Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

 Email  Share  Print

Internationalization in Action

December 30, 1899


As part of the efforts of the American Council on Education's (ACE) Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement (CIGE) to provide guidance to institutions engaged in internationalization, Internationalization in Action features institutional strategies and good practices gathered from participants in CIGE programs and other experts in the field. Topics rotate regularly, and each installment includes examples, sample documents, and advice from a variety of institutions. We welcome your contributions!

Internationalizing the Co-curriculum: A Three-Part Series

By Heather H. Ward, Senior Program Specialist at ACE​

Co-curriculum, together with curriculum and learning outcomes, forms one of the six dimensions of CIGE’s Model for Comprehensive Internationalization. A co-curriculum can encompass a wide range of programs and services separate from, but complementary to, the curriculum. Student development, learning, and interaction occur both inside and outside the classroom. Internationalizing the co-curriculum, therefore, is critical to a comprehensive approach.

“Comprehensive internationalization” as defined by CIGE is a strategic, coordinated process that seeks to align and integrate international policies, programs, and initiatives, and positions colleges and universities as more globally oriented and internationally connected. “It is the obligation of colleges and universities to prepare people for a globalized world, including developing the ability to compete economically, to operate effectively in other cultures and settings, to use knowledge to improve their own lives and their communities, and to better comprehend the realities of the contemporary world so that they can better meet their responsibilities as citizens.” (American Council on Education 2011)

Internationalization is gaining momentum at more than 80 percent of U.S. colleges and universities, and a majority have articulated international or global student learning outcomes, according to ACE’s Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses: 2012 Edition. While education abroad is a deeply transformative experience that can increase students’ global awareness, IIE’s 2014 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange indicates that only 9.4 percent of U.S. undergraduates who complete a four-year degree will have that experience, and for associate, master’s, and doctoral degree students the participation rate is much lower. Therefore, the responsibility “to prepare people for a globalized world,” cited in ACE’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Global Engagement report, Strength through Global Leadership and Engagement: U.S. Higher Education in the 21st Century, is increasingly borne by educators on campus.

Ideally, a co-curriculum should align with institution-wide learning outcomes, mission, and strategic goals. Strategies for co-curricular internationalization depend on factors unique to each college or university, such as its institution type (community college, liberal arts, research), the composition and size of the student population, the availability of resources, history, location, and others. Introducing new, globally oriented co-curricular programs—or reorienting existing ones to meet strategic goals—can be daunting and complex. The co-curriculum, relative to other aspects of comprehensive internationalization, presents distinct challenges: 

  • Co-curricular programs often influence, and are influenced by, institutional culture, which is deeply engrained and can be slow to transform.
  • The co-curriculum encompasses a wide range of services and programs, making it difficult to identify where and how to direct internationalization efforts.
  • Student participation in co-curricular activities is almost always voluntary, and levels of engagement vary.
  • Without attendance records, academic credit, or grades, it can be difficult to assess student learning as a result of participation in co-curricular programs.

Despite these challenges, focusing internationalization efforts on the co-curriculum is essential for the kind of deep, transformational learning that international education promises. While students may sit for 12–18 hours per week in the classroom, the remainder of their time (particularly for residential students) is spent on campus interacting with peers, accessing services, and attending student events. The experiential nature of the co-curriculum—where students encounter cultural “others,” navigate shared space, learn to manage conflict, calibrate their moral compasses, and test their leadership skills—can offer some of the richest opportunities for students to encounter cultural differences that test their beliefs and assumptions.

This installment of Internationalization in Action is the second of a three-part series exploring internationalization of the co-curriculum:

  1. Integrating International Students
  2. Global and Intercultural Education in the Co-curriculum
  3. Internationalization and Student Affairs 

"An internationalized curriculum and co-curriculum ensure that all students, including those who do not have the opportunity to study abroad, are exposed to international perspectives and can build global competence.” (American Council on Education 2012)

Global and Intercultural Education in the Co-curriculum

As the United States becomes increasingly diverse and globally connected, higher education provides a laboratory for students to test the values, beliefs, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that will shape their lifelong participation in a democratic society. Colleges and universities can serve as microcosms of our increasingly interconnected and multicultural world, challenging students to practice empathy, understanding, listening, respect, and conflict resolution. The experiential nature of the co-curriculum presents many opportunities for students to develop these skills. When students are members of a diverse community, they have the opportunity to practice engaging openly and constructively with cultural difference.

This kind of engagement does not happen spontaneously by enrolling students who check a variety of demographic categories. It requires intentional and well-structured programming, faculty and student affairs personnel who can help students interpret and learn from their cross-cultural experiences, and also students’ own willingness to shift their beliefs and assumptions based on what they encounter. Engaging with difference can be uncomfortable, but the cost of avoiding it is too high for higher education leaders to ignore.

Why colleges and universities are increasingly committed to preparing students for work and civic life in the twenty-first century by emphasizing global and intercultural education is well documented. A multitude of organizations—from the U.S. Department of Education to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to the Asia Society—identify global or intercultural competencies today’s graduates need. This installment of Internationalization in Action explores the question of how some institutions advance those competencies through the co-curriculum.

“Intercultural competences aim at freeing people from their own logic and cultural idioms in order to engage with others and listen to their ideas. . . . Acquiring intercul­tural competences is a thrilling challenge since no one is, naturally, called upon to understand the values of others. This challenge is a unique opportunity in the history of humankind.” (UNESCO 2013)

Note About Terminology

Throughout the text of this report, we often use “global and intercultural education” to refer to learning about and experiencing both 1) global events, phenomena, and issues (including national, transnational, regional, and multination­al issues) and 2) cultures other than one’s own (including cultures and subcultures within the same nation or geograph­ic region). “Global education” may include education abroad as well as learning about the world from any location. “Intercultural education” emphasizes learning that occurs when persons of different cultural backgrounds interact. Further explanation of these and related terms is discussed in the 2007 ACE report At Home in the World: Bridging the Gap Between Internationalization and Multicultural Education. Readers may determine that other terms are better suited for the specific mission, climate, and population of their institutions.


