Internationalization strategies recommended to trustees

January 23, 2009

University Park, Pa. — Penn State plans to continue promoting worldwide citizenship among its students to attain global leadership in scholarship and international engagements, by enhancing its study abroad and international student recruitment, the Board of Trustees learned Friday (Jan. 23).

Michael Adewumi, vice provost for International Programs, told board members that enhancing traditional methods and providing a strong framework for broader international interactions would allow the University to strengthen its international position and provide students greater opportunities.

Discussing strategies for internationalization, Adewumi opened with five aspects of international engagement already in place at the University:

1.  Study abroad provides domestic students with the opportunity for immersion in different cultures and business environments. There has been significant growth in the number of students studying abroad over the past decade, from 866 students in the 1998-99 academic year to more than 2,000 in 2007-08. However, the vast majority of these students come from the College of the Liberal Arts and the Smeal College of Business. In addition, an overwhelming 75 percent of Penn State students choose to study in Europe. These imbalances should be remedied, according to Adewumi, given the increasing need for international competency in all disciplines and the growing importance of non-Western nations in the global arena.

2.  International students are a noticeable international presence on campus. In fall 2008, approximately 4,000 international students enrolled at Penn State. These students broaden the global perspectives of domestic students and build relationships that can be the basis of long-term friendships among individuals and, ultimately, among nations. Penn State's international students contributed approximately $93 million to the Pennsylvania economy in 2007-08, according to a report by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. The colleges of Engineering, Science, and Business at Penn State have the largest international student enrollments. Approximately two-thirds of the international students are graduate students, with 75 percent of that group being from Asia. Adewumi said that Penn State must encourage not only an expanded range of majors in which international students enroll, but also a larger number of countries of origin. 

3.  Research collaborations are the third focus of Penn State's international engagement. Given the University's world-class faculty, entrepreneurial bent and cutting-edge research, collaboration with colleagues around the world is a natural outcome, Adewumi said. He also noted several examples to prove his point, such as the work being done in the area of alternative energy sources. Bruce Logan in the College of Engineering is one of only 12 scientists worldwide to receive a Global Research Partnership award from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. This award, for $10 million over a period of five years, will support cutting edge research in finding sustainable solutions to the energy crisis.

4.  Language studies represent another approach to global citizenship. Of all the means of enhancing global understanding, none is as potent as language, according to Adewumi. Although English remains the predominant language of commerce, the key to greater cultural understanding is proficiency in a foreign language. Currently, courses in 17 foreign languages are regularly offered at Penn State.

5.  Incorporating an international perspective into the curriculum of every discipline is a crucial step in creating a campus of global citizens, Adewumi said. Examples of global perspectives in coursework abound throughout the University.

"It is clear that Penn State is already engaged in a wide variety of initiatives with an international focus, but the University can make an even greater global impact through the use of strategy and coordination," he said. Adewumi listed three strategies to boost engagement:

1.    Study abroad programs will be expanded and diversified via partnership with academic departments and faculty members to develop new programs and increase curricular integration. Minority and low-income students will be encouraged to take part, as well as those in majors not traditionally involved in study abroad; and geographic locations of study abroad programs will extend to less-traveled areas of the world.

2.    International student services will be enlarged and varied through enhanced recruitment activities that will enable Penn State to remain competitive. Partnerships will be cultivated with major sponsoring organizations, companies and governments around the world. Penn State will seek to bring in more students from a wider variety of countries and from underrepresented fields of study.

3.    Penn State will establish "Global Engagement Nodes" (GENs), primary vehicles in a network of partners—select institutions in other countries that have the capacity to provide educational enrichment for Penn State students and to tackle some of the critical global challenges of the times.

One top priority is to create a web portal to increase accessibility to knowledge and resources. This portal will be available for use by faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders to search for all instances of Penn State's international involvement in a multitude of categories.

"Partnership and accessibility to knowledge and resources are critical to the success of this mission," Adewumi said. "Individual units, departments, colleges and campuses must function as one cohesive educational institution and work with International Programs to forge strong partnerships in order to realize Penn State's vision of global leadership."

  • Michael Adewumi

    IMAGE: Penn State Public Information

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 09, 2015