I’m currently preparing to take part in a Global Studies conference in St. Cloud, Minnesota later in the month. For this reason, I’ve been spending some time reviewing different international activities in the state, so that I can mention them in my keynote address. I’ve just finished reading the University of Minnesota- Duluth’s Internationalization Review Report, and it provides an example of how such reports should be done. The work was done as part of a project with the American Council on Education (ACE), which is spear-heading efforts to internationalize campuses. UM Duluth is one of eight campuses nationally taking part in the project. As one aspect of this commitment the Internationalization Leadership Team carried out this study, on the way to developing “a systematic plan for comprehensive internationalization at UMD.”
One aspect of the report that I like is that it is structured as a SWOT analysis, albeit with “challenges” taking the place of the threats. This ensures a measured tone, which gives equal weight to the strengths and weaknesses at the institution. The report is honest, and frankly describes the areas where the university has more work to do. Still, the university has some significant strengths, such as the surprising number of faculty born abroad (24%). It’s also important that the university’s mission says that it “prepares students to thrive as lifelong learners and globally engaged citizens.” Overall I’m impressed by the level of thought that went into this document, and the opportunities that the university has. The committee collected data from all the stakeholders, and made good use of institutional research. The university knows, for example, that approximately two-thirds of its study abroad students are female. It’s clear that even the process of undertaking this review has already led to some practical outcomes: “Recent evaluations have revealed difficulty with the articulation of international transfer coursework; in response a template for the submission of transfer course descriptions was developed and an Office of the Registrar staff member was identified to provide consistency”
Comprehensive internationalization is hard, in part because it requires sustained attention, and sometimes work on such minutia as the articulation of transfer coursework. With its SWOT approach, attention to detail, and balance, this report provides a great example for other institutions about to undertake an Internationalization Review.
Shawn Smallman, Portland State University