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International education is key to preparing global citizens

BOONE—The internationalization of higher education has become an imperative, according to the associate vice chancellor for international education at Appalachian State University. Speaking at a luncheon during International Education Week on campus, Jesse Lutabingwa said providing global learning opportunities has become part of the university’s fabric.

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“Our graduates will live, work and make contributions to society by working with individuals across many countries and cultures as global citizens,” Lutabingwa said. “As educators, we want to make sure that we are providing our students with the necessary global competencies and skills to enable them to engage with the world as global citizens.”

Global learning is the focus of the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which outlines a path to comprehensive internationalization. “Through the QEP, students are engaged in diverse learning experiences here at home and abroad to increase their knowledge of global issues and cultures; improve their intercultural skills; and develop attitudes that cultivate global citizenship,” Lutabingwa said.

Lutabingwa shared the following points of pride:

  • Appalachian continues to be among the national leaders in education abroad. The Institute of International Education’s 2015 Open Doors Report released this week ranks Appalachian fourth nationally among the top 40 master’s degree granting institutions for the total number of students who studied abroad for credit in 2013-14, and fourth nationally for the number of students who participated in short-term programs for academic credit.
  • A significant number of Appalachian faculty and staff lead education abroad programs each year. This year, proposals for 80 faculty-led programs were submitted, 77 of which were approved. This is the largest number of proposals ever submitted.
  • Financial support for students studying abroad continues to increase. In the past three years education abroad scholarships campuswide have increased from a total of $53,000 in 2012-13 to a total of $124,725 in 2014-15. The Office of International Education and Development is working with Leah-Beth Hubbard, director of scholarships, to centralize education abroad scholarships to make it easy for students to access them.
  • Between the QEP Office and the Office of International Education and Development, the university provides more than $180,000 annually to support international travel activities for faculty and staff.
  • In October 2015, Appalachian was recognized by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in its publication “Generation Study Abroad: Year One Impact” in the Internationalizing Curriculum category. The publication states: “Appalachian State University created a faculty development initiative in which novice faculty hoping to establish a study abroad program travel with a veteran mentor to learn the fundamentals of leading a study abroad program.”
  • In 2009, the American Council on Education’s external peer review team observed that “the low number of international students at Appalachian is at odds with the strong emphasis on internationalization.” In response, the university increased the number of international exchange students by 173 percent in 2014-15 from 35 students in 2006-07. The total number of all international students enrolled has increased by 181 percent in 2014-15 from 83 students in 2006-07.
  • Appalachian has a well-developed International Visiting Scholar Program where faculty members from partner institutions abroad are invited to come and teach for a semester or shorter periods here on campus. The university provides housing, stipends of $5,000 or less, and covers health insurance. This semester, the university is hosting 12 scholars from Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Spain and Turkey.
  • Through the International Scholarly Assignment Program, Appalachian faculty members also have the opportunity to spend a semester at partner institutions abroad. The program covers international travel costs and health insurance, and the faculty member continues to receive full salary and benefits. Currently, one psychology faculty member is in the United Kingdom at Keele University and one sociology faculty member is in Thailand at Burapha University. One English faculty member is scheduled go to Thailand at Burapha in fall 2016. In the recent past, other faculty members have spent a semester at partner institutions in Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Germany.

Lutabingwa shared that since 2007, 12 faculty members have received prestigious Fulbright Fellowships to teach or conduct research overseas. Dr. Vachel Miller from the Reich College of Education is spending this academic year in Ethiopia. Dr. Al Harris in the Walker College of Business will spend next semester in Poland and Dr. Sid Clement from the College of Arts and Sciences will spend next semester in Austria. Dr. Jeanne Dubino from the College of Arts and Sciences went to China this summer and Dr. John Tashner from the Reich College of Education went to Pakistan last fall.

Appalachian’s global reach has expanded over the years. Nine years ago Appalachian’s global partners were concentrated mainly in Western Europe. Through progressive and intentional expansion, the university now has 70 active partnerships, including institutions in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam. “We are interested in multi-faceted and lasting relationships that allow us to concentrate effort and resources effectively,” Lutabingwa said. “Our goal is to deepen programmatic activities with our current partners rather than growing a long list of international partnerships.”

The university also has established two 2+2 programs with partners in Thailand and Vietnam. Under these programs, Thai and Vietnamese students study at their home institutions for two years in a prescribed general education curriculum and then transfer to Appalachian in their last two years. After graduating from Appalachian with an Appalachian degree, the students have an option of returning home to receive a second degree from their home institution.

Appalachian also has established a 1+2+1 dual degree program in communication with a partner university in Puebla, Mexico. Under this program, students study at their home institutions for the first year, transfer to the partner institution for two years, and then return to their home institution in their fourth year. Students complete degree requirements for both institutions and are awarded two degrees.

The MBA Program in the Walker College of Business and the Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies have established a 1+1+1 MBA degree program with one of Appalachian’s Chinese partners. This program enables graduate students from China to earn two graduate degrees – an MBA from Appalachian and an MA degree from their home institution.

Under development is a dual degree program in engineering physics and mechatronics with a partner university in Austria. Students in this program will earn two graduate degrees, one in engineering physics from Appalachian and another in mechatronics from the Austrian partner. Another new initiative with Beijing International Studies University will recruit students to enroll in Appalachian’s doctoral program in educational leadership. Students will take courses both at Appalachian and in Beijing to complete their program of study and be awarded an Appalachian doctoral degree. This program is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2017 if not earlier.

“I consider the engagement of campus partners to be absolutely essential for the success of our internationalization efforts at Appalachian,” Lutabingwa said. “We need to treasure and nurture the engagement and idealism that powers internationalization and global learning on our campus.”

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