University of Nebraska–Lincoln Moves Internationalization Forward with a Global Strategy Through the ACE Internationalization Lab

​September 2022 

​The University of Nebraska–Lincoln is an R1 research institution serving over 24,000 students. In 2019, the university celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding. That was also the year they joined the 17th cohort of the ACE Internationalization Lab. The intersection of these two milestones provided a unique opportunity to both look back at all that had been accomplished and the lives that had been impacted by the institution, and also look ahead and co-create a vision for what kind of institution they could be in the future. As a result, the university launched a planning process to develop a new strategic plan, N2025, and a campus-wide global strategy subsequently unfolded alongside it.​


​Nebraska joined the Lab (as the 150th participant) in order to have a holistic conversation about global engagement—where they had been and where they were going—and to create their first institutional global strategy that would underpin and operationalize the N2025 strategic plan. Josh Davis, associate vice chancellor for global affairs and senior international officer was asked by campus leadership to expedite the process and complete the Lab program and new global strategy within one year.


A number of recommendations for the university emerged from the Lab process and significantly impacted the institution’s strategic direction. They included:  

  • ​​​Creating a global center that would bring together all global affairs units in closer physical proximity and encourage collaboration across units; the center would also create a streamlined experience for student support—whether they are domestic or international—and highlight in a very tangible way the importance of global engagement to our campus
  • Rebranding the global affairs units to clarify roles and responsibilities; a recurring theme from campus stakeholders was confusion over the structure of global units and areas of responsibility—order to serve as a hub of campus global activity, it is essential that the campus community is clear on each office’s responsibilities and how they can be of service, with special emphasis on linkages with colleges and avoiding redundancies
  • Critically reimagining what constitutes a global experience and leveraging technology and resources within the own community to increase access to these experiences not limited just to international travel
  • Creating new pathways to Nebraska for international students and to invest in student support and programming opportunities


​​More than 20 faculty and staff members representing various academic colleges and key campus units were brought together to form the Global Strategy Committee. This committee worked to catalog and identify past and current global engagement activities across campus, benchmark Nebraska’s position compared to peers, and contribute to the creation of the new strategy, Forward Together, which was publicly released in February 2021. Four primary goals were established, each with accompanying initiatives and objectives:  

  • ​​​Future and world ready: Reimagine what constitutes a global experience for Nebraska’s students, both inside and outside the classroom.
  • Partner for impact: Support and incentivize contributions toward solving world challenges through strategic partnerships.
  • Bring the best to Nebraska: Be a magnet for the best and brightest students, scholars, faculty, and staff from around the world.
  • Strong foundation: Strengthen the university’s global affairs infrastructure and operations to anchor engagement for years to come.  

Significant progress has been made since the rollout towards realizing these goals. For example, Nebraska has announced the creation of a new Global Education Center, made possible by private funding; restructured its Education Abroad Office into a Global Experiences Office while jump-starting engagement with a new Global Experiential Learning Fund; and launched an initiative to rethink how it recruits and supports international students.

​“Participation in the ACE Internationalization Lab came at exactly the right time for us. It gave us the tools, structure, and motivation to wrestle with the hard questions about global engagement that resulted in our institution’s first comprehensive global strategy.”—Josh Davis, Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs and Senior International Officer, University of Nebraska–Lincoln


The University of Nebraska–Lincoln offers the following advice and reflections to institutions committed to strengthening their internationalization:  

  • ​​​While this remains a challenging time for global engagement and international higher education, it is critical for institutions to ask themselves
    • ​What does the institution really believe about global engagement?
    • What specifically does the institution want to accomplish in this space?
    • How is the institution going to get there? 
  • ​Institutions will of course need to keep dealing with day-to-day issues while also finding time to step back and think big picture about these questions—the Lab helps create that space, so make it a priority, set a deadline for the work, and try to stick to it. 
  • Don’t make the mistake of trying to catalog everything that has been tried in the past or that is currently being done; international higher education has changed and still is changing rapidly—what is most important now is where the institution is headed and how it will get there. 

​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