International Initiatives Add to Diversity
A college education is more than taking a series of courses. College is a time when students learn about themselves and learn about the world.
It’s important for us to enhance diversity by recruiting international faculty and students. Also, it’s critical that our American students have ample opportunities to learn about the world and other cultures—and one way to do that is by studying abroad.
When I talk to students who have studied abroad, they almost all agree that the experience has made a big difference in their life.
Our number of students studying abroad has been rising—a trend we’d like to continue. To make that happen, we’re encouraging the creation of new programs and trying to make it easier for students to work study abroad into their academic experience.
This year, for the first time, we took a group of incoming freshman honors students on a study abroad program during the summer—before they began classes. Sixteen students studied ecotourism and sustainability and earned credit in University Honors 101, the required first-year academic seminar for Chancellor’s Honors students.
We’re looking at taking another group of incoming freshmen on a study abroad program next year. Pia Wood, associate provost and director of the Center for International Education, has plans to organize a similar program for sophomores.
The College of Business Administration and the College of Arts and Sciences currently have the most students studying abroad. The College of Engineering has seen a steady increase.
Roger Parsons, the College of Engineering’s director of outreach, said the college is encouraging faculty to lead programs so students can take required or elective courses while enjoying the cultural benefits of study abroad.
The School of Architecture made study abroad or off-campus study in the United States a requirement for all bachelor’s degree architecture students this year, and it will be optional for master’s degree students starting next year. George Dodds, associate dean for academic affairs and research, said students "need to be able to visit the great architecture they’ve read about."
In addition to sending our students out into the world, we’re interested in bringing more international students and faculty to our campus to study and work.
International students now make up less than 4 percent of our total enrollment.
Among our Top 25 peers, the percentage of international students is markedly higher: At Clemson, it’s about 7 percent; at the University of Florida, it’s nearly 11 percent; and at Purdue, it’s about 19 percent.
To help boost our numbers, the Center for International Education and the English Language Institute are working on a more robust international student recruitment plan.
We’re participating in more overseas recruitment fairs and may hire an international recruiter. We also continue to seek agreements with colleges and universities around the globe because they pave the way for student and faculty exchanges. We now have 105 active agreements with institutions of higher learning in other countries.
Our Confucius Institute will have its inaugural celebration on April 12, and the institute will be operational next fall. It will bring visiting faculty and instructors, enhance our Chinese language instruction, provide new opportunities for travel, and be a source of Chinese cultural programming.
The Office of Alumni Affairs has hired an international alumni coordinator to help establish alumni programming in foreign cities and plan events when academic leaders are traveling abroad. This coordinator also might enlist alumni living abroad, as well as local alumni traveling abroad, to help us recruit international students and add campus programming to strengthen their experience when they come to UT.