Monday, October 24, 2022
man wearing black glasses and blue shirt

Bernie Burrola, vice president of Office for International, Community, and Economic Engagement, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), is the ninth speaker in the Commitment to Internationalization Lecture Series, continuing our conversation about the UI's vision and strategic themes for campus internationalization. His talk, "Combatting Nationalism: Why the World Needs More Internationalization," will take place on November 17, 2022, from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m., in room 1117 of the University Capitol Centre

Burrola joined the APLU in February 2020. He provides leadership to the APLU Office of International Programs and the APLU Commission on International Initiatives, and is responsible for strengthening the global engagement and impact of member universities in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. 

Burrola led a five-year bilateral Presidential Initiative to increase higher education partnerships, research collaboration, and student exchange among U.S. and Indonesian universities. He also worked within the Office of Global Educational Programs at the U.S. Department of State to promote U.S. higher education abroad and increase the number of international students studying at American universities.

Earlier in his career, Burrola worked in college admissions at Claremont McKenna College and served on the admission committee at the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University. Currently, he serves as an application reviewer for the Schwarzman Scholars Program at Tsinghua University in China.

Burrola earned his master’s degree in development economics from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and his bachelor’s degree in international relations from Claremont McKenna College. He is a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Cape Verde, West Africa, and is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.


Below is a Q&A with Bernie Burrola:

You will be discussing how despite globalization, we are becoming more inward looking, especially with the rise of nationalism and tribalism.  How can you explain this phenomenon?

There is a link because there is an inherent tension between globalism and tribalism. Some will champion globalism as a cure for tribalism whereas tribalism can be an effect, a counter, to when people feel globalism is a threat and has gone too far. For those that see the benefits from increased international trade and research, there is more acceptance and desire to increase internationalization efforts. For people who may experience declines in local manufacturing or perceive a threat to their traditional way of life, the benefits from globalization may be harder to see. Hence, increased globalization, while a net benefit that leads to an overall higher quality of life for most, can also result in an increase in tribalism and nationalism.


We are seeing a rebound of international student applications at U.S. universities since the pandemic, most notably among graduate students.  How can U.S. institutions of higher education attract even more international students?

There are external and internal factors that impact attracting more international students. External factors such as the increasing value of the U.S. dollar, visa processing lags, perceptions of the United States (positive & negative), and geopolitics (war in Europe, tensions with China) will greatly impact how many students enroll from abroad and there is not much a university can do to mitigate these factors. But there are some internal factors that can make an institution more attractive to international students. Some of these include: 1) providing in-state tuition; 2) promoting strong academic programs, particularly graduate programs in key markets; 3) developing and expanding international partnerships to include exchanges and joint-degree options; 4) developing proposals/seeking grants from local industries, foundations, and public sector agencies to fund short-term or longer-term exchanges; and 5) creating a welcoming and international culture on campus.


The University of Iowa is a member of the APLU. Can you talk about the goals of the APLU and how they affect the work being done here at the University of Iowa?

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. APLU works with member universities, such as Iowa, to expand access and improve student success to deliver the innovative workforce of tomorrow, advance and promote research and discovery to improve society, foster economic growth, and address global challenges. APLU’s work is furthered by an active and effective advocacy arm that works with Congress and the administration as well as the media to advance federal policies that strengthen public universities and benefit the students they serve. This allows the University of Iowa to have a presence in Washington and benefit from the policies and funding that APLU advocates for on behalf of public higher education.


Which factors are the most important in the creation and success of an internationalized campus?

To be a truly internationalized campus, an institution needs to ensure that all students have access to a global experience. While for some this may mean studying abroad, there are other ways to obtain an international experience. Institutions that are successful, develop opportunities for traditional and non-traditional students to engage in virtual and in-person experiences such as international internships, collaborative online learning, exchanges, research, and local initiatives with diaspora in their communities. Another important factor is developing curriculum that includes global issues and perspectives so students graduate with a richer, more dynamic education that prepares them to enter a global workforce. 


What motivated you to focus your career on international education?

After serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa, it became clear that human talent, while equally disbursed around the world, is not equally cultivated. Many lack access to a higher education, its resources, and the nurturing environment needed to develop talent. I firmly believe the United States has one of the world’s best higher education systems and by bringing students from around the world to our universities, we expand global human talent and improve the lives and livelihoods of everyone. Higher education is transformative in nature, and I’m motivated to expand the opportunity to a quality higher education as broadly as possible to maximize the benefit to society.


International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.