Globalization always has been a major part of the strategic plan. It is one of the original five themes and became a strategic priority as we worked toward implementation.
St. Thomas always has had a global focus. We have a vibrant study abroad program. We have provided space for an ESL program on our campus, and we have benefited by the Saudi Arabian government sponsorship of students studying engineering and computer science. President Emeritus Father Dennis Dease even had a program to support students from Uganda.
So, why create a task force, if we already have these programs? The answer is complex. First, the world of global engagement in higher education is changing, and we need to keep up with these changes in order to continue to recruit domestic students who are interested in global education as well as international students who may want to study here. Second, we realized that our organizational structure did not support the kind of collaboration that would take us to the next level. Third, we want to diversify opportunities for our students to become globally agile.
The implementation of the task force recommendations is underway, even though they may not be as obvious as some of the other strategic priorities. Just last week, Provost Richard Plumb announced a re-organization of his unit, which includes the creation of a Center for Global Learning. The announcement states: “The Center for Global Learning, headed by a senior international officer (SIO), will oversee the Office of International Students and Scholars, the Office of Study Abroad and international recruiting. The SIO will be responsible for coordinating the university’s international activities and expanding its global connections.” The task force, along with the work of Dr. Camille George and the Center for Global and Local Engagement, has paved the way for this center.
Some of the programs related to this priority are currently underway. Perhaps the most obvious one is the CORE semester in Rome. This is a semester-long program at our Bernardi Campus in Rome that offers four core courses abroad. It addresses our goal to have more undergraduate students study abroad for a semester or longer.
We will pilot a new program this summer called Global Summers. The program will provide students work and internship experiences outside of the United States. We also are working on identifying global partners for more sustained and richer interactions in key locations across the globe. These partnerships would support faculty exchanges as well as collaborative research.
Global connections are made not only off campus but on campus as well. For our own international students, Student Affairs is creating a Living Learning Community that will mix sophomore (and above) domestic and international students. And the Selim Center for Learning in Later Years is working on implementing Global Learning in Later Life.
This is an exciting time for St. Thomas as we grow programs that we see as central to our mission and expand on that firm base to build a more culturally agile community.