Internationalization is a very broad term that describes a variety of activities on a college campus. International students have long been an on-campus version of internationalization that provides many benefits to students and an institution, such as the opportunity to share cultures and languages.
From the time I studied international relations at Stanford University and through my research on European politics as a graduate student at UCLA, I have spent time abroad and had a global orientation to my understanding of higher education.
I took on the international portfolio when I was a vice-provost at the University of Texas at Austin—a plum assignment for a university that declares, “What Starts Here, Changes the World.” What followed was a whirlwind of activity, developing relationships with universities in Latin America and Africa, connecting with alumni around the world, and building up our study abroad programs to ensure that they were accessible for all students. I made sure to include first-generation college students like myself, and engineers, who often feel like they don’t have the time to study abroad.
The current political environment has not been helpful to the efforts of many universities to recruit international students, and students of immigrant backgrounds, particularly DACA students, have come to campuses with concerns about deportation, both for themselves and family members. Despite the tenor of the times, it is critical that we continue to support efforts around internationalization. University researchers from around the world are taking the lead on research related to issues that have no borders, such as climate change. They are finding new fuels, and more efficient ways to use energy, to reduce our carbon imprint. Immigrants are often entrepreneurial and are an important part of the start-up culture in places like Silicon Valley, where I live.
We can’t get away from the fact that we are an interconnected world, despite the efforts of some. Universities must continue to take the lead in educating the best and the brightest, regardless of where they come from or their income level. State leaders in the U.S. need to recommit to supporting higher education, while campus leaders need to find new ways to continue offering a broad curriculum.
One of the most important lessons I learned as vice provost for international affairs at UT Austin was that we had something to learn from universities around the world. Innovation is happening around the globe, and leaders need to be tuned in to take advantage of collaborations and investments that can move us all forward. I believe the future is still bright for internationalization, and I am proud to support scholars in my field of political science who are doing great work in comparative politics, international relations, and other fields that rely on a global perspective. From the classroom to the field, internationalization is a critical component of the future of higher education.
About the author:
Dr. Terri E. Givens is the Founder and CEO of The Center for Higher Education Leadership (CHEL). She was the former Provost at Menlo College in the San Francisco Bay Area; Professor of Government and European studies at The University of Texas at Austin; Vice Provost overseeing undergraduate curriculum and spearheading global initiatives as its chief international officer. She formed CHEL to provide academic leaders with information and a supportive community for improving management and leadership skills in an environment of changing demographics, financial challenges, and advances in educational technology. CHEL was born of Terri’s experiences navigating these fields and learning along her journey through academe, from professor to vice-provost and provost at universities in Texas and California.