A Campus Culture of Internationalization: Michigan State University

Michigan State University is a globally minded campus and has been for a long time. The college's leadership recruit academics, students, and researchers from around the world - a practice that began over forty years ago and grown stronger over the decades. As a result of this commitment, the campus has deeply integrated international perspectives into their teacher preparation program. These perspectives manifest themselves in many ways – student experiences, faculty culture, and a global track for education majors.  The college's  Office of International Studies in Education website highlights these initiatives.

Student Experiences

Michigan State’s graduate programs require that doctoral and master’s level students go abroad to conduct research as a part of their educational experience. This stated goal of this requirement is to allow students to observe and understand other cultures in order to better understand their own. Faculty find that the experience elevates the dialogue and expectation among the entire college as those students return to their programs and share their experiences and integrate their learning into their teaching within the college.

Michigan State also has a strong commitment to sending pre-service teachers abroad, and looks for ways to engage their students in conversations about international applications for their study and research.  Students go abroad most frequently for five weeks between junior and senior year. Having this experience prior to the higher level methods courses and prior to the student teaching experience affords students the opportunity to share and act upon their observations of alternative methods and differentiation in pedagocial approaches, based upon their time in classrooms outside the United States.

All students participating in the global track are required to study abroad. During their five week program, students observe and co-teach in schools in their host countries with the support of an assigned mentor teacher, and live with home stay families.  Particpants receive six credits for the experience, including the opportunity to unpack their experience in a post-experience course when they return.

The faculty and leadership at Michigan State report that teachers who return from experiences abroad exhibit an increased level of comfort in the classroom - they are more capable and more competent in classroom managment techniques than their peers who stay stateside during their teacher education programs.

Faculty Culture

Michigan State faculty routinely integrate international perspectives into their courses and research - it is part of the culture within the college of education. The faculty considers global vision as an essential component in its hiring, promotion, and tenure consideration. The unversity has also used the creation of their global track student cohort to actively encourage faculty to internationalize their coursework, thus professors have adapted all core courses at Michigan State to reflect international understanding. Participation in the department global efforts is counted equally as legitimate service toward promotion and tenure.  Faculty activities include research, committee participation, and leading student trips abroad. At this point, the college is looking to build centralized support to allow faculty to lead trips abroad without having to manage the logistical support.  There is also some consideration toward rebalancing load assignments to allow faculty to engage more deeply in study abroad leadership and related comparative work.  

The Global Educators Cohort Program

Michigan State University started the Global Educators Cohort Program (GECP) as a specialization program with an international focus for pre-service teachers.  According to GECP Director Margo Glew, the program "is a specialized teacher preparation program focused on global and international perspectives." Open to all majors, the goal of the program is, "To meet the challenge of preparing future educators for personal and professional success in the global context of the 21st Century....  GECP graduates are prepared to bring the world to their students and educate for global citizenship in both elementary and secondary settings in all subject areas."

Every course, including foundations and methods courses, are globalized. Leadership in the college place students in "culturally rich" field placements. Students also travel and study abroad.  For example, participants have taken a study trip to three areas of China where they visit classrooms and teach a model class.

The faculty find that GECP students are highly experienced and recognize the need to provide global context in their education and in their classroom.  The college also sees applicants to the global strad growing more diverse.

Michigan State carefully crafted the program to allow early internationalization experiences for the cohort first. This method increased faculty buy-in as professors had to align coursework with student expectations. The experience of re-crafting a course syllabus to offer extended global perspectives has been an exercise in integration and capacity building in faculty and doctoral students.

 

Michigan State University is not satisfied with building a rich global experience within their program. Their current goal is to build global students:

There is an assumption is that if we build global teachers they will make global classrooms. This isn’t always the case. Students need help translating this to pedagogical practice.

The College of Education actively works to do just that - through creating a faculty culture supportive of international efforts and allowing those efforts to trickle down to the student level.

Questions to consider

  1. What kinds of possiblities to cohort programs such as these offer?  What challenges?
  2. Would your campus consider a program like this one?
  3. How can faculty be incentivized to internationalize core courses?
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