University of Iowa

Welcome to the 2012-13 academic year

August 29th, 2012

Downing Thomas

A warm welcome to all of you for the 2012-13 academic year.  In this brief note, I’d like to share a few thoughts on International Programs’ goals for the coming year as well as updates on activities and organizational changes.

It has been a year of significant and sometimes difficult change, both in IP’s organization and in the interface between IP and UI faculty.  The organizational changes have already made IP more effective and responsive, and will provide an even better foundation for university internationalization than in the past. Doug Lee’s leadership as assistant provost has allowed IP to integrate its efforts across all areas, from academic programs and services to study abroad, support for international students and scholars, and communications and relations.  It will also allow me to spend more of my time working with UI faculty and the collegiate deans, but also externally in new efforts to engage partners and alumni abroad.  This academic year, I will create a new Faculty Advisory Council to guide me on the UI’s global strategies, to fertilize cross-collegiate communication, to confer with me about IP’s activities, and to serve as a hothouse for new ideas. The advice I received from an ad hoc committee early in the summer will help me as I work with the Council to develop strategic directions for International Programs for the coming years.  

I want to thank Roberta Marvin, whose term ended in June, for her work as IP’s Associate Dean, and look forward to welcoming Sonia Ryang to the new position of IP Director of Academic Programs, effective January, 2013.  Sonia is C. Maxwell & Elizabeth M. Stanley Family and Korea Foundation Chair of Korean Studies in the Department of Anthropology, and has served ably as director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies.  Her past experience provides an excellent foundation for her new position in IP.  I decided to move to a part-time director position following the move of the International Studies major to CLAS and of our less-commonly-taught language programs to the new Division of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures.  Sonia will nonetheless have a substantial portfolio of responsibilities including overseeing IP’s area and thematic centers, programs and academic groups, working with IP’s grants officer to pursue grant opportunities, and administering IP’s many internal grant competitions.

I am pleased to announce that David Perlmutter, the Director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, will be IP’s Faculty Fellow in residence for 2012-13.  While there have been several new hires, I want to mention a few familiar and less-familiar IP faces that will be particularly useful contacts for faculty.  Ann Knudson will continue to work with faculty on external grant submissions.  Though she can sometimes provide support for priorities grants in other areas, she spends the vast majority of her time on the humanities and arts.  Karen Wachsmuth works on academic programs, internal grants, and student grants and fellowships.  We have a new Business Manager, Amy Welter; and Sarolta Graves has taken over Heidi’s responsibilities in support of IP events and VIP campus visits.

IP continues its leadership of the UI’s internationalization efforts in a number of critical ways:

  • encouraging student success by offering a wide range of study abroad options and assisting in the internationalization of our campus through curriculum development, student programs, intercultural workshops, funding for international research, and the Global Village living-learning community
  • developing robust alumni relationships with our international graduates
  • strengthening existing global partnerships while seeking and nurturing new ones, with a continued emphasis on building university linkages and establishing partnerships with private organizations whose reach is international, such as our developing relationship with ACT both here in Iowa City and in China
  • providing internationally-oriented outreach activities and public programming which extends the reach of the University throughout the state (K-12 classroom presentations, public lectures organized by IP’s programs and centers, and the internationally-focused state-wide television/radio broadcast series WorldCanvass)

A top priority this year as last year, in alignment with the UI strategic plan, will be student success.  One way we support this effort is to enhance access to study abroad and to identify new ways for students to have substantive international experiences such as service learning, internships, and volunteer efforts abroad.  There has been some interesting recent research into the effects of study abroad, which I have briefly summarized here.  More research needs to be done; and I would enjoy talking to any of you wish to follow up on the questions I raise.  Paired with study abroad, we must expand and we are expanding our internationalization at home efforts.  While IP does a great deal in this area with programming and curriculum development grants, this is not IP’s sole responsibility.  Indeed, many other units on campus—the undergraduate colleges, the Center for Teaching, the Center for Diversity and Enrichment, and others—have stepped up with new programming and support mechanisms.

I will also give significant attention to supporting academic linkages—such as our long-standing connection to Technische Universität Dortmund and with East China Normal University in Shanghai—that lead to faculty and student exchanges, research collaborations, or curricular partnerships.  Take advantage of our linkage database, which reaches across the entire University and is searchable by country, type of agreement, and keyword.  President Mason’s visit to Asia demonstrated, in the most direct way possible, the UI’s commitment to active international engagement, an engagement that will not only bring more talented students to the UI campus, but send more U.S. students to study abroad; open new avenues for collaboration in research, teaching, and business; and generate new partnerships. If you need help in making connections at universities or other organizations abroad, feel free to contact me.

Beginning this year, I am also devoting more effort to reach out to UI alumni abroad. Given the increasing numbers of international students, but also because a number of domestic students find work abroad, we need to make a concerted effort to reach out to our alums who live in other parts of the world.  Alumni I have met during my travels tell me that they are ready to help the University.  We need to take steps to benefit from that goodwill.

Finally, I want to follow up with some specific links to our website resources.  A particularly nice feature of our new website is a global impact map, which can be found toward the bottom of our homepage.  The map allows you to see visually where UI students come from and where they go in the world.  We will add additional views in the future.  Please also note the links to our online journal International Accents and the year’s schedule for WorldCanvass, which is available on radio, podcasts, and now to cable TV viewers throughout the state on Mediacom services.  Other areas of our website that will be of interest focus on faculty opportunities, support for external grant submissions, and internal grant competitions.

International Programs will continue to be the campus hub for international activities and initiatives; but the true measure of our success lies in the expanding engagement with the globe that is taking place right now, not in our offices in the University Capitol Centre, but across campus in UI classrooms and in departmental faculty meetings.  I very much look forward to working with you again this year.

Downing Thomas