Tradition, Culture, and Leadership: A Legacy of Internationalization at Indiana University

Indiana University (IU) has a long history of embracing internationalization in its School of Education.  When W. W. Wright became the second dean of the college in 1946, he expressed a clear commitment to global engagement that is even more apparent today under the leadership of Dean Gerardo Gonzalez. “Globally competent pedagogy and preparing globally competent teachers through research, theory, and best practices is integral to our mission,” notes Gonzalez.  “It is the fabric of our program.”   

Campus Wide Foundation of Support

As an institution, IU is dedicated to internationalization.  The University’s core curriculum includes a six-credit hour world languages and cultures requirement, which may be fulfilled by taking courses in world cultures or languages or through an international experience – such as study abroad – for at least six weeks.  As a required element of a students’ overall course load, the requirement shows that the institution is committed to ensuring all of their graduates – including education students – have been exposed to different global perspectives and creates a campus culture where diversity in international perspectives is embraced. 

The campus leadership is proactive in fostering global connections and supportive of efforts to internationalize the courses and programs on campus.  The Office of the Vice President for International Affairs (OVPIA) provides leadership and advocacy for international projects and activities for all departments, ensuring their growth and sustainability on campus.  OVPIA provides a variety of different avenues for students and faculty to pursue international efforts, highlighted in the campus publication IU International.

Internationalization as a Funding Priority

The School of Education uses the foundation of the University’s commitment to internationalization and has expanded upon it.  In order to internalize and own that commitment, Gonzalez launched a $100,000 Global and International Initiatives Fund in 2007.  The fund supported international education grants to faculty to support undergraduate course revisions for courses to encourage greater awareness of global issues.  It provided international networking and collaboration grants to support internationalization of research.  The fund also provided graduate assistantships in the Center for Social Studies and International Education (CSSIE).  The grants resulted in school wide curricular changes that incorporated broader global perspectives.  More importantly, this initiative sent a message – by making these efforts visible and attaching rewards to performance– it emphasized leader commitment to making that global perspectives a priority in the School of Education.  Gonzalez notes, "The funds provided as a part of this internal grants program have been fully expended, but additions or changes made to curriculum as a result of this program are still on place and still evolving."

The dean notes that he is often asked how he was able to fund this opportunity, especially with so many competing priorities.  He explains that he creates donor interest by articulating the School’s priorities and by developing high quality programs.  “All deans are expected to fundraise,” Gonzalez commented, “I try to align my philosophy and School priorities with donor intentions.  My philosophy centers heavily on internationalization.”  Gonzalez has also built a strong alumni network – in the U.S. and abroad – centered on the same strategy.

When considering funding priorities, he has three major considerations for each opportunity: 

  1. Does it contribute to overall program quality?
  2. Will it address student interests and priorities?
  3. Will it create new opportunities in teaching and learning, as well as the program mission in general?

Opportunities and programs centered on internationalization continually fulfill all three, and consequently are logical efforts in which to invest funds. 

The School of Education also has an International Committee – made up of faculty members, students, and staff – whose role is to support international efforts in the School by:

[I]nitiating and developing policy recommendations concerning international issues; helping to develop curricula and programs with international emphases; gathering and disseminating information pertinent to international scholarship and cooperation; serving as liaison with university-wide international committees and offices; supporting international students, educators, visiting scholars, alumni, guests and friends; and engaging in other activities pertinent to the international character of the School.

Through the clear articulation of priorities and creation of a support structure in the committee, IU’s School of Education has created a culture where internationalization is both encouraged and supported.  This culture is also an integral part of the School’s programs.

Cultural Immersion Projects

The award winning Cultural Immersion Projects, directed by Laura Stachowski, is a flagship program that supports the School of Education’s internationalization efforts.  The program started in 1972, and today includes three different opportunities for students – student teaching experiences on the Navajo Nation in the Southwest, in Chicago city schools and neighborhoods, and abroad through the Overseas Project.  All three Cultural Projects offer professional experiences in school and community contexts that are quite different from what is typically found in conventional student teaching placements at IU,  and the overseas options offers that experience abroad.

