Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, October 9, 2009

Leaders meet to report and build on internationalization efforts

Global engagement efforts have more than doubled at several U-M schools and departments this decade, and university leaders attending the Provost’s Forum on Internationalization on Thursday offered even more ideas to promote these contacts — the theme of the ongoing Accreditation 2010 effort.

Leaders of Accreditation Working Groups appointed by Provost Teresa Sullivan were on hand for the forum at the Michigan League Ballroom to report on internationalization activities to date, and to offer goals for expanding U-M’s work.

The reports came as the university approaches completion of the ongoing accreditation process in March 2010. U-M has chosen a special-emphasis study on internationalization, and the working groups assembled material for the study.

Sullivan said U-M needs to build on successful international collaborations already established, such as international institutions that include Shanghai Jiaotong University.

“They said the University of Michigan was different because we came here for a partnership,” she said. “There is a real sense Michigan seeks collaboration. These are the kind of sustainable relationships that we see for the long run, relationships that will have the biggest payoff.”

Sullivan added that universities around the world are seeking to improve, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, and U-M is competing with them.

Working group members say that for students to live, lead and thrive in tomorrow’s world, it is more vital than ever to have ample and robust opportunities to expand their international perspectives, and to experience an education commensurate with those horizons.

The accreditation process began in 2007 as Sullivan appointed Ben van der Pluijm as senior counselor to the provost for university accreditation. To prepare for the external review by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association — one of six regional accrediting organizations — the university embarked on a self-study, with preliminary discussions on the topic of an international university with deans and others. The next phase of the self-study involved two Accreditation Working Groups, which completed much of their work this summer.

In his report at the forum, David Munson, dean of the College of Engineering, said freshmen engineering students are becoming aware of an increased international connection. “Even if they get a job with a small to medium-size company, that company will have some kind of operations overseas,” he said, adding some sort of international experience in college will help prepare them for such contacts after graduation. Munson said an immediate goal is to double the number of CoE students who have a significant international experience. CoE offers a range of opportunities, through volunteer programs around the world, the partnership with Shanghai Jiaotong University and more.

Dr. Jim Woolliscroft, dean of the Medical School, said U-M must have programs to promote internationalization as students are asking for them. “We want our students to be tackling global problems,” he said, adding participation with a joint program at the University of Ghana that involves fourth-year U-M students has grown in participation from 10-15 students in 2001-02 to 55 last year.

“We are trying to build platforms of institution to institution relationships so we can have an impact and a presence that continues decades into the future,” he said.

Bryan Rogers, dean of the School of Art & Design, said that A&D initiated a program requiring 100 percent participation from students in some sort of substantial international experience. “Students coming here know that they’re getting into this,” he said, adding they’re excited about the opportunity.

John Greisberger, director of the International Center, discussed the creation of a Center for Global Engagement and a central Web site as an information source for members of the university community and the general public to find information and answers about international experiences.

Mark Tessler, vice provost for international affairs and director of the International Institute, said that going forward university leaders need to determine what to require about international studies, and explore incentives to encourage students to get an international experience.

In a forum session to collect ideas to further boost internationalization efforts, participants said it would be useful to explore grants and other funding to make international trips more possible for all who seek them; to more fully draw on the knowledge of international faculty and those with international experiences; to seek housing for international guests; to use the university’s communications operations to promote the university’s reputation internationally; and to engage alumni with international ties.

Universities voluntarily seek accreditation to demonstrate to the public, particularly prospective students, their commitments to education and improvement. U-M has been an accredited institution since 1913.

Work will continue through the year, culminating in a report in January 2010 that will be available online at www.accreditation.umich.edu. An HLC evaluation team will visit campus March 15-17, and a report should follow in roughly six weeks, van der Pluijm said.