This installment of Internationalization in Action explores internationalization of the co-curriculum in four parts:


Part I. Learning Outcomes for Global and Intercultural Education

“Internationally focused student learning outcomes articulate specific knowledge and skills to be addressed in courses and activities outside the classroom and provide over-arching goals for academic and co-curricular programming.” (ACE 2012)

Developing and measuring student learning outcomes is increasingly a core activity of U.S. higher education. Institutions of all stripes have established learning outcomes in order to align curriculum and co-curricular programming with mission and vision. Many accrediting bodies now require institutions to measure progress toward student learning outcomes. Funding and other resources may be allocated on the basis of those measurements.

Efforts to develop learning outcomes often begin with the curriculum, but an increasing number of institutions are using student learning outcomes to guide the co-curriculum as well. Ideally, learning outcomes flow from the institution’s mission and strategic plan, and serve to connect and integrate the curriculum and co-curriculum.

A great deal of scholarship exists on the development and application of learning outcomes in general, mainly from the field of educational assessment. The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment suggests guidelines for learning outcomes and maintains a clearinghouse of articles and examples at the organization’s website. In addition, NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (Resources at NASPA) (Assessment and Evaluation information from NASPA) and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) provide resources specifically for co-curricular student learning outcomes. Here, we turn to a discussion of learning outcomes with a specific global or intercultural focus.

Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) VALUE Rubrics

AAC&U has developed a set of “VALUE rubrics”—using the acronym VALUE to represent Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education—that are free and available for download at AAC&U's website.

“The VALUE rubrics were developed by teams of faculty experts representing colleges and universities across the United States through a process that examined many existing campus rubrics and related documents for each learning outcome and incorporated additional feedback from faculty. The rubrics articulate fundamental criteria for each learn­ing outcome, with performance descriptors demonstrating progressively more sophisticated levels of attainment. The rubrics are intended for institutional-level use in evaluating and discussing student learning, not for grading. . . .”

Two VALUE rubrics in particular address global and intercultural learning:

  • Global Learning VALUE Rubric -  Example: “Adapts and applies a deep understanding of multiple worldviews, experiences, and power structures while initiating meaningful interaction with other cultures to address significant global problems."
  • Intercultural Knowledge and Competence VALUE Rubric -  Example: “Demonstrates sophisticated understanding of the complexity of elements important to members of another culture in relation to its history, values, politics, communication styles, economy, or beliefs and practices.”


Campus-Wide Global or Intercultural Learning Outcomes

As internationalization has taken hold at a growing number of colleges and universities, so have learning outcomes with a global or intercultural focus. The 2012 edition of ACE’s Map­ping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses report found that 55% of U.S. colleges and universities have established specific global learning outcomes.

Percent of Institutions That Have Developed International/Global Learning Outcomes, 
by Institution Type

Even if global learning outcomes are initially developed with the goal of infusing international perspectives into classroom teaching and learning, they can almost always be interpreted for and applied to the co-curriculum as well. Sharing global and intercultural learning outcomes throughout the institution—both in the classroom and in the co-curriculum—can produce a more integrated global learning experience for students, with knowledge and experience gained in one arena complemented and reinforced by the other.

For this reason, it is crucial that student affairs professionals be included in the process of developing institution-wide global learning outcomes. Student affairs personnel bring a wealth of knowledge about student development, cultural identity, experiential learning, and the perspectives of international students, and can contribute in many ways to student learning outcomes.

Institution-Wide Global Learning Outcomes at the University of Kentucky

To create a set of institution-wide global learning outcomes (GLOs) that would have a significant impact on teaching, curriculum, and campus programs, Susan Carvalho, associate provost for internationalization at the University of Kentucky (UK), turned for assistance to the university’s Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching. Together, they determined that the GLOs should grow directly out of the character and identity of the institution. With 16 very different institutions, including a medical school and an array of graduate, professional, and pre-professional programs, the GLOs needed to be rooted in knowledge defined as “workplace skills.”

To promote awareness of the GLOs campus-wide and facilitate discussion, the International Center printed them on bookmarks, designed to reflect the unique character and motto of UK, “See Blue.” Each of UK’s global learning outcomes can be applied both in and out of the classroom to support students’ devel­opment of global and cross-cultural competencies. For example, one of the outcomes states that UK graduates will be able to: “Demonstrate effective and appropriate communication, interaction, and teamwork with people of different nationalities and cultures.”

Examples of co-curricular programs designed to advance the “See Blue” global learning outcomes include:

This text was adapted from Internationalization in Action: Internationalizing the Curriculum, Part 3—Degree Programs by Robin Matross Helms and Malika Tukibayeva (ACE 2014).


Models from the Field
Campus-Wide Learning Outcomes for Global and/or Intercultural Education


Co-curriculum-Specific Global or Intercultural Learning Outcomes

For institutions that do not have campus-wide learning outcomes, global or intercultural learning outcomes can be developed specifically for the co-curriculum. The learning outcomes then serve as a compass to guide co-curricular programming and student services. The co-curriculum provides an important opportunity for students to apply their global and intercultural learning by demonstrating certain behaviors and through direct experience.

A brief review of co-curricular global and intercultural learning outcomes developed by a dozen U.S. institutions of different types (large, private, public, two-year, and PhD-level) suggests a consistent format: 





Though relatively simple, this three-part formula yields an unlimited set of unique learning outcomes. The terminology used in learning outcomes is never accidental and should reflect an institution’s core values. For example, religious-affiliated institutions might describe the purpose of global and intercultural learning in terms of peace or social justice, while a graduate business school might emphasize career preparation for success in a global economy. Outcomes should describe the intended result, not the intervention that produces it. Institutions typically describe outcomes at beginning, developing, and advanced levels.

Below are examples of co-curricular student learning outcomes terminology used in different combinations by a variety of U.S. institutions:


Institutions may find additional ideas for developing co-curricular learning outcomes from the International Learning Outcomes Ranking Document, a tool created as part of the 2004–07 ACE/Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education project, “Lessons Learned in Assessing International Learning.”

