University of Iowa

Welcome to the 2014-15 Academic Year!

September 4th, 2014

With Labor Day just past, and classes well underway, I want to welcome everyone to the 2014-15 academic year!  I always enjoy the expansive feeling at the beginning of the school year, with so many new faces, undergraduates eager to visit the office to explore options abroad; graduate and professional students working with Karen Wachsmuth to apply for grants and fellowships; and faculty across the disciplines contacting me with ideas about how they can enhance their global teaching, research, and engagement activities.

There are many new exciting developments, including the newly redesigned Strategic Global Initiatives Award (sgIA), with co-sponsorship from the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, which supports the creation of new global collaborations.  And our exceptional radio, TV, and internet program, WorldCanvass, has a new partnership with FilmScene which will allow us to expand our connections to the community and beyond. 

International Programs (IP) now has a strong core of eight academic centers and programs.  These faculty-led groups provide unique opportunities for faculty and graduate students from across disciplines to meet, interact, and collaborate.  Some of them also have significant community outreach and engagement functions.  During the 2014-15 academic year, IP will be reviewing the centers and programs as a group to take stock in past successes and to help develop a vision for the future of area studies and thematic groups in IP and at the University.  These faculty-led initiatives provide cultural perspectives lacking elsewhere; and I hope that a review of their activities, and the recommendations that come out of that review, will allow them greater reach, visibility, and relevance in the coming years.

hong kong university group
Dean Thomas surveys plans for the new science and technology campus of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) with Eden Woon, HKUST Vice President and UI alum; Sarah Vigmostad, UI assistant professor of biomedical engineering; Alec Scranton, dean of the UI College of Engineering; and H.S. Udaykumar, UI professor of mechanical and industrial engineering

We have continued our new-found tradition of appointing faculty fellows this year.  Wilf Nixon (Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering), Bradley Cramer (Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, CLAS), and Drew Kitchen (Dept. of Anthropology, CLAS; and a member of the cluster hire in genetics) will continue as fellows.  David Lee (Mechanical and Industrial Engineering) is our new fellow for 2014-15.  Luis Martin-Estudillo and Colin Gordon will serve as administrative fellows this year, taking over some of the duties of Sonia Ryang, who has accepted a faculty position at another university.  Luis will oversee our grant activities; and Ann Knudson will continue as our Grants Administrator, assisting faculty with external grant programs.  Colin will assist me with the review of IP’s academic centers and programs.  The faculty fellows provide me with an informal sounding board, and help to develop new ideas related to internationalization.

We are excited that students can search for study, internships, volunteer projects, and other educational activities abroad through our interactive database of programs.  They can now also apply to most programs electronically, through our online application process.  Over the past few years, we have expanded education abroad opportunities to STEM fields and other areas not traditionally represented among the study abroad student population.  The bottom line is that the research shows what employers are already telling us: that experiences abroad contribute significantly to personal growth and provide a strong foundation for success in the job market.  Whether students want to spend a year studying Eastern European politics at the University of Latvia, or enroll in our three-week India Winterim section focused on “Pain, Palliative Medicine, and Hospice Care,” there are options for every discipline.

The University saw record international enrollment again last year, with just over 12% of the student population coming to Iowa City from outside of the United States (our fall 2014 figures have not yet been finalized).  Recruitment from Iowa, across the U.S., and abroad continues to be a priority of the University.  As more international students come to Iowa, we have expanded the infrastructure we devote to welcoming and integrating them into life at the UI.  To the required course for all incoming international students, International@Iowa, we have added Global@Iowa, a peer mentoring program that matches domestic students with incoming international undergraduates through activities designed to foster leadership development and understanding across cultural barriers.  In addition to these and other efforts by IP, the integration of our international students is supported by the colleges, by a cross-collegiate committee, and by a new group within UI Student Government focused on student welfare and a positive campus environment.

Outreach to our alumni and friends abroad has taken many strides forward since the hiring of Suyun Ma as our Global External Relations coordinator last November.  Together with the entire Communications and Relations team in IP, she has developed new networks of Iowa alumni through an expansive portfolio of social media networks, both in English and in Chinese.  Provost Butler, the collegiate deans, and I have also hosted global alumni events in several cities, including Beijing, Hong Kong, and Jakarta, the latter hosted by Ambassador Blake and the U.S. Embassy there.  And the Tippie College of Business streamed its May, 2014, graduation live in Mandarin Chinese….. We look forward to expanding international opportunities for faculty, students and staff in 2014-15!