As an institution, IU is dedicated to internationalization.  The University’s core curriculum includes a six-credit hour world languages and cultures requirement, which may be fulfilled by taking courses in world cultures or languages or through an international experience – such as study abroad – for at least six weeks.  As a required element of a students’ overall course load, the requirement shows that the institution is committed to ensuring all of their graduates – including education students – have been exposed to different global perspectives and creates a campus culture where diversity in international perspectives is embraced. 

The campus leadership is proactive in fostering global connections and supportive of efforts to internationalize the courses and programs on campus.  The Office of the Vice President for International Affairs (OVPIA) provides leadership and advocacy for international projects and activities for all departments, ensuring their growth and sustainability on campus.  OVPIA provides a variety of different avenues for students and faculty to pursue international efforts, highlighted in the campus publication IU International.

Internationalization as a Funding Priority

The School of Education uses the foundation of the University’s commitment to internationalization and has expanded upon it.  In order to internalize and own that commitment, Gonzalez launched a $100,000 Global and International Initiatives Fund in 2007.  The fund supported international education grants to faculty to support undergraduate course revisions for courses to encourage greater awareness of global issues.  It provided international networking and collaboration grants to support internationalization of research.  The fund also provided graduate assistantships in the Center for Social Studies and International Education (CSSIE).  The grants resulted in school wide curricular changes that incorporated broader global perspectives.  More importantly, this initiative sent a message – by making these efforts visible and attaching rewards to performance– it emphasized leader commitment to making that global perspectives a priority in the School of Education.  Gonzalez notes, "The funds provided as a part of this internal grants program have been fully expended, but additions or changes made to curriculum as a result of this program are still on place and still evolving."

The dean notes that he is often asked how he was able to fund this opportunity, especially with so many competing priorities.  He explains that he creates donor interest by articulating the School’s priorities and by developing high quality programs.  “All deans are expected to fundraise,” Gonzalez commented, “I try to align my philosophy and School priorities with donor intentions.  My philosophy centers heavily on internationalization.”  Gonzalez has also built a strong alumni network – in the U.S. and abroad – centered on the same strategy.

When considering funding priorities, he has three major considerations for each opportunity: 

  1. Does it contribute to overall program quality?
  2. Will it address student interests and priorities?
  3. Will it create new opportunities in teaching and learning, as well as the program mission in general?

Opportunities and programs centered on internationalization continually fulfill all three, and consequently are logical efforts in which to invest funds. 

The School of Education also has an International Committee – made up of faculty members, students, and staff – whose role is to support international efforts in the School by:

[I]nitiating and developing policy recommendations concerning international issues; helping to develop curricula and programs with international emphases; gathering and disseminating information pertinent to international scholarship and cooperation; serving as liaison with university-wide international committees and offices; supporting international students, educators, visiting scholars, alumni, guests and friends; and engaging in other activities pertinent to the international character of the School.

Through the clear articulation of priorities and creation of a support structure in the committee, IU’s School of Education has created a culture where internationalization is both encouraged and supported.  This culture is also an integral part of the School’s programs.

Cultural Immersion Projects

The award winning Cultural Immersion Projects, directed by Laura Stachowski, is a flagship program that supports the School of Education’s internationalization efforts.  The program started in 1972, and today includes three different opportunities for students – student teaching experiences on the Navajo Nation in the Southwest, in Chicago city schools and neighborhoods, and abroad through the Overseas Project.  All three Cultural Projects offer professional experiences in school and community contexts that are quite different from what is typically found in conventional student teaching placements at IU,  and the overseas options offers that experience abroad.