“Cultural Competence” at Weber State University

Brett Perozzi, associate vice president for student affairs at Weber State University in Utah, and chair of the Interna­tional Advisory Board of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education describes a process followed by Weber State’s Division of Student Affairs to adopt division-wide co-curricular learning outcomes related to diversity and cultural competence.

In 2008, student affairs assembled a committee comprising frontline staff and division leaders, the director of assess­ment, and faculty from the general education curriculum committee. The group reviewed how peer institutions were addressing questions of diversity and cultural education in the co-curriculum and consulted the AAC&U VALUE rubrics. They arrived at the following definition:

“Cultural competence is understanding and appreciating diversity. Individuals who are culturally competent develop an inclusive world view, value differences, and interact with others in culturally appropriate ways which create a climate of mutual respect.” (Weber's Cultural Competency Rubric (PDF)

A unique rubric developed by the committee articulates specific learning objectives and can be used for measuring stu­dents’ knowledge, awareness, interaction, and attitudes toward cultural difference: the Cultural Competency Rubric. The rubric is one of several ways individual units at Weber State evaluate their annual progress toward division-wide goals.


Models from the Field


Part II. Co-curricular Programming for Global and Intercultural Education

If learning outcomes serve as a compass for students’ global and intercultural learning, intentional and inclusive co-curricular programs are the vehicle for their journey.

Some evidence suggests the educational benefit of global and intercultural programs on campus may equal or even surpass that of education abroad: A 2013 study by Krista M. Soria and Jordan Troisi found that “participating in some on-campus global/international activities may benefit students’ development of GII [global, international, and intercultural] competencies more than participating in study abroad; specifically, enrolling in global/international academic coursework and attending international/globally themed lectures, symposia, or conferences. . . .” (Soria and Troisi 2013).

Students may possess widely varying levels of previous experience and interest in advancing their global and intercultural skills; programs should be designed with these differences in mind.

Bennett’s Model of Intercultural Sensitivity

Intercultural communication theorist and founder of the Intercultural Development Research Institute Milton J. Ben­nett first outlined his Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity in the 1986 article “A Developmental Approach to Training for Intercultural Sensitivity,” published in the International Journal of Intercultural Relations. The model is further elaborated in subsequent articles and suggests that the development of intercultural sensitivity follows a continuum of awareness. (Later articles also address the connection between intercultural and international/global learning.) Students of higher education, representing diverse cultural experiences and backgrounds, may appear at any point along the continuum. Therefore, global and intercultural educational programs offered at multiple points can support students’ continuing development along the cultural awareness spectrum.


The following section describes a variety of co-curricular programs and approaches that can support students in developing global and intercultural awareness, and that can be adapted to meet specific global learning outcomes. Programs are grouped into three levels of an inverse triangle, illustrating the inverse relationship between intensity/impact and student partici­pation:

  • New Experiences: low-risk, low-intensity, and likely to involve the greatest number of students;
  • Expanding Awareness: help students continue developing global and intercultural perspectives, and likely to involve students who are curious and comfortable with difference;
  • Going Deeper: higher in intensity, require more commitment from students, fewer students participate, but these experiences can be transformative for those who do.
triangle of adequateness Going DeeperExpanding AwarenessNew Experiences
New Experiences

Survey responses in ACE’s 2012 Mapping Internationalization report indicate that most campuses organize some kind of international festival or cultural event. These events might take place over a few hours or several days, for select groups or the entire campus community.

Ongoing International Festivals or Cultural Events on Campus

Despite the prevalence of these events, and the relatively low risk and cost associated with participation, international programs offices must compete with a variety of popular student activities on campus. The "Field of Dreams" approach (“if you build it, they will come”) does not apply in this context. For students with little prior exposure to global events or cultures, even a one-time festival may be out of their comfort zones. In order to reduce barriers to partici­pation and attract the maximum number of students to international programs, the following tactics may prove useful:

  • Make global and intercultural events free.
  • Target outreach to students through multiple media.
  • Collaborate with faculty and academic departments.
  • Hold international events at a location and time when there is high foot traffic and visibility.
  • Avoid competition with existing programs.
  • Re-orient existing, popular events to include a global dimension.
  • Create a welcoming environment for persons of all backgrounds, not only a featured culture or region.

When co-curricular programs support classroom learning, faculty may be willing to require attendance or award extra credit. Internationalization in U.S. Higher Education: The Student Perspective, a 2005 ACE study on the student perspective on internationalization, found: “Students do not typically hear about events from faculty or advisers, but when they do, faculty can influence students’ interest in participating” (ACE 2005) .

Co-curricular programs that incorporate the visual arts, performing arts, craft, design, and film can be highly accessible and experiential. Many campuses have designated gallery space for photography, painting, or sculpture exhibits, as well as performance and film series. Featuring international artwork may seem obvious to educators keen on advancing internationalization, but unless specific institutionalization goals are spelled out and communicated across units, those responsible for exhibits, shows, and films may base their selections on other criteria.

Crossing Borders Films

Crossing Borders Films produces documentaries that promote cross-cultural learning, as well as toolkits to help guide discussion of the films with campus audiences. Each Crossing Borders film features higher education students from diverse cultural backgrounds and follows them as they share a new cross-cultural experience together. Crossing Bor­ders’ films have been shown on dozens of U.S. campuses, including Eastern Kentucky University, Grinnell College (IA), James Madison University (VA), Mary Baldwin College (VA), Northern Virginia Community College, and the University of North Alabama. On screen, students sort out their misunderstandings about one another and their cultural identities, and along the way they develop greater self-awareness, empathy, and conflict resolution skills. The Crossing Borders trilogy consists of:

  • Crossing Borders: Four Moroccan and four American university students travel together through Morocco.
  • The Dialogue: Four American and four Chinese university students travel together through Hong Kong and southwest China.
  • American Textures: Six U.S. students who identify as black, white, and Latino travel together through diverse communities in the southern United States.


