Symbiotic partnership: Supporting university mission through comprehensive internationalization

Following the second annual P3 – EDU Conference, hosted at George Mason University this past May, former GMU President Angel Cabrera posited that “the private sector holds the key to solving many of the challenges public and non-profit universities face.”  The success of such partnerships, he pointed out, depends on private sector parties’ capacity to support their higher education partners’ strategic goals, prioritize student experience, and protect an institution’s academic integrity and reputation.

Student success and campus enrichment lie at the heart of every INTO university partnership.  From our first with the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom to our most recent with Hofstra University in New York, each of our partnerships is predicated on supporting the university’s mission through comprehensive internationalization.  Collaborative initiatives led jointly by INTO Center staff and their university colleagues at GMU, Colorado State University (CSU), and Drew University exemplify the symbiosis INTO shares with its partners.

In addition to partnership with INTO, GMU’s comprehensive internationalization efforts have been energized by the University’s participation in the American Council on Education’s Internationalization Lab.  As part of the 18- to 24-month program, University administrators in association with INTO Mason faculty have formed a university-wide internationalization task force and six subcommittees to assess current internationalization practices and determine institutional goals.  Dr. Karyn Kessler, Academic Director and Assistant Professor, TESOL/Applied Linguistics at INTO Mason, is co-chair of this important task force.

From the start, Kessler and her colleagues understood the importance of connecting internationalization efforts to Mason’s other strategic initiatives, including the twin goals of increasing student access to university education opportunities and supporting students’ academic success.  “We are not competing with the University’s strategic goals but linking them in to demonstrate that internationalization helps forward these goals,” said Kessler.   

Specifically, Kessler’s team has centered internationalization efforts on the topics of diversity, inclusion, and well-being, three themes for institutional advancement that, per President Cabrera, represent “the center of what George Mason University is.”

Kessler emphasizes that the University’s internationalization efforts hinge upon the input of both the administrators responsible for implementing campus-wide transformations and the experts on international student learning and experience in the INTO Mason center and throughout the University.

“It is a true collaboration between the University and INTO Mason faculty.”

Similarly, at CSU, INTO CSU faculty have contributed to the development of what the University calls the Global Village, a living and learning community that brings together domestic and international students to promote social integration, encourage cultural understanding, and develop leadership skills.  Executive Director of INTO CSU Dr. Fabiola Ehlers-Zavala explains that the “initiative was framed within the larger effort of the University to promote retention and graduation among all students.”  With the Global Village, University and INTO CSU faculty support retention through the provision of innovative curricular and co-curricular offerings that support new students during their transition to life at CSU.

More than a testament to the ways comprehensive internationalization efforts can bolster a university’s wider strategic initiatives, the Global Village involves the close collaboration of student affairs staff and academic faculty both within and beyond the INTO CSU center to promote positive student outcomes.  As someone who specializes in pedagogical training, Dr. Ehlers-Zavala is happy to see the benefits enjoyed by both student affairs professionals and academic leaders as they share strategies to meet all students’ needs.

“The success of our students is the result of student affairs professionals and academics working together,” she said.  “Global Village shows that such collaboration works.”

In the case of Drew University, one of INTO’s smaller, private partner institutions, the presence of INTO Drew has pushed the University to think about general education differently.  Indeed, dialogue between INTO Drew faculty and staff and University administrators informed the University’s new, comprehensive approach to undergraduate education, called Launch.  The initiative demands that students begin thinking about career development from the start of their undergraduate study.  The University also emphasizes the need for students to consciously prepare for the global context in which they will be working.

INTO Drew faculty and staff were polled on the needs of and opportunities presented by the University’s growing international student cohort as part of the development of Launch.  They helped to ensure that the resulting curriculum would help create an inclusive, multicultural community that fostered learning and career preparation among all students.

“INTO Drew has changed the context of what it means to be a student at this University,” said Dr. Sharon Sundue, Executive Director of INTO Drew and Vice President of Academic Affairs for INTO North America.  “Faculty are able to engage in global issues in a way they simply could not before.”

At INTO, we know that comprehensive internationalization must not compete with an institution’s mission but be an integral part of its teaching, research, and service.  Progress depends upon the knowledge and passion of university administrators and faculty who work hard every day to push their institutions to new heights.  INTO simply seeks to supplement that know-how and enthusiasm with our own resources—those of an organization that is proud to have supported the global ambitions of 24 universities around the world—to advance campus-wide internationalization and strategic growth. 

JP Deering

Author: JP Deering

Partner Development and Corporate Communications Coordinator JP joined INTO’s partner development team two years ago. Before joining INTO, JP taught English and composition to international students at the University of Kentucky. Now, he manages INTO’s corporate blog and social media, writes about international student mobility trends, policy, and the goings-on at INTO’s university partners in the US, and handles outreach to potential partner universities and corporate engagement at major conferences.

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