Welcome to the New Academic Year

By Downing Thomas, Dean of International Programs

On behalf of International Programs, allow me to welcome you to the 2010-2011 academic year after what I hope were refreshing and productive summer months.  I very much look forward to working with you to support the international research, teaching, and external engagement that you undertake through IP’s centers and programs, international exchanges, linkage proposals, and the new ways you find to pursue academic innovations across collegiate borders.

This is a good opportunity to elaborate on some of the highlights and accomplishments of the past year, including most prominently the tremendous growth in international students and, looking forward to the coming years, what we hope will be the foundation of richly expanded study abroad opportunities for all students.

I would like to begin by congratulating the faculty who received grants to support the University’s internationalization efforts.  The UI and IP can be proud to have received not one but two major grants from the U.S. Department of Education in 2009 that will help expand on- and off-campus learning opportunities in South Asian studies for undergraduates and will create on-campus and study abroad courses in East Africa.  The grants total over $316,000; IP provides matching funds as well as staff resources to administer the grants.  Paul Greenough, of the South Asian Studies Program in IP and the Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is directing an innovative expansion in South Asian curricular experiences.  The core activities of the project include the development of new interdisciplinary courses, a student internship program and faculty development opportunities. Jim Giblin, co-director of the African Studies Program in IP and a professor of History in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), is directing the second grant titled “Integrating Kiswahili Instruction, African Studies and Study Abroad at the University of Iowa.”  This project will deepen curricular offerings, develop advanced courses in Kiswahili, offer students a new study abroad option in Africa, and give undergraduates an intensive experience in learning about language and culture in East Africa.  My congratulations go to Paul and Jim for their successful grant applications.  UI students and faculty will long benefit from these creative and exciting learning opportunities.  Jim’s grant will be further strengthened by the just-announced U.S. State Department grant, awarded to Jim and IP’s Assistant Dean Janis Perkins, to develop a new study abroad program in Tanzania.  This $250,000 grant will fund the creation of a sustainable study abroad program at Mkwawa University College of Education [MUCE] in Iringa, Tanzania—the first of its kind in the country.

Peggy Mills and Dan Berkowitz also received sizable grants over the past year to support their research projects.  Peggy and her colleagues in the Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures are conducting a series of intensive Russian language seminars in the U.S. and in Russia that will dramatically increase language proficiency for the participating students.  Dan is researching the relationship between vocational education training and digital creative industry practice in hopes of bridging the gap between industry need and education provision.

Last year’s search in Korean Studies produced a stellar pool of candidates and the UI will gain two new faculty from this exceptional group, thanks to the collaboration of the Korea Foundation, the Stanley family, International Programs, and CLAS. Dr. Jiyeon Kang, whose research focuses on practices of citizenship, nationalism, globalization, and the Internet in contemporary South Korea, has joined the UI’s Department of Communication Studies. CLAS extended an offer to the other top candidate in our strong pool of Korean Studies scholars, Dr. Alyssa Park, who will join the faculty of the Department of History in August, 2011. And the History Department will have a new faculty member in Chinese history this fall, complementing the appointment of Wenfang Tang as C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley Family and Hua Hsia Chair of Chinese Culture and Institutions (in the Dept. of Political Science). She is Dr. Shuang Chen, whose particular research emphases are late imperial China, modern China, and the historical demography of East Asia and Western Europe.

I would also like to reflect on the University’s response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti, and to thank all those who assisted in this effort.  Dr. Nicole Nisly and I were asked by Provost Loh to oversee and coordinate the UI’s efforts to assist in the recovery, and we were humbled by the immediacy and creativity of the University-wide response.  From every corner of our campus came volunteers to raise money for relief supplies; medical teams like the one headed by the UIHC’s Dr. Chris Buresh to deal with emergency and longer-term health issues; events like the Haiti Benefit at the Englert Theatre intended to showcase Haiti’s rich history and resilient people; student groups like those in Maureen McCue’s global health courses who not only raised local awareness of the harsh living conditions in Haiti after the earthquake but headed to Haiti in the spring to lend their hands to the rebuilding effort.  We should all be proud of the way our campus and our community embraced the challenges of our neighbors to the south and reaffirmed our international connectedness.  Obviously, much remains to be done and we will continue to be engaged in the coming months and years.