Some co-curricular arts programs go a step further by involving students in the co-produc­tion of art from different cultural traditions or with global subjects. Becoming the artist and collaborating with a diverse group can offer deeper, multi-sensory, and experiential learning.

Global Rhythms World Music Ensemble

Alumnus and master percussionist Srinivas Krishnan, originally from India, with several Miami University (OH) faculty and administrators, formed the Global Rhythms World Music Ensemble in 1996. Global Rhythms is not a perfor­mance group, but rather an immersive cross-cultural experience for students at Miami and the other campuses the group visits. Krishnan works directly with student volunteers over several days or weeks to prepare choral, dance, or instrumental pieces from a variety of world regions, culminating in a public concert with visiting professional artists from around the globe. A single Global Rhythms performance might integrate ancient Sanskrit chanting with Ghanaian percussion, Brazilian guitar, and bluegrass mandolin, for example. Students who participate learn about a range of different world music traditions, and then experience them more deeply by becoming the singers, drummers, and dancers of those pieces. Students and guest artists contributed to a short documentary video about Global Rhythms’ 2014 performance.


Models from the Field

While the impact of any single international event may not be great, it can serve as a critical point of entry for students to get exposure to global issues and cultures. Attending an international event is low-cost and low-risk, requiring only a few minutes or hours of time and no prior knowledge. While participation may be minimal at first, campus traditions can form quickly, often within the four-year cycle of undergraduate study.

The lack of depth achieved through international events and festivals merits an important cautionary note: Without intentional planning for student learning and thoughtful consideration of history, diversity, and current events, a cultural event can easily reinforce ste­reotypes. It is simply easier to go with what is most recognizable about a region or culture, rather than diving into the lesser known complexities, diversity, subcultures, and tensions that inevitably exist. Programming of this nature is sometimes referred to as the “Four F’s”—food, flags, fashion, and fun (a fifth is occasionally added: facts)—topics that are uncontroversial and entertaining, but that may not challenge participants’ existing assumptions. While there may be an informal and social nature to many co-curricular programs, they should still provide opportunities for genuine learning.

As suggested in the previous installment of Internationalization in Action, which focused on integrating international students, global and intercultural events should satisfy the following questions:

  • Is the event inclusive? Would all members of the campus community feel welcome, regardless of nationality, religion, race, or other aspects of their identities?
  • Does the event facilitate interaction between different groups?
  • Does the event align with a global or intercultural learning outcome defined by the institution?

Expanding Awareness

If international festivals and cultural events cast a wide net for student participation, some programs are more targeted, requiring a higher level of commitment and encouraging deeper learning for interested students. These programs delve beneath the surface of the proverbial “cultural iceberg,” the vast and mostly hidden aspects of culture that include religious beliefs, approaches to problem solving, social hierarchy, gender roles, learning styles, expectations of friendship, and others. Student affairs personnel who structure such programs must be prepared to serve as facilitators of students’ global and intercultural learning. “

Meaningful interactions are the first step in building real relationships with others. Such meaningful intercultural interactions result when both persons are able to engage at a deeper level, beyond the perfunctory surface-level engagement. . . . This deeper-lev­ el engagement often requires a degree of risk taking, of trust building, of being able to see from the other’s perspective, and a willingness to reach out.” (Deardorff 2008)

Examples of global and intercultural programs designed to “expand awareness” include:

International residence halls. ACE’s Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses: 2012 Edition found more than half (57 percent) of doctoral institutions and approximately one-third of master’s and baccalaureate institutions have a residence hall with special programs designed to facilitate the integration of U.S. and international students.

Language partners. Programs that pair language-learners with native speakers of the target language bring participants together around a shared goal and provide an opportunity for ongoing conversation about global and cultural topics.

International student peer mentors. Returning students (i.e., not first-year or transfer students) may be invited to serve as peer mentors to international students, which can both support international students’ adjustment to campus and to the United States and help peer mentors learn to interact effectively with persons of other cultural backgrounds.

(International living-learning communities, language partners, and peer mentors are discussed in detail with examples from many institutions in the previous installment of Internationalization in Action, “Integrating International Students.”)

Global or intercultural dialogues. Even when students live together or interact frequently as language partners, they may stick to “safe” subjects to avoid offense or conflict. A thoughtfully planned, facilitated dialogue on global issues (e.g., climate change, public health, human rights, cyber-security) or cultural topics (e.g., gender equality, interfaith relations, free expression) can open the door to deeper exploration. Dialogues may be open to all members of the campus community, or to members of a particular program or group (e.g., a residence hall, leadership program, or student organization). Invited speakers can provide background and frame the issue, or the dialogue may begin with students’ reactions to a reading or film. Factors to consider when planning a meaningful, globally focused dialogue include:

  • Location: Participants should feel comfortable expressing their views in a neutral space.
  • Size: If the group is large, participants may feel inhibited about speaking.
  • Diversity: Genuine dialogue can only occur when multiple viewpoints are represented.
  • Facilitator: It is not necessary for a facilitator to be expert in the topic discussed, but he or she can ensure that all participants have an opportunity to speak and can establish a tone of openness, trust, and respect for difference.
Bennett College (NC): Difficult Dialogues to Advance Religious Understanding

Bennett College is a small, private, historically black liberal arts college for women. Through Bennett’s participation in ACE’s At Home in the World initiative, the college piloted a new program to bring different cultural groups togeth­er to advance mutual understanding, which they named “Difficult Dialogues.”

Bennett was becoming more religiously diverse, particularly with an increase of Muslim faculty, staff, and students, and the institution recognized the need to better educate the community about Islam and other faith traditions. The project team created a variety of programs and activities, including focused dialogues, film series, book discussions, and community engagement that explored 1) similarities that link all world religions and 2) differences among various faith traditions, specifically those observed by members of the Bennett community.

The biggest impact of the project on Bennett’s campus, according to an administrator from Bennett’s Center for Global Studies, has been increased comfort and engagement of the campus community in difficult dialogues around sensitive topics. The Bennett team learned to provide channels for increased exposure to challenging or sensitive areas, which moved some beyond their comfort zones, but at a “tolerable pace.” With increased understanding of how to manage challenging conversations, the team has begun exploring the possibility of other dialogues around sensitive topics important to the Bennett community.


The Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center, based at the University of Alaska Anchorage, was created in 2013 to support campus efforts to engage in dialogue around sensitive topics with the goal of strengthening a democratically engaged society. Difficult Dialogues is also the title of a Ford Foundation program launched in 2005 to support scholarship, teaching, and civil dialogue about difficult political, religious, racial, and cultural issues in undergraduate education in the United States.

Models from the Field

Community engagement. Through community service, leadership, student engagement, or career offices, most colleges and universities provide a wide range of opportunities for students to become involved in the community—which may mean the campus, local, national, and/or global communities. Often student engagement in the community occurs in the context of an academic class as service learning, but students are also engaged in learning, serving, and gaining “real world” experience outside of class through co-curricular programs.

“Both internationalization and multicultural education feature experiential learning as a critical pedagogy, largely due to the importance they place on student develop­ment. This experiential learning may be a component of a course (in-class group work or training exercises) or attached to a course as an out-of-class project. Experiential learning is also frequently offered through the co-curriculum or off-campus experiences that include immersion in other countries (e.g., study abroad, service learning, and internships) or in a distinct community just down the street. The local experiential learning opportunities may involve students working with community agencies and organizations; these experiences typically provide practice in conducting the difficult dialogues that may arise from social and political frictions between races, ethnic groups, and genders.” (Olson, Evans, and Schoenberg 2007)

Carnegie Community Engagement Classification

The Carnegie Community Engagement Classification is an elective category of the Carnegie classification system for higher education institutions that recognizes colleges and universities with high levels of community engagement activity, including activity that occurs outside the United States. The Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, administered by the New England Resource Center for Higher Education, defines community engagement as follows:

“Community engagement describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger commu­nities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.”


Community engagement can advance global and intercultural learning in several ways:

  • Diverse teams. A community service opportunity can bring together students of different nationalities, ethnicities, or cultural backgrounds to work together toward a shared goal. Rather than focusing on what makes cultures distinct from one another, community engagement starts with a value or commitment that participants share. Working side-by-side, discussion of each other’s backgrounds, home life, or values may occur naturally.
  • Immigrant communities. There are many ways for students to interact with local immigrant groups, particularly at institutions located in urban or suburban areas, where these populations tend to be larger—and often at community colleges, which may offer educational programs to new immigrants and refugees (not for academic credit) or English language classes. Working with immigrant communities, students may be able to practice speaking a different language, teach English, or translate; learn music or other arts traditions; join a community sports team; or tutor school-aged children. Local immigrant communities as a resource for co-curricular programming are discussed further in Part III of this report.
  • International organizations. Many international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have campus outreach or chapters that encourage student involvement around issues of international importance through awareness-raising, advocacy, and fundraising. International NGOs with campus chapters include Amnesty International, Sierra Club, and Women for Women International.
  • Community engagement abroad. Not all education abroad experiences involve classroom study and academic credit. Student engagement offices at many institutions organize programs for students to volunteer overseas at established project sites, or with partner organizations such as Break Away during breaks in the academic calendar.

Student organizations. Among dozens, or even hundreds, of student organizations on a campus may be any number with a global, national, or cultural focus. In addition to cultural associations formed by international or heritage students (e.g., Korean Student Association), there may be student organizations focused on particular global issues or on international relations (e.g., Model United Nations). While not every student organization maintains strong membership and leadership from year to year, participation in a student organization can be an experiential, co-curricular learning opportunity for both deepening knowledge of a global issue or culture and gaining skills in leadership, outreach, fundraising, and advocacy. Through student organizations, participants can express their identities and viewpoints, which may occasionally conflict with other campus groups. In fact, tensions in other parts of the world may come to bear on interactions between student organizations. Ideally, the campus can serve as a safe, nonviolent environment for the expression and appreciation of different perspectives.

A Student Club for “Third Culture Kids” (TCKs)

Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia is a Christian institution that enrolls many U.S. and international students from missionary families who have lived outside their own cultures. Other so-called “third culture kids” (TCKs)” may have grown up in families where parents were part of the diplomatic corps or military. The university’s student affairs division created a campus organization for TCKs. According to EMU, “ many TCKs feel at home anywhere, while others struggle to find a sense of home.” The TCK club at Eastern Mennonite helps students negotiate important questions related to identity such as, “Where do I belong? Where is home? What is my culture? And how do I put together my experiences internationally with a life in the United States?” In addition to the student club, the university offers a special orientation program for TCKs and academic programs that build on their global experience and interests. TCKs may be a valuable resource to other students, both those interested in gaining global experience and international students who may feel culturally displaced.


Models from the Field
Making Virtual Global Connections: COIL in the Co-curriculum

The State University of New York (SUNY)’s Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) Center has pioneered an innovative model of shared teaching and learning for students and faculty in two or more countries. In a 2013 issue of ACPA’s Developments, Jason Lane, senior associate vice chancellor and vice provost for academic affairs at SUNY, considers how the COIL methodology might strengthen international learning in the co-curriculum:

“Our campuses provide a rich array of co-curricular experiences and activities that advance leadership development, soft skill refinement, community engagement, and cultural awareness among other things. Why could we not add an international component to some of these initiatives? . . .

“Imagine if two student clubs with a shared focus but located in Alabama and Albania, held shared business meetings once a month via technology? What if community service organizations in California and China could set a community clean up on the same day and then meet afterwards to reflect on the experience? . . .

“An added advantage of co-curricular-based virtual mobility is that it can be more accessible than the curricular-based activities, which are often limited to those enrolled in a given course. In an era of increasing competition for good jobs and a flattening world that requires greater global awareness, virtual mobility can open up the world and foster international collaborations to a vast majority of students who do not have the ability to physically cross borders.” (Lane 2013)

Going Deeper

Continuing along the spectrum from initial exposure to deep engagement, few students will dedicate the time and energy to intensive programs that push at the edges of their comfort zones, but those who do stand to gain in transformative ways—and so does the entire campus. Students who pursue intensive involvement will begin to model qualities of global and intercultural awareness for other students. Within a few years, as those students multiply, they can significantly contribute to a campus climate of inclusivity and global awareness, and to an expectation among all students (including prospective ones) that global and intercultural experience is part and parcel of their degree.

