Welcome to the 2011-12 Academic Year

By Downing Thomas, Dean of International Programs

Dear colleagues,

With the summer months behind us and the start of another academic year, I would like to welcome you back to campus and extend my best wishes for an exciting and productive fall semester.

Our offices have been buzzing with orientation and advising activities for another large class of international undergraduates and with UI students exploring global study opportunities as part of their UI experience. As faculty members return to the classroom to take up teaching and mentoring duties, and as the collaborative work of IP’s programs and centers once again gets under way, I continue my work with Provost Butler and with leadership in the colleges, departments, and divisions across campus to set priorities, establish goals, and face new challenges as we begin the 2011-12 academic year. I look forward to those conversations as all of us who are involved in IP recommit ourselves to internationalization at the University of Iowa. Internationalization is not an end in itself, of course; but rather a means to provide students with access to globally-oriented knowledge and skills, and to ensure that the research and creative work of the faculty is supported so that it can have an impact both here in Iowa and around the globe.

This past year was a time of budgetary challenges and realignment, but also of growth and new initiatives in International Programs. The University is clearly engaged internationally in a way that it has never been in the past. In 2010-2011, record numbers of UI undergraduates came to Iowa City to benefit from world-class educational opportunities; over four hundred students sought the International Studies BA and MA; and growing numbers of UI students sought experiences abroad to challenge themselves and enrich their lives. The people of Iowa understand that the future of our State depends on our engagement in the world, on the global knowledge to which we at the University of Iowa provide access, and on the relationships we build with individuals and groups in other parts of the world. IP continues to develop the University’s ability to address those needs in a variety of ways—from the public lectures and talks presented by IP’s programs and centers to year-round outreach into Iowa schools and community groups; from the 2011 Summer Institute for Teachers that focused on infusing global topics into the K-12 curriculum to our expanded media outreach on international topics.

The Strategic Global Initiative Awards are among the new initiatives that will encourage the development and support of strong and productive linkages between the UI and our international partners. The yearly Major Project Awards will again provide funding and support for some of the most creative collaborative scholarly projects on campus; and the travel funding available through IP for international research projects will continue to allow faculty and students to gain insight and make connections at conferences, archives, labs, and fieldwork sites worldwide.

The UI International Impact Award was created in 2010 in order to recognize exceptional achievement in the international sphere by individuals with strong ties to the University of Iowa. The inaugural award went to Richard and Mary Jo Stanley to recognize the seminal contributions of the entire Stanley family in promoting global education efforts. A selection committee has chosen the 2011 International Impact Award recipient, Dr. Trudy Huskamp Peterson, the former acting archivist of the United States, an Iowa native, and a graduate of the University of Iowa’s Department of History. I very much hope you will join us to celebrate her dedication to international human rights and the preservation of the historical record when President Mason recognizes her achievements at a public ceremony on November 11th.

The staff of the Office of Academic Programs and Services (OAPS), under the able direction of interim Associate Dean Roberta Marvin, has been working hard during the summer months to complete the transition of the International Studies BA from its previous administrative home in IP to its new base within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). The major transition tasks were completed by July 1st, as planned. Staff members from IP, CLAS, and ITS have worked together to provide necessary web support to ISBA students during the next few months while a complete ISBA website is being developed within CLAS. IP-affiliated faculty can be proud to have created, nurtured, and expanded the ISBA to make it one of the most popular and successful majors in CLAS.

A thoughtful restructuring of the staffing within OAPS has resulted in the creation of the position of academic programs and student services coordinator, which encompasses a new mix of duties supporting the academic mission of IP. A search was conducted to fill the position and I am pleased to announce that the successful candidate was Karen Wachsmuth, who previously held the position of outreach coordinator. Karen’s deep educational and professional experience, and her familiarity with IP, make her an excellent addition to Roberta’s team.

We also welcome Ann Knudson as our new grants officer. This reconfigured and upgraded position, which is the result of fruitful collaboration between IP, CLAS, and the Office of the Vice-President for Research, was designed to help faculty from our academic centers and programs to advance global research and curriculum development programs. Ann will also focus her support on the humanities, and in particular we hope that external grant submissions will boost the impact of the new Digital Humanities cluster. Ann will join a productive grants team on the east side of campus to provide much greater support than ever before to faculty in the humanities, social sciences, the arts, education and related fields.

One of the most exciting trends we are seeing here at the UI is the rise in study abroad participation, which is also a strategic priority of the University under the Iowa Promise II. One in five undergraduates will take advantage of international learning opportunities at some point during their time at the University. This trend is particularly remarkable at a time when financial crises have pushed the rate of participation down nationally. The traditional semester, summer, and year-long courses continue to be available to students. But we have seen the rise of opportunities that make study abroad possible for those in a broader array of majors, opportunities such as the highly-popular Winterim courses in India and, new just this summer, the Iowa International Summer Institute. The Institute offers five General Education Program courses, each of which lasts four weeks and carries 3 semester hours of credit. The courses are taught by UI professors such as Stephen Bloom of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication who explored media in London this summer, giving students an unprecedented opportunity to examine in real time the crisis that struck Rupert Murdock’s empire.

To support our expansion of study abroad opportunities, we hired two new staff members in the spring semester. Leslie McNeilus will focus on areas of rising interest for students and ones that broaden the kinds of experiences students can have—volunteer, service-learning, and internship opportunities abroad. Emery Banguid will provide additional accounting and financial support, which is particularly crucial given the complexity of study abroad financial logistics.

As we all know, in order for good work to be recognized it is imperative that we communicate the value of our teaching, research and community engagement. Indeed, we have an obligation to share our work with the public that funds our efforts. WorldCanvass and the many other media efforts launched by Joan Kjaer in IP’s Office of Communications and Relations offer platforms through which we can engage Iowans on questions of global import. These programs help scholars and specialists whose expertise is centered on international topics reach audiences here and around the world. “The American West of the Imagination” and “Starving for Water: The Global Water Crisis and its Impact on Food and Health”—two WorldCanvass programs which are all recorded and distributed widely over both broadcast and Internet-based distribution channels—help demonstrate the value of our University to the public. In addition to television, radio, and Internet distribution, the entire 2010-2011 season of WorldCanvass is now available as a free podcast.

I am excited about the global education opportunities that we offer all students, not only those who go abroad. There are opportunities to study global phenomena right here in Iowa; and we plan to enhance programming that will allow domestic students to learn about other cultures through structured interactions with international students right here in Iowa City.

With best wishes for a rewarding year,

Downing Thomas
Downing Thomas

 

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