Commitment to Internationalization: Q&A with Madeleine Green

Madeleine Green is the third speaker in the Commitment to Internationalization lecture series. Her talk, "Are We There Yet?:  The Long (and Winding) Road to Global Learning for All," will be on Thurday, November 2, at 4:00 p.m. in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber. This lecture continues the conversation about the UI's vision and strategic themes for campus internationalization

RSVP for the event here.

Madeleine F. Green is an independent consultant in higher education and non-prot and association management. She serves as senior fellow at the International Association of Universities, senior fellow at NAFSA: The Association of International Educators, and senior program consultant at the Teagle Foundation in New York. Her consulting practices focus on policy, institutional management, leadership, internationalization, governing boards, and change management.

Below is a Q&A with Dr. Green about the globalization of higher education.

In what ways does internationalization shape higher education?

Increasingly, internationalization is seen not as a goal unto itself, but as a central feature of a quality education—key to improving the quality of teaching and learning, research, and service.  Institutions are demonstrating this recognition by incorporating internationalization into their overall vision and planning. According to the International Association of Universities, which conducts periodic surveys of internationalization of universities around the world, 53% of universities have an separate internationalization strategy, 22% are in the process of developing one, and 16% integrate internationalization in their overall strategic plan. The American Council on Education Mapping data tell us that in the United States about half of institutions have included internationalization as one of the top five priorities in their strategic plan; for doctoral institutions, this figure is 64%. About 27% of U.S. institutions have a separate internationalization plan, but 45% of doctoral institutions do.  

These data reflect the fact that internationalization is no longer seen as a frill, or simply as an enriching time abroad for the few.  A quality education prepares students to live and work in a world that is complex and multi-cultural and to cultivate the dispositions of global citizens. Issues of poverty, inequality, health, and climate change—all global as well as local issues-- are central to our lives today and in the future.   The line between the local and the global is increasingly blurry.  Increasingly, the world is at our doorstep through the demographics of our communities and the reach of technology. The production and generation of knowledge clearly is a global undertaking, and the rise of internationally co-authored publications attests to the fact that quality research is the product of international cooperation. As we confront forces of nativism and xenophobia in the U.S. and around the world, internationalization has to become even more important and integral to higher education, ensuring that higher education is a conduit to the larger world and producing graduates who can envision multiple perspectives, are aware of our interconnectedness with the rest of the world, and are  comfortable with difference.

What research is there to support the claims about the many benefits of internationalization (in the form of study abroad, global curricula, etc.)?

There are different ways to think about the benefits of internationalization and different levels of impact to consider. So judging benefits and researching them always begins with stated goals. What is the benefit to the larger society? (What contribution does internationalization make to addressing global issues such as poverty, health, and climate change?) How does internationalization contribute to national interests? (What benefits do international students bring to the United States? What impact does internationalization have on workforce preparation?)  How does the local community benefit? (Are there connections between area studies programs and diaspora populations? What effect do international events and international students have on the local community?) What benefits accrue to the institution? (For example, how do international partnerships enhance research? Does internationalization enhance revenue or prestige?) And last but not least, what is the impact of global learning on students? (Do they have greater knowledge of global issues and systems? Are they more open minded? Able to work in multi-cultural settings?)  

Unfortunately, more of the research of internationalization focuses on inputs, practices, and participation rates than on outcomes or impact. For example, the International Association of Universities surveys institutions world-wide every five years; the American Council on Education does the same in the United States. These two organizations have provided trend data over time—the first ACE survey results were published in 2003. They provide valuable information on the state of the field, but little about the impact of internationalization. The surveys do ask about benefits, but they rely on the opinions of the respondents.  There are also a number of institutional indicators of internationalization that have been developed by various research groups around the world.

Most of the research on outcomes focuses education abroad. Many studies are small-scale and not necessarily generalizable. Researchers have looked at the effects of study abroad on language learning, personal growth, increased interest in international issues, the relationship of elements of the education abroad experience to learning (such as duration, contact with host country nationals, correlation with graduation rates and alumni loyalty) and career impact. The findings are too numerous to summarize, but one growing area of interest is about the impact of short-term study abroad compared to traditional stays of a semester or year (now a small minority of study abroad experiences).   Some studies have found that short-term study abroad can produce good global learning outcomes—length does not necessarily equate with greater learning.  Clearly, more research is needed on this topic as education abroad is increasingly of the short-term variety.

