You've probably heard the term internationalization which has been bandied about a lot lately. Universities around the world are talking about their internationalization structures and initiatives. But what does this term really mean? Does it mean sending more students on study abroad programs? Yes, but that is only part of the story. Does it mean bringing in more international students? Yes, but again, that is only part of the larger picture.
The American Council on Education defines comprehensive internationalization as a strategic, coordinated process that seeks to align and integrate policies, programs, and initiatives to position colleges and universities as more globally oriented and internationally connected institutions. NAFSA: Association of International Educators dives a little deeper into the matter and provides us with this definition:
Comprehensive internationalization is a commitment, confirmed through action, to infuse international and comparative perspectives throughout the teaching, research, and service missions of higher education. It shapes institutional ethos and values and touches the entire higher education enterprise. It is essential that it be embraced by institutional leadership, governance, faculty, students, and all academic service and support units. It is an institutional imperative, not just a desirable possibility.
Comprehensive internationalization not only impacts all of campus life but the institution’s external frames of reference, partnerships, and relations. The global reconfiguration of economies, systems of trade, research, and communication, and the impact of global forces on local life, dramatically expand the need for comprehensive internationalization and the motivations and purposes driving it.
Student mobility (studying outside of one’s home country – either by coming to the U.S. or by leaving it) is certainly a part of internationalization, but a comprehensive program goes far beyond this. It can include faculty initiatives in research and creative work, international curriculum requirements, partnerships of all types with universities abroad, international awareness activities on campus, and more. Ideally, all of the parts will fit together into a meaningful whole. The Office of International Education is here to assist the campus in its efforts to internationalize and work towards this meaningful goal.
Newly arrived international students have the opportunity to be matched with continuing CU students as part of the International Student Guide Program (ISG). Through this programm new international students are part of a small group that has a CU student leader (who might be a domestic student or an international student). The guides assist the new students in the first weeks that they are here, by introducing them to life at CU and in Boulder. The guides also help new students by answering questions even before they arrive.
The ISG program began as a pilot in fall semester 2013 and was an instant success. It has since grown and the hope is that it will double (both in terms of guides and new student participants) for next academic year. It provides the guides with a leadership and service opportunity under the supervision of a staff mentor, Becky Sibley. Guides are given training and some parameters but are also encouraged to use their creativity in developing programs for their guidees. New international students who participate in the program get a soft landing at CU by having a friendly peer to support them and provide them with good advice and interesting opportunities.
The ISG program is a joint project of International Student and Scholar Services and the CU International club. For more information on the ISG program, please read the recent CU news article or watch our new video. This video has been selected as one of the finalists in NAFSA’s International Education Celebration video contest.
The Study Abroad Committee: Assuring Academic Quality
CU-Boulder Study Abroad offers nearly 400 programs on which students can earn major, minor, certificate, MAPS, A&S core, and/or general elective credit while abroad. Having so many academic options is possible due to the work of the Study Abroad Committee (SAC), an academic oversight committee comprised of faculty and deans from across campus.
“The SAC is thinking about the pedagogy and the educational benefits of each and every program,” said Amy Schmitz, Professor in the Law School and committee member since 2008. The SAC vets all programs before they are approved, looking at academic quality as well as other important factors, such as safety and cost. Artemi Romanov, Associate Professor in Germanic & Slavic Language & Literatures and SAC Chair notes that, “To prepare students for worldwide leadership we must have outstanding international programs, providing academically challenging, diverse, safe, and affordable opportunities for students to study abroad.”
The faculty and deans who serve on the SAC are all staunch supporters of international education, and when you hear about their own international experiences, you can see why. With varying nationalities and years of experience living, working, studying, and doing research across the globe, the Study Abroad Committee’s composition is more akin to the United Nations than a typical CU-Boulder committee. They are well equipped to facilitate the academic reviews of CU-Boulder’s study abroad programs.
In addition to providing an independent academic perspective, the SAC also considers issues ranging from health and safety concerns to the diverse needs of the CU student body. This includes exploring less traditional study abroad program formats, such as for-credit internships and service-learning programs that blend classroom learning with real-world application. As Bert Covert, Professor of Anthropology commented, “one can best appreciate the complexities of our world by participating in other cultures in other locations – such experiences help prepare informed global citizens.”
Having an academic oversight committee like the SAC is uncommon – many U.S. universities rely on Admissions offices to determine the transferability of courses from study abroad. The faculty and deans who comprise the SAC are campus leaders, have a strong understanding of program options, and are able to promote programs that are especially strong for their schools and colleges. They review programs not just for their academic merit but also for overall quality. This ensures that CU-Boulder students are offered a valuable experience, not just academically, but also personally.
Ultimately, the SAC remains focused on their mission of providing quality study abroad programs for CU-Boulder students. In the words of Austin Okigbo, the SAC’s goal is to produce “eloquent young minds who can think clearly, and critically evaluate their ideas and the ideas of others, and be prepared to use their knowledge to serve the common good in the world.” With the support and insight of the Study Abroad Committee, CU-Boulder students have a good chance of reaching this lofty goal.
Click here to learn more about the members of the Study Abroad Committee. Full interviews of the following Study Abroad Committee members are available here: Wayne Ambler, Robert Buffington, Bert Covert, Manuel Laguna, Austin Okigbo, Artemi Romanov, and Anne Schmiesing.
Boulder Friends of International Students – Hosts needed!
Since the 1950’s, international students have been matched with local hospitality families through the Boulder Friends of International Students (BFIS). With the increase in numbers of international students at CU, there is more demand for hospitality families. BFIS carefully matches families with students of similar interests. Students do not live with their families, but meet with them regularly for activities, such as dinners, visits to museums, hiking, or participating in a BFIS sponsored events such as ice skating or picnics. Many hosts and students have stayed in touch over the years, making this a special opportunity to make new friends from around the world.
The 2013-2014 academic year was a successful one for BFIS. There were 77 students who were matched for the traditional BFIS year-long program. Additionally the Dinner Network program is becoming a solid alternative for families and students who are too busy for traditional matching. These families agreed to host a dinner. There were 11 dinners this year, with 25 students applying to the program.