HBCUs Tapped for New International Program

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by Charles Dervarics

With an eye toward the global economy, seven historically Black colleges and universities will participate in a new national initiative to help HBCUs expand their international programs and partnerships while enhancing global learning activities on their own campuses.

The universities were named to the new Creating Global Citizens: Exploring Internationalization of HBCUs project, jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the American Council on Education (ACE). After conducting a competition among Black colleges, ACE announced the winning participants Jan. 21.

The seven participants—Dillard University, Howard University, Lincoln University of Missouri, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Savannah State University, Tuskegee University and Virginia State University—will work with an ACE project team to review their current international programs and explore new ideas.

While there are no monetary grants to the institutions, university leaders will have access to technical assistance and will travel to conferences to talk with experts and each other about effective strategies.

“It’s an opportunity to interact with people who can help develop the best ideas,” said Wanda Lester, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs at North Carolina A&T. While the university already has an office of international programs and several partnerships, “We want to do more,” she told Diverse. “No matter where you are, you’re in a global society.”

Because of financial need, many HBCU students cannot participate in study abroad programs, she said. Yet in recent years, North Carolina A&T has launched “mini” study abroad programs, typically focused on service learning during spring break. Expanding these programs is one potential item on the university’s agenda for this program, she said.

Dillard University already has a well-established student and faculty exchange with post-secondary institutions in Chile, China, India and Germany, President Marvalene Hughes said. Yet this program will generate broader discussions among Dillard faculty about how to infuse international trends into courses on its New Orleans campus, she said. Hughes is particularly interested in adding a global perspective to courses in mathematics, economics, space studies and other scientific disciplines.

With this program, “We will be able to advance to a higher level in internationalization,” she said.

The seven were selected from among 36 HBCU applicants, said Christa Olson, ACE director of international initiatives. The fall 2010 competition was open to all four-year accredited HBCUs with undergraduates, or 82 institutions. The high level of response from HBCUs was “a good indicator of the strong interest and commitment of the HBCU community in addressing this issue,” she told Diverse.

All completed written applications, after which 14 semi-finalists participated in extensive interviews. HBCU experts were among those on a review board evaluating applicants.

Once the seven participants conduct an audit of their existing international partnerships, they will develop strategic plans to enhance their offerings.

“We believe that once they complete this process, they will be better able to locate external and internal funding that can help them implement their plans,” Olson said.

The U.S. Education Department is providing $357,976 for the initiative, while ACE is providing matching funds of $191,479.

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