At the institutional level, most research on internationalization also focuses on the “outputs” or participation rates in various activities.  Looking at “outcomes” (what have students learned, what has been the effect on the institution, for example) is more complicated assessment, and is usually part of a larger institutional effort to assess student learning outcomes. There is great variability among institutions in the level of interest and sophistication in assessing learning outcomes.

What are the clearest student outcomes we can point to?

Global learning ( a frequently used term for the learning part of internationalization) has multiple outcomes—often categorized as knowledge, skills, and attitudes or dispositions.   Examples of knowledge that students gain are knowledge of world issues, knowledge of global trends, systems and processes; knowledge of other cultures.   Skills include using knowledge, diverse cultural frames of reference and alternate perspectives to think critically and solve problems; the ability to communicate with people from other cultures; the ability to use foreign language skills.  Attitudes and dispositions are a bit trickier, harder to measure. They might include demonstrated curiosity and open-mindedness about global issues or other cultures, demonstrated respect for diversity.  Note the word “demonstrated” here, since attitudes and dispositions are assessed through what students do as well as what they say. 

There are many different ways to organize the outcomes of global learning. The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has done a lot of work on this topic, and has developed a “VALUE Rubric” that has been used or adapted by many campuses.  Although it also reflects knowledge, skills, and attitudes, it does not use those categories. Rather, its outcomes are: global self-awareness; perspective taking; cultural awareness; personal and social responsibility; understanding global systems; and applying knowledge to contemporary global contexts.

An important discussion to have on campus is what you see as the desired global learning outcomes, where students will actually acquire them, and how all students can achieve them.

How can we measure outcomes and successes related to international education?

Student learning outcomes can be measured directly (e.g. review of student work, test scores, employer ratings of graduates’ skills) or indirectly (e.g. student ratings of their knowledge and skills, alumni satisfaction data, admission rates into graduate schools).  There are a number of tests and inventories available that ask students to assess their openness to cross-cultural experiences, their values and attitudes, such as the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), the Global Perspectives Inventory (GPI), and the Beliefs, Events, and Values Inventory (BEVI). Some institutions use these as “before and after” measures for education abroad, or for the entire collegiate experience.  Assessment of global learning can be conducted at the individual course level, the program level, or the institutional level. 

A cardinal principle of assessment—that certainly holds true for getting at the outcomes of internationalization—is to use multiple measures. Also, deciding what questions are important to ask, and zeroing in on a few at a time help keep the process focused and manageable.  

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

The faculty are key to internationalization—both individually and collectively.  Faculty send important messages to students about internationalization, by what they teach, the extent to which they actively encourage education abroad, how they deal with international students.  Internationalizing individual courses is an essential building block of an internationalized curriculum, but that’s only a first step. Internationalizing general education and the major require collective thinking and action, and that means that internationalization cannot just be the responsibility of a few enthusiasts.    

Additionally, leadership from the top is essential. In my experience, without committed boards, presidents, CAOs, and deans, internationalization can only go just so far. Without the commitment and support of administrators, the intrepid band of faculty internationalization leaders will eventually wear out.  They can continue to internationalize their own courses and research (if they can find the resources for the latter), but that will not add up to an internationalized experience for students.

Additionally, an effective international office facilitates internationalization campus-wide. It needs to be seen as helping faculty rather than as a bureaucratic obstacle and as an information resource. Similarly, it is pivotal in supporting international students and scholars, encouraging students to go abroad (and making it easier rather than harder), and in serving as the nerve center for internationalization.

Finally, successful campuses have an expansive view of internationalization; internationalization is not just recruiting international students or increasing the numbers of students going abroad. A comprehensive view of internationalization includes consideration of mission, campus climate and ethos, faculty engagement, education abroad, international students and scholars, and the importance of all students receiving a global education, not just a few.

What is the impact of an internationalized university beyond the campus?

The impact can be both local and global. A university is uniquely positioned to bring the world to the campus and the community. The local community can be engaged in internationalization activities, invited to events such as lectures by guest speakers and international food fairs, where they can interact with international students.  Host families are a win-win proposition.  Faculty can collaborate with local schools on curriculum development and/or providing resource materials; this is certainly a feature of federally funded Title VI Centers.  One college had a highly successful program of sending advanced language students to local schools. Connecting with diaspora populations enriches university students and creates stronger links with the community.  On a global sale, joint research and development cooperation address pressing issues in the international partner country at the same time that they enrich the work of the U.S. campus and the intellectual breadth of the U.S. faculty members.  Many institutions have developed long-term collaborations with universities in developing countries, which deepen and broaden the benefits over time.