"Globalizing Penn State"

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February 2009

On February 13, 2009, Michael Adewumi, Vice Provost for Global Programs and Professor of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering, and Robert Crane, Director, Alliance for Earth Science, Engineering, and Development in Africa, Professor of Geography, and Chair, University Strategic Planning Council on Task Force on Internationalization, spoke to a group of seventy people about how Penn State is working to globalize the University and its students. Barbara Sherlock, Planning and Improvement Associate, Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment, moderated the session.

According to Adewumi, Penn State has recognized the need to become a “truly global university” and is committed to this vision. The goals include promoting global citizenship among students and providing them with an international perspective, and becoming a global leader in scholarship and international engagements. To achieve these goals, the University has three strategies:

  1. Expand and diversify our study abroad programs
  2. Expand and diversify our international student populations
  3. Establish Penn State Global Engagement Nodes

Michael AdewumiThe first strategy will focus on encouraging more Penn State students to study abroad, especially students from groups that have not traditionally had high participation rates (some colleges, and minority and lower-income students), and expand the countries which students visit to include more non-Western countries. This will partly rely on study abroad becoming an integral part of the academic curricula.

The second strategy requires the University to enhance international student recruitment efforts, through partnerships with major sponsoring organizations, companies, and governments around the world, and to recruit more students, especially undergraduate students, from Africa, South America, the Middle East, and Europe. Penn State will increase its efforts in recruiting into fields, colleges, and campuses with low international student enrollments.

The third strategy will focus on partnerships with a few select international institutions of higher education. These institutions will be peers of Penn State and will be selected on whether they offer a comprehensive education, can support the missions of research, teaching, and service, have strong international engagement already, and show a high degree of faculty engagement. In our attempt to more broadly internationalize Penn State, there is no question in my mind, that what we are trying to do is not just to support scholarship, which is our main business, but to add value to that scholarship, so that our students can become global citizens and, of course, Penn State can attain global leadership in scholarship and international engagement.

Michael Adewumi
Adewumi gave several examples of current partnerships, including the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), a partnership of 16 research-led universities in Europe, North America, South East Asia, and Australia, and Penn State York’s partnership with Vidyalankar School of Information Technology in India. In the York/Vidyalankar partnership, a 2+2 program allows Indian students to study for their first two years of an IST degree in India and complete their degree at Penn State York.

audienceTo build on these partnerships, Penn State faculty, colleges, and campuses, will need to work with other institutions and governments. The University Office of Global Programs is developing a Web portal that will document all international efforts at Penn State and be available to students, faculty and staff who are interested in finding out more about internationalization.

Robert CraneGlobal Engagement Nodes (GEN) are one way that Penn State could act strategically in its efforts to become more global. These partnerships would require much collaboration between different departments, disciplines, colleges, and institutions. In order for these to work, they must be equally beneficial for all parties involved. As an example of what these GENs might look like, Robert Crane discussed a strategic partnership that is currently ongoing with the University of Cape Town in South Africa through the Alliance for Earth Science, Engineering and Development in Africa (AESEDA). It has a theme of “Parks and People” and links universities, public and private organizations, and multiple countries and disciplines, and integrates teaching, research, and service.

The Parks and People project will provide Penn State students with study abroad opportunities built around research, education, service, and outreach programs in national parks and their surrounding communities. AESEDA and the Department of Landscape Architecture have programs under development in South Africa and Tanzania, with five other African universities, as well as government and international organizations, participating. …one of the … major benefits to these GENS [Global Engagement Nodes]…if you have one of these strategic partners, then that puts more resources into play, but it also puts more people and more opportunity, more connections. It’s a lot easier for somebody at the campuses who doesn’t have these resources, or for somebody in a discipline that doesn’t do much of this, to get involved in Africa, if we’ve got that relationship with [University of] Cape Town already.

Rob Crane
In May 2009, a field class will travel to South Africa. Penn State faculty will come from the colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Arts and Architecture, Earth and Mineral Sciences, the Eberly College of Science, the Huck Institute of Life Sciences, and AESEDA.

Barbara SherlockMembers of the audience were interested in some of the challenges these partnerships face. One of these is the availability of technology. Electricity, computer technology and connectivity are issues in South Africa. In addition, financing these projects will be a challenge, especially in tough economic times.

More information on globalization at Penn State is available in the slides from the session.

The Quality Advocates Network meets several times each semester to share ideas and examples of improvement and change. To join the Quality Advocates Network mailing list or to learn more about the meetings scheduled, contact the staff at psupia@psu.edu.

The Quality Advocates Network is open to all Penn State faculty, staff, administrators, and students.