IP Major Projects funded in 2009-2010 included a fascinating study of the influence of the tape recorder during the last half of the 20th Century; a conference investigating  the historic Bolivian Constituent  Assembly  of 2006-07 and the constitutional reform process; and the well-attended Global Health Conference which focused on the globalization of drug therapies.  Of course, this brief summary only begins to capture the full range of collaborative and interdisciplinary work undertaken by faculty involved in IP’s 16 programs, centers, and groups.

With so much going on in IP, it’s a bit hard to boil it down to highlights, but here’s our attempt.

International Students and Scholars

*Enrollment Growth.  We are currently welcoming the largest and most diverse student body the University of Iowa has ever seen.  We expect to see international undergraduate enrollments, in particular, to grow significantly, as much as 50% above 2009’s already large increases.

*Fulbright Gateway Orientation.  For the second year in a row, we are one of eight institutions that have been selected to host a pre-program orientation for Fulbright students who will be attending universities throughout the U.S.

*Iraq Education Initiative.  We are receiving our first group of students from this program and continue to be highlighted by the initiative as one of the few U.S. institutions to participate in helping rebuild Iraq through education.

*Development and Growth of Going Global in Iowa.  We have had an increased interest in our training programs and have formed an advisory board of both UI and non-UI civic and business leaders to help guide our efforts to provide cross-cultural training to these members of our community.

Study Abroad

*Expansion of India Winterim program to 11 courses with 105 student participants.  Professor Raj Rajagopal, professor of Geography and IP’s “ambassador” to India, has worked tirelessly to develop this program.

*Launched “Taking the Classroom to the World”: embedded and add-on overseas components to new and existing courses taught on the UI campus.

*Development of the Iowa International Summer Institute (to be inaugurated in summer, 2011): UI faculty-taught general education courses abroad, designed to give students the opportunity to study abroad following their first year at the UI.

*A continued steady increase in overall study abroad participation, even during this time of economic crisis.

*Awarded a record amount of scholarship funding (more than $800,000) to study abroad program participants. Funds come from a variety of sources, but the largest single source is the bequest from the estate of Ann Morse.

Academic Programs and Services

*Distributed well over $100,000 in internal faculty funding to support research, travel, and globally-oriented programming and events

*International Studies

B.A.—approximately 450 students in the major

M.A.—three students graduated with their M.A. in International Studies

*Student funding

The University had 7 Fulbright recipients in 2009-10

65 graduate and undergraduate students with over $71,000 in IP grants to support international research, in addition to study abroad scholarships.

*Less-Commonly-Taught Languages—continued support for the teaching and learning of less commonly taught languages through ALLNet and the sponsorship of Fulbright Language Teaching

Assistants (FLTAs) in Indonesian, Turkish, Arabic, and Hindi.

Communications and Relations

The Office of Communications and Relations helps to broadcast the work of our affiliated faculty and to create connections with our community.  It is responsible for event coordination, press releases, graphic design, marketing consultation, maintenance of the IP and center websites, International Accents—IP’s online journal—and IP’s outreach efforts.

IP’s newest venture in public programming for media distribution, WorldCanvass, is IP’s new, monthly, live program which investigates international topics by bringing together scholars and experts from a wide range of specialty areas for conversation around a common theme.  WorldCanvass is also broadcast on television, radio, and the internet. More than 70 faculty, students and area experts participated in the seven programs produced last year and even more will be involved this year.  Collaborative partnerships have been created with UITV, KRUI,ITS, the Pentacrest Museums, the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and—new this year—Iowa Public Radio.  The result is that WorldCanvass programs may be seen and heard by hundreds of thousands of Iowans, thereby addressing in a new and innovative way IP’s goal of increasing internationalization at the University and in our State.

Our commitment to outreach remains strong, with International Classroom Journeys into the public schools; the International Crossroads Community (one of the oldest living and learning communities at the UI); collaborations such as those with the College of Education on International Education Week and the Center for Human Rights on events related to the World Food Prize.  And an important new outreach partnership began this year between the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, the Laurasian Institution, and IP which has brought Ms. Yume Hidaka to Iowa for two years during which she’ll be visiting schools and community groups sharing her Japanese culture and presenting specialized programs.

So, as the excitement of a new school year surrounds us, I say thank you for all you’ve done over the past year.  I have confidence that the coming year will be even more rewarding than the last and I look forward to seeing you in the very near future.

Downing Thomas
Downing Thomas

 

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