The Overseas Project provides eight-week student teaching placements in 17 countries, including Australia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Russia, and Japan.  Greece is soon to be added as the 18th host nation offered through the Project.  To participate, students must begin the mandatory preparatory phase early in their junior year and fulfill a number of program requirements in order to student teach overseas as seniors.  They enroll in additional coursework addressing topics related to comparative education, international issues, and cultural exploration and identity.  They also attend monthly class sessions each semester and a two-day workshop in the spring. These classes facilitate the development of a deeper understanding of culture, address the nuts and bolts of international travel, and prepare students for their roles and responsibilities when they are on-site.  Participants must also successfully complete a minimum of ten-weeks of student teaching in Indiana first, in order to proceed to their overseas placements. 

In country, student teachers are placed in host nation elementary and secondary schools, and they live in their host communities – often with local families.  Local mentor teachers and school administrators supervise them.  In English-speaking countries, they teach in their own curricular areas – such as general elementary education, secondary math, or art.  Student teachers who choose to go to non-English-speaking countries team with the school’s English teachers to provide instruction in conversational and written English, and sometimes in additional content areas using English as the medium of instruction. 

Participants are also required to complete a community-based service learning project of their choice, unrelated to the school’s academic or extracurricular missions,  in order to connect with and learn from members of the local community.  Students have been involved in an array of service learning initiatives, including volunteering in nursing homes and charity shops, starting local youth soccer clubs, and facilitating conversation circles for adults seeking to improve their English.  Student teachers submit bi-weekly academic reports to Stachowski and her staff through which their progress is monitored, and also new professional and personal learning is described through structured essays .

The program is enormously successful.  It is now so popular that pre-service teachers on four other IU campuses and other Indiana colleges and universities seek placements through the program.  More than 4,000 pre-service teachers have been placed through the Cultural Immersion Projects since their inception.  Stachowski notes that students have told her they apply to and attend IU because of the Cultural Immersion Projects – sometimes because their parents or teachers completed the program as students and are now encouraging their children to participate.  The Overseas Project is also successful because Stachowski and her staff have maintained long-lasting, positive relationships with their network of host nation consultants, the in-country educators who secure the school placements, assist should concerns arise, and contribute to the program’s ongoing development.

Stachowski attributes the success of the program to several factors, but she notes that the required preparatory phase is key to the program’s success, as it not only prepares students for the educational and cultural context in which they will be teaching and living, but also ensures that they understand the commitment they are making to a school, host family, and community by choosing to participate in the Project.  She also cites the excellent local consultants who place her students, and the strong relationships she has maintained with them over the years.

There is no doubt that the Overseas Project is making a difference in participants’ professional lives.  Stachowski recently completed a research project where she surveyed over 150 of the program’s former participants.  In a presentation at NAFSA’s 2013 Colloquium on Internationalizing Teacher Education, she noted that participants indicated that – as a result of the program – they had developed leadership, cross-cultural communication, problem solving, interpersonal, and public speaking skills.  They also reported that they were more confident in their role as teachers once they stepped into the classroom, and that they were better able to serve the communities in which they work and students from different cultures.

Internationalization:  A Rich, Continuous Process

Providing a global perspective in teacher education programs is not a black and white, start to finish procedure.  Gonzalez states,

Internationalizing our teacher education program is an open-ended and continuous process. Our main objective is to provide students research-based pedagogical perspectives with opportunities to explore and critically consider - the educational issues of an ever changing world.

He adds that technology and social media add an additional dimension to the process, providing unique possibilities to forge new connections. “This coupled with faculty research, and outreach projects in Asia, Africa and Europe” he continues, “form a rich panorama from which our internationalization efforts continue to flourish.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Has there been an individual or initiative in your college in the past to support internationalization that could be re-vamped, re-vitalized, or re-visited?
  2. How does your fundraising strategy support internationalization?   If it does not, how could it be developed to do so?
  3. Are there existing relationships with partners overseas that could grow to develop programs that may support internationalization goals in your college of education?
  4. Can you develop strategies to engage alumni in your internationalization efforts?
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