Making Space for Internationalization at Case Western Reserve University Through the ACE Internationalization Lab

​​​​​​July 2022 

The mission of Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, Ohio is to improve and enrich people’s lives “through research that capitalizes on the power of collaboration and education that dramatically engages its students.” The university realizes this goal through: 

  • ​Scholarship and creative endeavor that draws on all forms of inquiry
  • Learning that is active, creative, and continuous
  • Promotion of an inclusive culture of global citizenship

In 2007, under the leadership of a new president, CWRU embarked on an institution-wide strategic planning process. Internationalization emerged as a major area of focus in CWRU’s institutional mission and vision. While broad statements about internationalization were included in the new planning documents, the specifics of implementation were yet to be determined. 


CWRU’s first senior international officer (SIO) was appointed in 2009 and was given a mandate to create an internationalization strategy and chart a more detailed path forward. An internationalization-specific strategic planning process was initiated and was already underway when the new SIO learned of the ACE Internationalization Lab. CWRU joined Cohort 8 of the Lab and completed the process in 2011–12, resulting in a university-wide strategic plan titled Case Western Reserve University: Plan for Internationalization (the Internationalization Plan). 

CWRU initially had more experience than the other members of Cohort 8, as most of the other institutions had not yet started strategic planning. CWRU hoped to build upon and refine its work to date, with the following specific goals for the Lab: 

  • ​Leverage ACE’s expertise, resources, and tools to ensure that the university was engaging appropriately in the strategic planning process in order to maximize its potential for success; appropriate engagement encompassed identifying and including important stakeholders on and off campus, as well as coming to agreement on the right topics
  • Develop a nuanced understanding of institutional priorities, including areas/topics to emphasize
  • Garner the endorsement of a prestigious outside organization (ACE) to validate and affirm the internal process and recommendations to university stakeholders


The major recommendations to the university that came out of the Lab process focused on organizational structure and establishing a strategic and comprehensible internationalization presence and culture at CWRU. In particular, the Lab team proposed the creation of the Center for International Affairs that would house a renewed and expanded Office of Education Abroad, the Office of International Student Services, and a new Office of Global Strategy. Location and aesthetics of the center were important—the idea was to design a high-profile, welcoming, and central space that would allow for communication and coordination among the internal offices, the schools, units and initiatives on campus, and relationships with community organizations and members. The center was also conceived so that it would signify the importance of internationalization to the CWRU community. The Internationalization Plan included additional recommendations for education abroad, international undergraduate student enrollment, undergraduate curriculum initiatives, graduate student initiatives, international risk management, and funding. 


​Building on the Internationalization Plan, per the Lab team’s recommendations, CWRU’s Center for International Affairs opened in 2011 in a central and desirable campus location with remodeled space. The response and impact were immediate, positive, and dramatic. The university saw an increase in the number and percentage of undergraduate international students and the number and percentage of undergraduate students studying abroad. Through the Office of Global Strategy, the university formed strategic relationships with new partners around the world—including with leading academic medical centers in both Brazil and Taiwan and with a major engineering university in China. In addition, the university significantly built on a major research collaboration in Uganda. More broadly, there is a different awareness and culture around internationalization—CWRU is a more international institution than in the past. 

Since completing the Lab, CWRU developed a Plan for Internationalization: Phase II that focuses on initiatives at the graduate and professional levels and considered how to create a greater CWRU institutional presence in specific global regions. In addition, the center:

  • Examined the faculty promotion and tenure process and its impact on internationalization
  • Emphasized the importance of international rankings on the ability of the university to fulfill its mission and its ability to attract students, faculty, and resources
  • Began a much more targeted program to create faculty international initiatives


CWRU offers the following advice to institutions considering embarking on the ACE Internationalization Lab: 

  • ​​Process is crucial; all stakeholders must have the chance to express their views, and it is especially important to involve those who are skeptical or critical of internationalization
  • Involve leadership; if comprehensive internationalization is important to the chancellor or president, provost, and other leaders, it will become important to others
  • Respected faculty need to be—and be seen as—engaged in the work of the Lab, adding gravitas to final product
  • Communicate relentlessly across campus; all areas of the institution need to be aware of the Lab so that they can feel part of the initiative and then will work to make it successful
  • Begin implementation even before the Lab process officially concludes; address key recommendations and pressing issues as soon as possible in order to build support and enthusiasm, demonstrate value, and achieve early wins

The ACE Internationalization Lab

The Internationalization Lab provides customized guidance and insight to help colleges and universities achieve their internationalization goals. Learn more about the Lab and how to apply.​

Learn More​