By Ricardo Azziz | October 3, 2012
“Opportunities are multiplied as they are seized”
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”
The Art of War
(6th century B.C.)
In my last blog, I reported on our visit to China, noting the differences, but most critically the similarities in our goals and challenges. And I had noted that there are a number of good reasons why we should pursue internationalizing our university … our students would benefit from a more diverse experience, campus environment, and academic offerings. Our faculty would gain greater opportunities for research collaboration and professional development. And our institution would increase its global footprint; potentially see an increase in revenue while playing a role in the development of tomorrow’s international leaders.
Our international partners would benefit by being able to offer their students a broader set of learning opportunities and degrees, and by enhancing the development of their faculty and leaders in the areas of research and discovery, healthcare, and educational and curricular development.
And we would all develop a better understanding of each other’s strengths, goals, and opportunities, critical to thriving in this increasing flatter world.
In fact, our goal of increasing our global footprint is not unique. Half of colleges and universities surveyed placed ‘internationalization’ among their top five strategic priorities, according to a survey by the American Council of Education. And in 2011 the number of international students in U.S. colleges and universities reached an all time high.
But we had left off our discussion of internationalization with a critical question … how exactly will we effect internationalization as we move to become a global university?
The answer lies in our mission, of course. As a comprehensive research university and an academic health center (AHC), we will have important global growth opportunities in our three core mission areas: education, research, and uniquely for us, clinical care and service.
Universities are centered on education. And it is in the arena of education that we will find most of the opportunity, with at least four potential avenues which may serve to create synergies with our international counterparts. Firstly, and most impactful, we may be able to offer degree-granting education to international students in our many areas of focus and strength, including business, biomedical sciences, and health professions training. This education generally complements international students’ training, serving to expand the curricular/programmatic offerings of our Chinese partners. Such is the case with Jianghan University, who will have their students complete BSN degrees at GHSU, or with the potential partnership with CSU, creating a tailored MD/PhD program, or the existing program at West Georgia University providing bachelor’s degrees in finance to Chinese students from Zhongnan University of Economics and Law.
Of course, in order to maximize student success, these degree-granting programs require additional resources in order to tailor the training accordingly, providing sufficient dedicated instructional attention and support while not limiting the learning opportunities of our current student population. These may include dedicated room and board facilities, tutoring and guidance, language support, curricular development/modification, and dedicated faculty effort. The costs of these additional resources are usually borne by grants provided by various governmental and philanthropic agencies, and via prearranged tuition and fees by our international partners.
As for all our students, we should not underestimate the value of a welcoming community, one that is attractive to students and supportive of a rich student life. For international students, robust systems of social support and engagement are even more critical. For example, a survey of 450 international students attending 4-year colleges in the U.S. South and Northeast reported that 38 percent had no close American friends (; and Gareis E. International Friendship: Effect of Home and Host Region. J Intl Intercultural Comm. 2012:1-20). And it isn’t surprising that the quality of these students’ experience in the U.S. ties closely to the friends they make here. In this regard, in our community we are fortunate to have the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) of Augusta, one of the southeast’s oldest Asian organizations, who may be of great value in helping to provide Chinese students with a richer social experience.
And, last but not least, while we may need to tailor our curricula and learning support to maximize the success of our international students we must be vigilant to ensure that the degrees granted to international students are worthy of our university’s imprimatur and reputation.
Secondly, we may be able to provide non-degree-granting non-clinical learning experiences to international students. For example, international universities who aim to provide additional research training or exposure to the English language and American culture to their students may create a dedicated scholarship program which allows their students graduate or postdoctoral research experience at GHSU/GRU, providing living expenses and some degree of support to associated faculty. Likewise, we may be able to create combined classroom/internship type experiences in a number of fields (creative writing, allied health sciences, journalism, hospital administration, etc.). While these programs require somewhat less than degree-granting programs, to be successful they also must have dedicated resources.
Thirdly are the typical student exchange programs, whereby our students and those of our partner university spend a limited amount of time (generally one to 12 months) at their counterparts’ institutions. This experience may be around clinical observerships or rotations, or be part of specific curricula, primarily in the liberal arts, in a program such is the Study Abroad program at ASU. Again, an appropriate and dedicated infrastructure is necessary.
Fourthly, international educational opportunities may focus on faculty development. This may include helping our partners develop new faculty, whereby we work together to identify and develop their most promising students into bright young faculty. An effort that would also allow us to better hone our young, under-represented, and new faculty development programs and offerings.