Global/Intercultural Leadership Opportunities

For each of the programs listed above in the section on “Expanding Awareness,” there may be opportunities for students to move from participant to leader. For example, after living in the international residence hall for one year, a student could become the resident advisor for the hall. After practicing Arabic with an international student from the United Arab Emirates for a semester, a student might take on organizing the language exchange program. By taking on such roles, these students don’t just show up to global and intercultural activities, they “walk the walk,” demonstrating their commitment to the value of these experiences and becoming role models for other students. Other global leadership opportunities might include:

  • Education abroad “ambassadors”
  • Officers of international/intercultural student organizations
  • Members of international student councils or advisory boards
Co-curricular Certificates

A perennial challenge for co-curricular programs, as stated in the introduction to this report, is that they are typically voluntary. Understandably, students are more motivated to commit their time and energy to endeavors that help them advance directly toward a degree. Nevertheless, some co-curricular programs offer meaningful recognition, such as global/intercultural certificates, e-portfolios, or digital badges. In addition to creating a record of participation in global and intercultural programs, these types of credentials typically require students to reflect on their experiences through journals, essays, videos, or blogs. The credential awarded may appear on a student’s academic or co-curricular transcript.

Students who achieve the co-curricular certificate or badge can inspire others to get involved in global and intercultural activities: As a requirement of George Mason University’s Global Engagement Certificate, for example, students are required to speak to a campus audience to share their experience.

Some global/intercultural certificate programs combine curricular and co-curricular requirements, such as Purdue University’s (IN) Passport to Intercultural Learning (PUPIL) pro­ gram. Students earn digital badges in six areas (e.g., intercultural communication, cultural worldview) by completing activities or challenges set by faculty. The badge system is intended as a way for students to communicate evidence of learning to future employers and others.

Models from the Field
Global Learning in the Community College Co-curriculum: The Valencia Global Distinction

by Katie Weigel, ACE Program Specialist

When Jennifer Robertson began her tenure as Valencia College’s (FL) director of study abroad and global experiences in 2010, she helped the college develop an international education strategic plan. While conducting a review of Valen­cia’s international programs, the idea emerged to acknowledge students for participating in globally focused courses and co-curricular programs.

The Valencia Global Distinction (VGD) recognizes globally focused academic coursework and requires students to complete 15 co-curricular hours with a global/intercultural theme. Students may substitute their 15 co-curricular hours with a study abroad, international internship, or international service-learning program. In addition, students are required to attend a seminar and complete a capstone project. Once all requirements (PDF) 1 MB are complete, students receive a certificate of accomplishment, special acknowledgment at graduation, and a Global Distinction notation on their official transcript.

Convincing community college students to participate in co-curricular activities can be challenging; many strive to balance coursework with family and work commitments and have little time for additional activities. Robertson initially thought it would be difficult to recruit participants, but found “once you get out there and start talking to students, there are many who already come to us with a global perspective and are interested in learning more.”

Valencia conducted a “soft launch” in spring 2015, with more than 40 students who already met the academic credit and/or study abroad requirement of the VGD. Though it will take more steps to get the program up and running, Robertson expects high interest as her team ramps up marketing. If successful, the VGD could become a model for community colleges throughout Florida.


Part III. Resources for Internationalizing the Co­-curriculum

If student learning outcomes serve as a compass for global and intercultural education, and programs as the vehicle, then resources provide the “fuel” needed for their journey. In the constrained budget environment at many institutions today, the question of resources can influence every programming decision. While resources are certainly needed to deliver high-quality, intentional co-curricular programs, not all are financial. Some may even be right under your nose (or at least nearby): on campus, in the local community, or in the national and international spheres.

Concentric Circles CampusLocal CommunityNationalInternational
International Students and Scholars

ACE’s 2005 report Internationalization of U.S. Higher Education: The Student Perspective, based on the responses of 9,279 students at institutions identified as “highly active” with regard to international education, found that despite wide agreement on the value and educational potential of international students on campus, they are largely underutilized as a resource for global and intercultural learning. While international student enrollment has grown steadily since ACE conducted this survey, services and programs for international students have not kept pace. Anecdotal evidence suggests that few institutions are providing resources to help faculty and staff maximize the potential for global and intercultural learning through the presence of international students.

The previous installment of Internationalization in Action, “Integrating International Students,” discusses programs that welcome and support international students and that facilitate their interaction with others on campus.

Scholar exchange programs such as the Fulbright Program arrange for international experts in an array of academic disciplines to visit U.S. campuses for short- and long-term stays. While the scholars’ primary activity may be teaching or research, often they are expected—in accordance with the public diplomacy goals of the U.S. Department of State—to engage with the local community. Co-curricular programs can be planned with the specific cultural background and expertise of visiting scholars in mind.

When seeking international students’ and scholars’ involvement in co-curricular programs, organizers should not assume they are expert in the history, politics, culture, religion, or economies of their home countries (unless it is their academic specialization). International members of the campus community, too, may appear at any point along the developmental spectrum of cultural awareness.

Cultural Diversity on Campus

As increasingly diverse cultural groups enter U.S. higher education, there are more oppor­tunities to engage students and faculty from different cultural backgrounds in learning through interactions with one another.

Total Fall Enrollment in Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions, by Race/Ethnicity of Student

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 (NCES 2014–15), Chapter 3. (

Thoughtfully designed, inclusive co-curricular programs can encourage intercultural learn­ing among students of the same national and regional background, where differences exist based on race, ethnicity, ability, region, and other factors that comprise cultural identity.

