Forum Aids Internationalization Efforts

 

More than 90 NMU faculty, staff and students attended a Feb. 4 campus forum on internationalizing the NMU experience.

 

"I was very pleased with the turnout," said Louise Bourgault (CAPS), chair of the internationalization task force (ITF). "I was also pleased with the group discussions. They were very productive and generated original responses and a lot of new ideas. The task force will take these ideas, digest them further, and come up with recommendations for the university. We will prepare our report by the end of the academic year."

 

In addition to small group discussions, the forum included brief presentations on the progress of nine ITF subcommittees, ranging from technology to curriculum to study-abroad experiences.

 

Rehema Clarken, an NMU graduate student who spent four years in China, said there are only four international students among Northern's 720 graduate students and only two international faculty members among the 215 involved in graduate programs. She said there are no formalized programs for creating a global perspective in the graduate curriculum, or for establishing overseas internships or study-abroad opportunities.

 

"There are plenty of informal activities going on, but the university could do more to help in this area," she said. "One would be to implement an IP 598 class called "Creating a Global/International Perspective" that would spread across all graduate fields."

 

Other ideas Clarken presented include NMU-sponsored research programs abroad, graduate student and faculty exchanges, distance learning centers where NMU graduate programs could be offered in other countries via technology, and an English as a Second Language (ESL) program offered by the NMU English department, not an outside firm as in past years.

 

Clarken also spoke on behalf of the technology subcommittee and addressed ways that "easy and immediate" uses of technology, with existing resources, could help internationalize NMU.

 

"We would like to develop an international hub so that international students could access all relevant information with just a few clicks," she said. "The hub could have basic information about the university, QuickTime interviews with faculty, students and alumni in different languages, video journals of study-abroad experiences and other elements. Some of this is already available online it's just a matter of organizing and presenting it in a more effective way."

 

Liz Oesleby (Academic Information Services) spent 24 years working abroad. She said Northern must increase the number of international students on campus to support its goal of internationalizing the experience for all students, not just those who are able to travel overseas. Oesleby said the numbers have declined from a high of 109 in 2000 to about 50 this year. Her subcommittee established a long-term goal of having international students comprise 5 percent of Northern's student body.

 

"We can do this by involving international alumni and faculty in recruitment efforts, and by having NMU international students accompany recruiters to other countries," she added. "We can also develop recruitment materials in foreign languages. Northern could reestablish its summer language program so that foreign students come here to improve their language skills over the summer, then transition immediately to a baccalaureate program in the fall. Increasing the number of international students is the first step. Increasing the number of international faculty is the second step."

 

John Weting (International Affairs) said semester-long study abroad opportunities have increased, but the long-term goal is for NMU to create its own sites overseas, rather than work through consortiums. "These would be NMU-owned buildings with an administrator and core group of faculty offering courses specifically for NMU credit."

 

In the short term, Wetting said Northern should work to increase study-abroad scholarship funds because it costs an estimated $10,000 to $12,000 for a semester overseas. There is only one scholarship currently designated for that purpose.

 

For students who can't commit an entire semester, another ITF subcommittee is working on redesigning short-course, faculty-led study abroad opportunities. Richard Eathorne (Geography) said the first step was creating a new image, which is reflected in the formal name of Concentrated Learning Experiences Abroad. He said the subcommittee is working on administrative and academic issues associated with CLEA programs.

 

The ITF, comprised of 30 members from various disciplines, meets about once a month. The nine subcommittees meet biweekly.

 

 

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Updated: October 26, 2005

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