The International Dimension of Excellence

Increase IU’s engagement internationally through globally aware education, enlarged study abroad activity, alumni activity, and expanded strategic partnerships with leading institutions of higher learning throughout the world, and continue IU’s historical commitment to institution-building around the globe.

Engaging the World

The New York Times recently published a much-discussed article called “The Great Unraveling.” It drew stark attention to what seems to be the widespread breakdown between and within states in the period of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This period has been characterized by political and economic disorder, and by the rise of new economic and political powers, regionalism, religious fundamentalism, terrorism, and the growing threat of pandemics. In response to these grave and seemingly insoluble threats, some urge withdrawal from the world and a return to a form of pre-World War II isolationism.

Indiana University believes that nothing could be more mistaken. This is not the time to withdraw from the world. Rather, it is the time to expand and deepen our engagement with the world, based on the best expertise and scholarship available, and the best understanding of all parts of the world. Indiana University believes that now more than ever, one of the most vital components of an IU student’s education is its international dimension. This is mandated as part of general education curricula in various basic and more advanced forms on all IU campuses. While an immersive study abroad experience—an area in which IU has been a leader for many decades—is ideal, shorter stays, interaction with students and faculty from other countries, global aspects of the curriculum, and extracurricular cultural activities all have an important part to play.

Indiana University has been engaged with the world for over a century, since at least the time of its seventh president, David Starr Jordan. This engagement grew under his successors, but it was under the university’s eleventh president, Herman B Wells, that IU became for the first time a truly international university. Wells’ presidency coincided with World War II, and under his leadership IU played an important role in addressing national needs by developing programs that provided instruction in languages rarely taught in the United States. In partnership with the U.S. military, the American Council of Learned Societies, and other organizations, Indiana University became a national center for instruction in Central Asian, Slavic, and Turkic languages. Wells recognized that a principal benefit of both initiatives—more international students and scholars, a wider range of teaching in foreign languages—was to bring the world to Indiana students.

International and area studies grew steadily at IU after World War II. In time, the university’s academic strengths in area and regional studies, and in international studies more broadly, became widely acknowledged as among the strongest in the country. No other university teaches more foreign languages, and IU has always ranked among the national leaders in externally funded area studies programs. The university’s first International Strategic Plan was approved by the IU Trustees in 2008. This plan and subsequent refinements have been enormously successful. Among its key priorities are an increase in the number of IU students studying abroad, a selective and diverse increase in international students at IU, the development of partnerships with top-ranked foreign institutions of higher education and research, and a focus on pursuing all of these goals in the context of 32 carefully selected priority countries.

In 2012, in a momentous step forward, all of these academic programs were brought together into a new School of Global and International Studies (SGIS). The establishment of the SGIS is one of the most important developments in the nearly 200 years of IU’s history. The SGIS will be a pivotal focus for IU’s international studies programs and IU’s broader international engagement strategy.

The Student Experience

Kelley School of Business students studying abroad in Guatemala

IU has seen an increase of 35% in IU students studying abroad between AY2007 and AY2012. Bloomington in particular has seen a nearly 40% increase over this period, with 2,328 students in AY2012 studying abroad; according to the annual Open Doors Report of the Institute for International Education (IIE), this ranks Bloomington exceptionally highly among over 1,000 campuses for which the institute collects data. In addition, 1,724 of the 7,283 in the graduating class of AY2012 studied abroad. At nearly one-quarter of the graduating class for that year, this is a remarkable accomplishment for one of the country’s largest public university campuses. IU’s study abroad programs are highly regarded for their quality and their attention to student welfare.

IU has also seen a major increase in international students at IU, with a record 8,669 from over 100 countries on all campuses for AY2015, representing a 57% increase over AY2008. This number included 6,294 in Bloomington for an increase of 56% since AY2008, and 1,921 at Indianapolis for an even larger increase of 67%. The Bloomington figure ranks it as 13th nationally out of the over 1,000 campuses ranked by the IIE. For more than a decade, the rate of increase of the IU international student population growth has exceeded the national average. Similar to its national recognition for excellence in study abroad, IU is recognized for the quality of service and support that it provides to international students and scholars.

Partnerships and Gateways

Partnership agreements with foreign institutions of higher education are fundamental to study abroad programs, the recruitment of international students, and international collaboration in research and scholarship. Over many years of global engagement, IU had amassed a large number of international partnership agreements, but in an ad hoc and unplanned way. The 2008 International Strategic Plan led to a much more strategic approach to international partnership agreements. First, an exhaustive data analysis process was carried out to identify priority countries for the development of such partnerships. A total of 32 were identified and are regularly reviewed. Then, a comprehensive review was carried out of all partnership agreements, giving priority to those in the 32 countries, those that were active or could be revitalized, and those that were with institutions of a comparable quality or of special interest to IU. The number of partnership agreements has now been reduced, and all current agreements are for limited but renewable terms. New agreements are added only after a rigorous process of evaluation by the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs (OVPIA).

Many of the 32 priority countries have sizable numbers of alumni who had received limited systematic attention from IU. This has also changed in recent years. Both the IU Foundation and IU Alumni Association have appointed senior staff members focused exclusively on international development and alumni relations. The International Strategic Plan advocated establishing at least one IUAA chapter in each of the 32 countries; since 2008, the number had almost doubled, and 31 of the 32 countries now have chapters. Further, President McRobbie intends personally to visit all 32 of these countries in support of IU’s international goals to meet with alumni, IU’s partner institutions, and government and business officials. Many of these countries have not had an IU president visit for over 50 years, and some, never. So far, he has visited 25 of the 32.

President McRobbie and University of Ghana Pro-Vice Chancellor Osam trade stories as they discuss expanded cooperation.

Indiana University’s international engagement and increasing global presence also has great importance for the state of Indiana. Firms, whether long-established or new start-ups arising from IU research faculty innovations and investments, exist in a highly competitive global marketplace. Indiana’s workforce, whether in the commercial, nonprofit, or public sector, in manufacturing, education, health care, or the creative sector, needs individuals with global cultural understanding and experience, and the ability to work productively with people from different cultures and traditions.

With the founding of the SGIS and the progress on the International Strategic Plan, IU is now taking the next step in its international engagement—the establishment of IU facilities around the globe. These facilities, called Global Gateway Offices, will serve as bases for IU activities in the countries in which they are established and in the broader regions. They will support academic and scholarly research and teaching, conferences and workshops, study abroad programs, distance learning initiatives, student recruitment activities, executive and corporate training, alumni and development events, and many other activities. These offices will give IU faculty and students greater access to opportunities in the countries and regions in which they are based, and will allow our local students, alumni, and university partners to connect directly with IU. Support for these offices is broadly based, with significant contributions coming from campuses, schools, the IU Foundation, UITS, and our international alumni.

Two Global Gateway Offices have already been established in Beijing and New Delhi, and more are planned in the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, Africa, and possibly Southeast Asia. When all are established, they will comprise the IU Global Gateway Network and establish IU as a truly global university.