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From the Provost

- April 23, 2007

For several years now, UConn has enjoyed being ranked the Number One public university in New England, and we are moving steadily toward our goal of becoming one of the best public universities in the country.

But in order to take our place in the ranks of top national institutions, we must also be a player on the world stage.

The 21st century is characterized by economic globalization, modern communications, and a new world order in which no country can exist in isolation.

Phenomena such as HIV/AIDS, avian flu, and climate change can affect anyone anywhere, regardless of national boundaries or economic status.

In these circumstances of rapid change and global interconnectedness, it is critical that our research and teaching be responsive to international concerns.

We must equip students with the knowledge and skills to face complex global problems.

Our graduates will live and work in a society that goes far beyond the borders of this state, and they will need to adapt to new environments, integrate knowledge from a variety of sources, and continue to learn throughout their lives.

Accordingly, the University’s Academic Plan emphasizes active and deliberate global engagement that cuts across all disciplines and enterprises. The University must become more international in its approach to everything it undertakes, and as a part of that we must ensure that our students develop global understanding and competencies.

Soon after I arrived at the University in 2005, I appointed a Task Force on Developing Global Citizens to address a key goal for undergraduate education. Its report emphasized four ways to increase students’ global experience:

Increase the number of international undergraduates: The offices of Multicultural and International Affairs and Admissions are currently working together to develop strategies for international enrollment growth.

Increase student participation in Study Abroad: With a goal of 30 percent participation, the Study Abroad office is developing an array of programs that is varied in location, academic focus, and format.

These programs increasingly emphasize hands-on experiences to promote learning.

The office is also adopting creative strategies to make the overseas experience more accessible, by ensuring the transferability of credits and offering limited financial aid.

Establish a global living-learning community: A new venture known as Global House will accommodate a mix of domestic and overseas students interested in international issues, languages, and experiences, and provide a gathering place for other international students and for domestic students returning from Study Abroad.

It will open in the fall.

Develop the global curriculum: Curriculum development is a top priority if our students are to increase their knowledge of diverse cultures and their understanding of the political and economic forces that shape the world.

Currently, international topics are scattered across the curriculum.

The general education program requires that students take at least one course within the Diversity and Multiculturalism content area that emphasizes international issues.

We also offer area studies, language across the curriculum, minors in international studies and human rights, and the individualized major program, which includes opportunities for students to shape an internationally focused major.

To boost student participation, we need to better publicize the many international opportunities that already exist.

But much more is needed. A curriculum subcommittee of the Task Force on Developing Global Citizens has identified a number of strategies, including best practices from other higher education institutions, some of which can be implemented immediately.

We will encourage faculty to make existing courses more global, for example by selecting reading materials from around the world or highlighting examples from different countries.

The incorporation of seminars and courses from abroad via distance learning is another possibility.

The Provost’s General Education Course Development Grants will emphasize new courses with international content; and we will support and enhance FYE courses that develop global competencies.

From left, Anne Melissa Dowling of USIG Strategy Mass Mutual, Lorraine Aronson of UConn, Lisa Douglas of Cigna Healthcare, and Sarah Kasacek of the Connecticut State Police, panelists at a conference on women in business.
Provost Peter J. Nicholls

The well educated graduate of the 21st century will have experienced being in an unfamiliar situation, through participation in Study Abroad, travel outside the U.S., or direct experience in a local community different from his or her own; will have friendships with people from a variety of backgrounds; and will have participated in globally oriented co-curricular activities, such as those offered by the cultural centers, the fine arts institutions, and Global House.

It isn’t always necessary to go overseas to have a global outlook: participating in a local service learning project with recent immigrants, for example, can foster empathy for others and a grasp of the international forces at play in people’s lives.

Our global agenda is advancing steadily with regard to undergraduate education, but is still at a developmental level in relation to faculty, staff, and graduate students.

Many faculty members already specialize in global research, collaborate with international colleagues, make presentations at academic venues around the world, and bring international graduate students and visiting faculty to campus.

Human rights is an example of one such area of strength at UConn, involving many disciplines and encompassing teaching, research, and outreach.

Currently, however, many of these international interactions remain at the individual level. I hope to explore how they can be leveraged for the good of the University as a whole.

I also anticipate selecting four or five top quality international institutions, whose strengths complement those of this University, with whom we will partner intensively in research, teaching, and outreach.

These global partnerships will be strategically based on their potential for furthering the University’s Academic Plan.

A prime example is our developing relationship with the National University of Singapore.

I hope to expand this to 25 exchange students per semester, and initiate exchanges of faculty who will teach both here and there, and take advantage of each institution’s research resources.

We will also seek authority to develop UConn programming in other parts of the world, in partnership with overseas governments and institutions.

The proposed UConn campus in Dubai is one such example.

I encourage faculty members to work with the Institute for Teaching and Learning to develop programmatic global learning objectives.

I also hope to strengthen the University’s mechanisms for encouraging and supporting faculty travel.

Enhancing our global identity is not only the province of faculty and students; it is an opportunity for the entire community to be involved.

We want international students, faculty, and visitors to feel comfortable here, and I encourage every member of the UConn community, as well as local residents, to take personal responsibility for this.

Service operations, such as residential life, the Bursar’s office, the Registrar’s office, and the library, have critical roles to play in creating a welcoming environment.

And Student Health Services, especially mental health, will face new and different demands as the international population on campus grows, interfacing with people whose health issues may be exacerbated by culture and language.

At present, our international activities fall within the purview of a number of offices on campus.

Yet there is no formal mechanism by which they communicate.

I have therefore asked a committee to examine our organizational structure.

I anticipate the group’s recommendations in the fall.

In pursuit of our international mission, we at UConn are already moving forward to meet the opportunities and challenges of the global reality.

Our goal now is to make sure that every aspect of the University – teaching, research, and service – is committed to leadership in this important initiative.

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