Or we can partner the continual training and development of established faculty, whereby professors from our university (e.g. those engaged in foreign language or culture, those studying traditional medical alternatives) or from our partner institutions (e.g. research scientists) either obtain additional degrees, training, or experience in areas of common focus at the partner institution. We should recognize that while the educational and social maturity of many of these individuals is certainly greater than that of the average student, so are often their needs. As such, we should not underestimate the requirement for dedicated resources and effort, such as international faculty housing, a support (e.g. buddy) system, and targeted educational opportunities around leadership and administration.
Universities who wish to have significant global and international presence often establish local offices/classrooms/campuses with partner universities around the globe. These serve as a venue to coordinate university and student relations with the partner institution, host their own students on exchange, identify and screen international students seeking additional degree or non-degree granting education, and, depending on the extent of space and faculty, provide on site teaching to students, which can be enhanced through the use of online learning tools.
In the arena of research a number of opportunities exist. We have already referred to programs that allow international students graduate or postdoctoral research experience. However, there are also enhanced opportunities for joint grants and discovery, not only yielding more comprehensive studies but also improving access to the resources of more than one nation. For example, Chinese researchers can access a TCM compound library for the rapid screening of novel medicinal chemistry compounds, they can access large populations of patients who are relatively homogeneous, ideal for large-scale genetic studies, and they can access dedicated funding through the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation with a budget approaching nearly one-quarter of the U.S. NIH and NSF budgets combined.
While many of these collaborations are initiated through the efforts and relationships of individual researchers, there are a number of approaches that institutions can implement to foster their development. These may include providing joint appointments to faculty from the partner university, ensuring the availability of necessary infrastructure and resources (IT services, travel support), and creating joint grant programs that seed the development of joint research and grant applications.
Finally, leveraging their educational and research ties, many universities with academic health centers (AHCs) also develop partnerships around the provision of healthcare. For example, our AHCs may provide advanced or complex care and treatment not readily available in the partner nation, either in the U.S. or less often directly in the international location, to patients from partner institutions. Many of these partnerships develop around specific needs and areas of complex care (e.g. neurologic repair, cancer care, cardiothoracic surgery, etc.), and often arise from prior relationships developed when international healthcare providers are trained or educated at our institution.
These relationships may be formalized further through the establishment of joint diagnostic, treatment and training programs at the international institution. And of course, there are many healthcare techniques and approaches used or being developed around the globe that merit consideration for study and use in the U.S. In addition, the experience of our own healthcare students is immeasurably enhanced through partnerships that allow them to view or participate in care being provided internationally.
Other Georgia academic institutions also have strong ties to China, including Kennesaw State and Georgia State Universities, both of which have Confucius Institutes, Emory University with a Confucius Community, the University System of Georgia’s (USG’s) Asia Council, and the Georgia Tech-Shanghai initiative. And these efforts support directly the goals of the USG Strategic Plan, with Goal One addressing the challenges of preparing students to function successfully in a global society by integrating international education throughout the curriculum at all levels and across disciplines and increasing student and faculty knowledge, functioning skills, and attitudes about other countries and cultures. And with Goal Three noting the need to increase the System’s participation in research and economic development to the benefit of a global Georgia, observing that “[i]n an open world with permeable borders, Georgia must increasingly compete not only with 50 states, but also with other countries”.
And these efforts align well with Governor Deal’s Competitiveness Initiative, which identified better global commerce as one of the six key influencers of corporate location and expansion decisions. The state of Georgia established a trade office in Beijing in 2008 and China is Georgia’s second-largest export destination market, with nearly $2.4 billion in exports in 2010. The Governor himself led a trade mission to China in October of 2011, to ensure the state’s continued relationships.
How we embrace internationalization will determine to a great extent our relevance and competitiveness, not just globally, but also locally, state-wide and nationally. Determining the exact approaches will require thoughtful consideration and deliberate planning. We cannot simply ignore the crescendo of globalization, hoping that it does not hit our shores, that our own domains remain untethered and unaffected … that would be foolhardy, for the crashing wave of internationalization has already hit, engulfing us deeply whether we know it or not. In fact, a recent essay by Michael Silverstein and Abheek Singhi in the Wall Street Journal questions if U.S. universities can stay on top. They note that for now the U.S. university system is still far ahead but that over the next decade there will be global competition to educate the next generation, and China and India have the potential to change the balance of power. And so we need to learn to embrace the current and ride the wave… to a successful joint future.
Because the world we live and need to succeed in, as Thomas Friedman said, is becoming flatter.