Leaders Matter: An Internationalized Plan at the Miami University of Ohio’s School of Education, Health and Society

Carine Feyten, Dean of the School of Education Health and Society (EHS) at Miami University of Ohio advises those interested in internationalizing a teacher education program to focus on three main areas:

  1. Capitalize on existing experiences of both students and faculty;
  2. Stay on top of the curriculum – broaden and deepen it and make it truly relevant and meaningful; and
  3. Ensure that internationalizing does not occur in isolation, but rather is an everyday event.

In Feyten’s words, “It takes a lot of effort to get any initiative as complex as this going. And once it has begun, even if it isn’t the most successful program, you have to keep working at it. If it does not remain a priority, it will fall by the wayside.”  Dean Feyten has learned from experience and the result is a robust program that produces graduates who cultivate their own global perspective through dialogue, personal experience and learning during their time at Miami University.

 

Aligning With the Strategic Plan

Any program hoping to accomplish the goal of making internationalization an everyday priority must ensure that their activities are reflected in the overall strategic planning for the institution. At Miami, the campus internationalization plan requires that, in addition to the specialized courses within every major, all Miami students complete the Global Miami Plan for Liberal Education. More than job training for a specific career, the Global Miami Plan includes courses that help students develop twenty-first century thinking skills such as mental agility, problem-solving skills and the ability to adapt to a changing world. The plan also offers a global emphasis for every student. All courses within the plan have gone through an approval process to validate the integration of a global perspective. As a result, many courses in different colleges (e.g., statistics, biology, environmental science, etc.) have a global emphasis. Students are also required to complete a capstone experience for a minimum of three credits during their final year of study that allows for deeper synthesis of global experiences, such as the opportunity to apply skills learned during study abroad.

How does an intensive program like this happen? In the case of Miami, a committed provost integrated the concept as a value for the campus and aligned it with overall university priorities. At that time, several deans were already on board; others have become more committed. Currently, the business school exemplifies this approach by requiring that students study abroad in China. In fact, 47% of the entire student population goes abroad at some point during their academic experience at Miami University.

For the School of Education, Health and Society, the challenge is figuring out the most applicable courses and how best to provide meaningful student experiences. At Miami University, EHS has emphasized providing student experiences within the existing structure and accessing the 40 active study-abroad and exchange programs that exist on campus.  By doing so, EHS has strategically increased both study abroad and student teaching abroad opportunities. Student teaching opportunities occur through specific MOUs and partnerships in China, Belize, Australia, and Luxemburg. The majority of students are placed in national schools, not international schools, to truly provide them with a cross-cultural experience.  

EHS has also focused on providing opportunities to go abroad earlier in the teacher candidate program, rather than waiting for student teaching. Dean Feyten notes, “If you wait, you lose the chance to influence perspectives.” Still some students plan their schedule so they can participate  in both – they first study abroad and then go back overseas to student teach later on in their education. 

All of these programs require financial support. The international student teaching experience costs about the same as tuition on the home campus, which allows more students to take part in these experiences.  Some scholarships are also available to offset travel expenses.  EHS has created specific gift accounts, endowed scholarships, and conducted fundraising to support these robust programs. The University has also made it possible for students to use their financial aid to go abroad.

The Result

Feyten goes on to describe the personal and programmatic impact:

Some students become very issue-driven after going abroad. Teaching abroad has a huge impact for our students – they talk about their experiences and help recruit the next cohort – their mindset is totally changed when they get back. The biggest lesson for these teachers- in- training is they learn there isn’t just one approach to teaching. They develop innovative ideas on how to continue their work, how they look at education, and how they value different perspectives. Students recognize that 'our' way isn’t the only way. Teaching abroad prepares teacher candidates to teach in diverse classrooms.

Professors and Room for Opportunity

Promoting faculty with a global mindset is not an explicit requirement at Miami University, however, a clear commitment and demonstrated active involvement to support internationalization are valued. Within the EHS, the dean supports global engagement as a major strategic priority. Within her school, a criterion for faculty merit raises includes commitment to the campus-wide strategy for global initiatives. 

Likewise, international interest and global competency is mentioned in every position description when recruiting new faculty and staff. Every job description opens with:  "The mission of the school of Education, Health and Society at Miami University is to prepare transformative leaders.  Through excellence in teaching, scholarship, and community partnerships, the school provides dynamic and innovative programs that encourage international perspectives."  Depending on the position, it is more explicit. It is also frequently listed in preferred qualifications for new hires.  Faculty have the opportunity to work at the Luxembourg campus and are provided with incentives such as additional salary and family support in order to encourage participation. The dean also promotes second language learning for students and faculty and has purchased a number of seats for an online language learning program to allow for a large number of teachers and students to build their language skills.

Dean Feyten also created an award program to honor faculty who conduct international research. As she sees, it,

Global is critical and must be a part of a plan, but the faculty must also be convinced both on a knowledge and emotional level. Leadership has to go the extra mile to include global perspectives, provide student experiences and ensure it is in the curriculum.

To build consensus for internationalization, including global as an area of research, can be an effective catalyst. When faculty have been in place a long time, it is often hard to move the dial – it is just one more thing. Getting the flywheel going sometimes is often the hardest thing. But like a flywheel, once you’ve got it going, it builds momentum and cohesiveness.

Clearly, the flywheel is going at Miami University and as a result, students participate in a curriculum rich with international context, engaged faculty, and opportunities to teach and learn abroad.

Questions for consideration

  1. How can study abraod and student teaching abroad be incorporated into teacher education curriculum?  How can students be encouraged to participate in these programs?
  2. How does your college incorporate larger campus-wide internationalization efforts?
  3. How can faculty be incentivized to pursue globally focused research agendas in incorporate international perspectives into their courses?

 

Faculty and Campus Strategies: