Internationalization in the Spirit of Collective Impact at the University of California San Diego Through the ACE Internationalization Lab

​June 2022 

The University of California (UC) San Diego has a mission of "transforming California and a diverse global society by educating, generating and disseminating knowledge and creative works, and engaging in public service." As a student-centered, research-focused, service-oriented public institution, its students and researchers are doing work at the forefront of the most important scientific and societal issues of the time. Their work is guided by the idea of collective impact—a collaborative approach to tackling complex challenges by bringing people together in a structured way to achieve major change. UC San Diego serves nearly 40,000 students and is an inherently global university, with the seventh-largest international student and scholar populations in the United States.


Being such an international institution, UC San Diego recognized the vital importance of holistically supporting its global ecosystem in a strategic and interconnected manner. A change in leadership provided the perfect opportunity for the institution to join the 17th cohort of the ACE Internationalization Laboratory in order to address the need for a more coordinated approach to comprehensive internationalization. UC San Diego’s Lab leadership team’s goals were to assess the university’s distinctive strengths, comparative advantages, and emerging challenges to develop a unified approach to global education and research.​


After engaging in an intensive self-study, the Lab team developed recommendations for the university along four major themes:  

  • ​Support faculty as frontline champions for internationalization 
  • Break silos to build bridges 
  • Cultivate a culture of global citizenship 
  • Create a community of lifelong Tritons (UC San Diego’s mascot) 

Key performance indicators and metrics were identified for each theme so that the university could assess progress on each of these recommendations.  ​​


At the conclusion of their ACE Internationalization Lab work, UC San Diego embarked on an international search for the inaugural assistant vice chancellor of global initiatives to serve as its senior international officer. UC San Diego also published a report that features recommendations and opportunities to advance comprehensive internationalization and launched a corresponding website.

"Participating in the ACE Internationalization Lab at such a transitional time—battling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing systemic racism, and reckoning with climate change—served to reinforce the importance of supporting the next generation of global changemakers and expanding our global research ecosystem. Going forward, we’ll be using the ACE Lab findings to approach internationalization in a spirit of collective impact, focused on being data-driven, collaborative, and comprehensive."—Elizabeth H. Simmons, Executive Vice Chancellor, UC San Diego


The UC San Diego lab leadership team offers the following advice to institutions participating in or considering the ACE Internationalization Lab:  ​

  • Create an inclusive steering committee made up of faculty, administrators, and staff.​ 
  • Ensure that the steering committee, led by the lab leadership team, communicates progress regularly to the Academic Senate and/or other influential campus stakeholders.  

In UC San Diego’s case, this approach worked well with their shared governance model. Additional stakeholders were engaged directly in the subcommittees work as well, allowing for broad consensus-building through an iterative process. ​

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.

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