical field, FIU has operated the Accelerated Option Bachelor of Science in Nursing (AO BSN) for physicians educated abroad since 2001. It is the only program of its kind in the United States, says Yhovana Gordon, DNP, associate dean of academic affairs for the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences. The program was created to provide an educational pathway for medical doctors who were educated abroad but unable to practice in the United States, as well as to help address a nursing shortage in South Florida.

Moises Dobarganes, NP, came to the United States from Cuba at the age of 30. Although he had been trained as a medical doctor in Cuba, he was unable to meet all the requirements to practice as a doctor in the United States. Then he found his way to the AO BSN program, which served as a stepping-stone to becoming a nurse practitioner.

“It changed the way that I saw medicine and the opportunities to work with the community and interact with people in a different way,” Dobarganes says.

A final example of the institution’s excellence in global programming is a hospitality degree program with Tianjin University of Commerce (TUC) in China that FIU has operated since 2006. It is a 2+2 program, with the first 2 years taught by TUC faculty and the final 2 years taught entirely in English by FIU faculty.

“From the get-go, we established the program so that the students in China will get exposure and be taught by U.S. faculty,” says Michael Cheng, PhD, dean of the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

Chinese students can also choose to finish their fourth year in Florida or come for a one-year master’s program. In addition, U.S. students studying hospitality can study abroad for a semester in Tianjin.

The program has graduated 2,700 students and is the only English-speaking hospitality program in China, according to Cheng. 

Internationalization to 2025 and Beyond

The next step for internationalization at FIU was the launch of the Global Strategy 2025 plan in summer 2020 with three priority areas: student, faculty, and institutional success. The global plan is the result of the Global Strategy Committee that was convened by Furton in 2018 with the goal of guiding the institution toward more focused, strategic global engagement in alignment with institutional priorities. Representatives of all colleges and business units were included on the committee.

“It’s been a very intentional university-wide effort,” Rausch-Montoto says. “We’ve done a lot of legwork on identifying where we are, what we are doing, and where we are successful.”

For FIU Global, one area of focus is the establishment of world centers in strategic locations. “The idea is to really have a much more robust intentional presence overseas that allows our faculty and our staff and our students to have a deep connection,” Furton says.

FIU plans to open its first world center in Colombia in the near future, with others to follow in places such as Asia and the Middle East, Furton says. He says that the partnership with TUC in China is a model for future world centers where FIU can tap into its top academic programs. “We’re trying to replicate that in as many as a dozen or more locations around the world,” Furton says.

He added that Global Strategy 2025 and the world centers build on the previous work that has been done by FIU Global. “Having FIU Global has been transformational in the sense that we really didn’t realize everything that was going on at the university until we started doing this,” Furton says. Having a centralized unit focused on global engagement has “really allowed us to crystallize our plan for these world centers [and identify] where it makes the most sense to be.”


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