Preparing students of color for global opportunities – minority students – Forum – ColumnJuly 12, 2007 |
Whenever I am asked how a campus should begin to internationalize, I
recommend a short, inexpensive report titled Educating Americans for a
World in Flux, published by the American Council on Education (ACE).
This report focuses on the task of educating all U.S. students to be
“The nation must commit itself now to providing all students with
the kinds of knowledge it once provided only to a few – a powerful,
deep rooted understanding of other languages, diverse cultures, and
global issues,” the report urges. “This kind of competence needs to be
provided not as something extra in the curriculum, but as an integral
part of the educational experience.”
The need to recognize the value of international education and begin
the task of changing priorities is no less important for historically
Black colleges and universities (HCBUs) and minority-serving
institutions (MSIs) than for majority-serving institutions. In fact,
one could argue that it is even more urgent for the former institutions.
While there are a number of ways an institution demonstrates its
commitment to international education, one generally recognized by
international educators is the number of undergraduate students who
study abroad for academic credit each year. According to Open Doors
1995/96, a yearly publication of the New York-based Institute of
International Education – which reports on the number of U.S. students
who study abroad and foreign students studying in the U.S. – of the
85,000 undergraduates who studied abroad during the 1995-96 academic
year, 10,571 were students of color. The precise ethnic composition was
4,146 (4.9 percent) Asian American; 3,827 (4.5 percent) Hispanic; 2,348
African American (2.8 percent); and 250 (0.03 percent) Native American.
Only sixteen HBCUs reported to Open Doors. Collectively, these
institutions sent 150 students abroad (most of whom are assumed to be
Black), out of a total HBCU population of 280,000. It is possible that
there were more students from HBCUs who studied abroad in the 1995-96
academic year, but they were not reported to Open Doors.
The 85,000 undergraduates who did study abroad in the 1995-96
academic year represent fewer than 1 percent of the 12.2 million U.S.
undergraduates that year. If these statistics are any indication, then
the task of internationalizing campuses is enormous for all of the
nation’s institutions of higher education.
Visionary leaders at HBCUs and MSIs have an exciting opportunity to
chart new territory and provide successful models for replication and
adaptation by other institutions. Models of international campuses that
reach low-income, minority, and nontraditional students are much needed
in higher education – and these are the very populations with which
HBCUs and MSIs have demonstrated success.
The reason I like to recommend Educating Americans for a World in
Flux is because it offers some easily adopted recommendations for
developing an international campus. Among them are:
* establishing language competency requirements for all graduates;
* requiring an understanding of other cultures;
* developing curricula that demonstrate international understanding;
* developing study abroad and international internships for all students;
* developing consortia to enhance capabilities;
* developing opportunities to cooperate with institutions abroad; and
* providing support to local schools and community organizations.
While none of the recommendations are more important than others,
institutions that send a clear signal to faculty that their active role
in the internationalization process is valued – and has tangible
rewards in the tenure and promotion process – are likely to change more
rapidly and in a deeper, more meaningful way than those institutions
that fail to do so.
Faculty from all disciplines who contribute to an international
campus program should be encouraged and rewarded if they speak other
languages, have presented at international conferences, are engaging in
international research projects, host international scholars, advise
international students, take sabbaticals abroad, receive international
grants or fellowships, go on short-term international study programs,
or advise international student clubs. The possibilities are endless.
Developing an international campus may seem overwhelming, but an
inexpensive and important first step is to undertake an assessment of
the international strengths of a campus. An initial assessment might
include identifying faculty, administrators, and others who speak
foreign languages; taking inventory of courses that have an
international focus or component, or offer comparative international
content; and identify faculty who have presented at international
conferences, are engaged in international research, have received
international fellowships and grants, or have attended educational
With a bit of detective work and minimal expenditure, a campus that
develops such a catalog of international achievements is likely to find
that it has the start of an international program, no matter how
modest. An international assessment. starts the internationalization
process by highlighting the global activities of the campus that can
then be used to initiate a comprehensive strategy.
Making a campus international in mission, deed, and outreach
involves everyone: faculty, administrators, support personnel,
students, and the community. With limited resources, the challenge may
seem daunting. But the rewards are unlimited for every person on a
campus entrusted with the education, safety, and well-being of future
KAREN JENKINS, Vice President, Institutional Advancement;
Editor-in-chief Journal of Studies in International Education; Council
on International Educational Exchange
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