“Just as the geopolitical boundaries between the international and domestic are increasingly arbitrary and artificial, so too are identity boundaries becoming increas­ingly blurry. For example, where do immigrant students of color, many of whom retain ties with their home countries and whose identities cross national boundaries, fit within the nation-state framework?” (Olson, Evans, and Schoenberg 2007)

A survey of faculty and staff can identify international experience, cultural backgrounds, multilingualism, and other types of global/intercultural expertise that may not be evident on resumés or figure into their current professional roles.

Local Community

Immigrant groups. As noted earlier, many U.S. campuses are located in or near communities with easily identified immigrant or refugee populations. Students often participate in outreach and service with such groups, and the campus can be a resource to new immigrants for English language learning and career development. Some law schools operate clinics in which law students volunteer to provide legal services to persons in immigration proceedings. College and university partnerships with immigrant communities may result in valuable opportunities for applied learning, but can take considerable time and trust to form.

Refugees in the Heartland

The University of Iowa hosts the annual Refugees in the Heartland conference, in partnership with several local organizations, to explore the experiences of refugees in the Midwest and to educate the public about refugee issues, the process of becoming a refugee, and refugee resettlement. The conference brings together refugee leaders, service providers, educators, faith-based organizations, and policymakers. The event is coordinated by various academic departments of the university, and students in those disciplines are encouraged to participate.


Models from the Field

Civic organizations. In towns large and small across the United States, globally minded residents come together for leadership development, education, and service through local chapters of groups such as Kiwanis International and Rotary International. Rotary, for example, offers funded fellowships for academic and professional exchange through Rotary Peace Centers. Peace Fellows from other countries may be available to visit campus to provide lectures or lead discussions about global issues. Rotaract is a youth (ages 18–30) branch of Rotary International with chapters at some colleges and universities, and Circle K International is the campus version of Kiwanis International. While these groups’ primary focus is community service and leadership development, both offer international travel and service opportunities and have an extensive network of chapters around the world for helping students make global connections.

Another opportunity to engage local community members and civic leaders in developing global ties that can involve the college or university is Sister Cities International, a volunteer network operating in 140 countries to promote “peace and prosperity through cultural, educational, humanitarian, and economic development exchanges.” Sister City partnerships can become the basis for student, faculty, and professional exchange, with the potential for deeper relationships over time.


As part of its participation in ACE’s At Home in the World initiative to encourage collaboration between international and multicultural offices on campus, Mercy College (NY) articulated a new goal for integrating global and local learning, which it dubbed “glocal.” The college created opportunities for students to experience international facets of life in immigrant communities around the New York area. Administrators who participated in At Home in the World committed to engaging students, faculty, and staff in “explorations of world cultures and domestic diversity that take on a personal, intellectual, and practical nature.” (At Home in the World Fact Sheet for Mercy College)

The “glocal” concept seems to have emerged in the late 1990s as an abbreviated version of the phrase “think global, act local.” In the realm of higher education, there is a pedagogical aspect of “glocal” that can imply the local, practical application of abstract ideas and phenomena associated with globalization or internationalization practices that preserve local distinctiveness.


National and International Linkages
International Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) A number of internationally focused NGOs conduct outreach to U.S. students. Through institutional partnerships and campus chapters, students can learn about the global issues these groups address, practice habits of global citizenship, and learn skills such as fundraising, advocacy, and event planning. Existing student organizations may adopt an agency or cause, and typically a motivated group can form their own student club or chapter. Some NGOs provide toolkits for student programs and may be willing to send a speaker or other resources to campus.
Models from the Field
International community-based partners. Rather than working through established national or international organizations, some institutions form long-term partnerships with local grassroots agencies abroad or establish their own. Carolina for Kibera at The University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, for example, was created by a student who studied abroad in Kenya and was motivated to address the poverty and social exclusion he found in Kibera, a large slum outside Nairobi; now other UNC students have an opportunity to get involved as volunteers or fundraisers, both on campus and onsite. Another example is the Spelman Global Brigade at Spelman College (GA), an ongoing, voluntary medical and dental mission in Panama.
Global and Intercultural Education in the Co-Curriculum at Religious Institutions

Religiously affiliated institutions in the United States tend to offer extensive opportunities for students to engage in global and intercultural co-curricular programs. Global outreach is often embedded in the core institutional mission and strategy of these colleges and universities. Many organize global mission and relief efforts, and some host a large number of international students recruited through faith communities worldwide.

At most religious institutions (and some secular ones), the division of student affairs or student life includes a special office for spiritual life, which supports students’ spiritual development, and often considers global engagement to be an aspect of spiritual development. At Samford University, a Baptist institution in Alabama, the Office of Spiritual Life features global missions programming that “works to heighten student awareness of God’s work in the world and to facilitate student involvement in that work . . . [by offering] students opportunities to experience the world and other cultures as they develop their own understanding of what it means to be a global Christian.” Global Involvement organizes events on campus that “promote a global mindset” .

Central offices or committees of religious groups may sponsor campus programs that advance global engagement. The Presbyterian Mission Agency, for example, arranges for visits of peacemakers and peace activists from around the world (and from many faith traditions), to visit host campuses with historic Presbyterian ties. Some religious groups offer scholarships for study abroad or international students.


Part IV: Blending Curricular and Co-curricular Global/Intercultural Education

Colleges and universities typically organize their educational and service functions in terms of curricular and co-curricular programs. It can be a meaningful distinction for purposes of degree requirements, academic credit, staffing, and resource allocation. But students do not experience the college or university in distinct parts. When curricular and co-curricular learning are mu­tually reinforcing, the quality of student learning exceeds what either could accomplish alone. Below are several examples of strategies that blend curricular and co-curricular learning.

Experiential Learning in the Curriculum

There has been noteworthy progress in this area in recent years through the expansion of experiential learning attached to academic courses, in which students are awarded academic credit for activities (e.g., community service, community engagement, internships, field research, participation in campus events) that take place outside of class. These opportunities can be critical for hands-on learners. Typically, they are coordinated by a director or office of civic engagement.

Academic Credit for Co-curricular Programs

In some instances, instructional faculty and student affairs staff have partnered to design a combined academic course and co-curricular program. An example is global living-learning communities that have an academic course requirement: Students who live together in a residence hall and participate in programs organized by the office of residence life also enroll together in a section of intercultural communication, global affairs, sociology, or any number of other disciplines taught by a faculty member.

