Welcome to this special supplement to the American Council on Education’s flagship magazine, The Presidency, focusing on internationalization.
This supplement offers a snapshot of several dynamic and successful initiatives that are underway at U.S. campuses, as they strive to facilitate global learning and knowledge exchange across borders. As higher education becomes a more global enterprise, having solid information about good practices will be essential to making sound decisions and ensuring both that U.S. students are globally competent and that U.S. higher education continues to be a vibrant player on the global stage.
Part of the difficulty for any president who wants to initiate or expand an effort in “internationalization” is knowing how to define that term. Like the elephant being described by blind men, internationalization can have multiple meanings, depending upon one’s perspective. But true internationalization must be approached strategically and comprehensively, and it must permeate a campus both broadly and deeply. As you’ll read in the following pages, institutions with some of the best stories to tell are those that have pursued this approach, engaging in strategic international partnerships (Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, Babson College, and Northern Virginia Community College), combining innovative study abroad with the establishment of campuses overseas (Arcadia University), and pursuing innovative dual-degree programs (Binghamton University).
Although engaging in any new venture in what remains a time of economic uncertainty may seem counterintuitive, many of the authors featured in this supplement ring a common note: Despite the difficult economic circumstances in which higher education finds itself, internationalization must be pursued, as it remains central to the mission of higher education and to the definition of a high-quality institution. Institutions that ignore global initiatives may do so at their own peril. As Northern Virginia Community College President Robert G. Templin, Jr. observes, “Too often, international education is a target of budget reductions, seen as an unaffordable luxury in the midst of the current financial crisis. Yet at a time when America’s international leadership is being challenged, the emphasis on global competence has never been more vital.”
Though higher education leaders, joined by business executives and policy makers, increasingly recognize that all college graduates require “global competencies”—the attitudes, skills, and knowledge to live and work in our multicultural and interconnected world—that assent is not enough to instill such proficiency in our students. Key to gaining these skills is direct experience with the people and cultures of other nations. And yet, although such experiences may be best acquired through study, work, or service abroad, only 223,500—slightly more than 1 percent—of the nearly 16 million college and university students in the United States actually go abroad each year.
The solution may lie in finding inventive approaches to providing those competencies to students. To this end, ACE recently announced the winners of its Bringing the World into the Classroom awards program, which recognizes innovation in the use of technology to enhance the international learning of U.S. undergraduates. (For more information about this award, visit www.acenet.edu
and select Center for International Initiatives from the Programs & Services menu.)
With global engagement a critical element of its strategic plan, ACE will continue to engage in such programs, as well as information gathering and research, to provide the higher education community with information to assist the exchange of knowledge across borders. On behalf of ACE, I invite your ideas and feedback as we continue this journey.
Vice President for International Initiatives
American Council on Education
Madeleine Green is the 2010 recipient of the Association of International Education Administrators Charles Klasek Award for outstanding service to the field of international education.