Global or Cultural Centers

Special campus centers—e.g., Center for Global Studies, Center for African and African American Studies, or Center for Refugee and Immigration Studies—typically offer students both academic courses and extracurricular programs related to a particular issue. The result is a more holistic and practical approach to the material which can be more accessible than text- or theory-based pedagogies alone, particularly for students with little prior exposure to world events and cultures.

“Summit” at Agnes Scott College (GA)

In fall 2015, Agnes Scott College is launching “Summit”, a campus-wide initiative combining coursework and co-curric­ular requirements with the goal of “preparing every student to be an effective change agent in a global society.” Every new student, regardless of major, will work with a personal board of advisors (including a career mentor) to design an individualized course of study and co-curricular experiences that strengthen “leadership and understanding of complex global dynamics.” 

First-year coursework helps students establish a foundation in leadership development or global learning, then they pursue one of the two tracks during the remaining three years of undergraduate study. Those who choose the global learning track participate in a faculty-led global study course during their first year, then complete advanced coursework and create other immersion and off-campus experiences. Students complete a digital portfolio and receive a special notation on their academic transcripts.

The Summit’s director, Elaine Meyer-Lee, associate vice president for global learning and leadership development, who previously served as director of the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership at Saint Mary’s College (IN), says the program is “organized holistically in the way that students think,” rather than according to institutional divisions. The “bridges” the Summit creates between the curriculum and co-curriculum, between leadership and global learning, and between internationalization and multicultural education make Meyer-Lee “very hopeful that the Summit will create a more integrated and coherent experience for the student.”


College-Wide Themes

One strategy adopted by several U.S. campuses is the institution-wide theme, or “year of” program, that invites all members of the campus community to address the global, cross-cutting theme both in and out of class. The theme could be a concept, word, or geographical location.

Kennesaw State University’s “Year of” Program

The following text has been excerpted from International Higher Education Partnerships: A Global Review of Standards and Practices (ACE 2015).

Kennesaw State University takes a multifaceted approach to cultivating campus-wide cultural knowledge and aware­ness through its “Year of ” program, which was launched in 1984. The program’s website states:

The Year of Program takes a wide-ranging look at a specific country or region over the course of a full academic year with a series of lectures, performances, exhibits, and films, using a multidisciplinary approach to examine the country or region from its earliest history through present-day. . . . The program offers a unique opportunity for our campus and community to develop a rich, complex understanding of the area under study, to break down stereotypes and build connections across cultures, with an emphasis on student learning, faculty development, and community engagement.

Focus countries or regions are selected based on proposals by faculty and staff, with partnership activity as a key crite­rion. According to Dan Paracka, director of academic initiatives in Kennesaw’s Division of Global Affairs, for some years, the selection committee has targeted areas of the world with existing partnerships that could be expanded, while in other years it has chosen a particular country in which Kennesaw was not yet active, but wanted to be. Geographic diversity is also considered so that over their four years at Kennesaw, students will learn about four distinct parts of the world.

Paracka notes that fostering “interdisciplinary intercultural competence” and preparing faculty, staff, and students from all academic fields for global engagement are primary goals of the Year of Program. A planning committee comprised of 40 to 50 faculty, staff, and students from a wide range of disciplines develops an initial schedule of activities, while a smaller “faculty learning community” receives funding for travel to the target country or region to further develop cultural expertise and international perspectives on their disciplines. Committee members serve as expert advisors for colleagues who are seeking to build their knowledge of other countries and cultures, and internationalize their teaching and research activities.

Over time, the program has resulted in many new faculty-to-faculty and institutional collaborations with a variety of partners abroad. As part of this year’s “Year of the Arabian Peninsula” activities, for example, the faculty learning committee has established a relationship with the government of Oman, which helped fund a conference on the role of women in Oman on the Kennesaw campus. Oman’s ambassador to the United States and minister of higher education were keynote speakers, and continue to maintain ties with the institution. Later this year, members of the faculty committee—and, for the first time, a small group of students—will travel to Oman in order to explore possible partnerships with higher education institutions and industry for study abroad and other collaborative activities.

Models from the Field
Stay tuned for more on internationalizing the co-curriculum in the next installment of Internationalization in Action! Part Three of this series will address internationalization of the student affairs profession and professional development opportunities.  

Other ACE News

  • November 25, 2015

    Today's Headlines

    HEADLINES: Today's Top Higher Education News

    In today’s headlines, Inside Higher Ed examines how colleges and universities use discount rates as part of their recruitment strategies, with nearly 10 percent of colleges offering discount rates of 60 percent or more. In other news, the Pittsburgh...

  • Leading Internationalization

    November 23, 2015

    Map of South America

    Register Now for the 2016 Internationalization Collaborative

    ​ACE's Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement will host the 2016 Internationalization Collaborative, “Foundations for Global Learning: Internationalization in the General Education Curriculum,” Feb. 20 in Montreal.

  • Financial Aid

    November 23, 2015

    Students at graduation ceremony

    Perkins Loan Supporters Push for Reinstatement of the Program

    ​ACE, 53 higher education organizations and 535 colleges and universities are requesting a one-year extension of the Perkins Loan Program, which expired on Oct. 1.

  • ACE2016 - The ACE Annual Meeting

    November 18, 2015

    ACE2016 Logo

    Register Now for ACE2016

    Register by Dec. 1 to take advantage of the early bird registration discount for ACE2016, ACE’s 98th Annual Meeting, scheduled for March 12-15 in San Francisco.

  • Budget and Appropriations

    November 18, 2015

    Capitol steps

    Associations Ask Congress to Prioritize Higher Education in FY 2016 Labor-HHS Spending Bill

    ACE and a group of 21 higher education associations ask for higher education be made a priority as appropriations committees move forward on the remaining spending bills for the 2016 fiscal year.


 More CIGE


 Previous Installments


 Download This Installment



Additional Resources