Johnson: UT has a global strategyWritten by Dan Johnson | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Everyone who knows the University of Toledo knows it has a long and distinguished history of attracting international students. There were even times when UT was seen as a leader among universities seeking to attract such students. The university continues to be popular for students looking for an American university experience.
Today, however, being recognized as a globally engaged university entails much more than attracting large numbers of international students. Global engagement means student study-abroad programs, student and faculty exchange programs with international universities, international collaborative research projects and programs, meaningful, productive partnerships with like-minded international universities and purposeful cooperation on other fronts, including business and economic development, promotion of foreign direct investment and, most importantly, advancing our understanding of other nations and cultures.
Today, all major universities must be strategically engaged internationally if they are to be competitive for the best students, research funds and opportunities for faculty and students. It is also recognized that globally connected universities are essential to regional economic development and for promoting international business. One higher education association has argued that “campus globalization may well be the most important strategic issue in American higher education.”
Career paths for today’s university graduates are increasingly international. A growing number of student internships and co-ops are based in foreign countries to better prepare them for the global marketplace and workforce. (A personal example is my grandson, who begins his engineering internship in Japan this week.)
Faculty research, now more than ever, spans national boundaries. Sources of research funding are increasingly multinational.
For the past decade or longer, UT has had an array of international activities led largely by individual faculty members with ties to various nations and international universities, but there was no particular university strategy for international affairs — only individual faculty members pursuing their professional interests in foreign countries and the university welcoming international students.
UT has now added “global engagement” to its strategic plan.
Titled “Global Directions 2012,” the plan outlines the importance of the university becoming proactive in developing these strategic linkages, partnerships and programs worldwide. The initial focus will be on universities in China, India and the Middle East. As these partnerships mature, additional partnerships may be added in places such as South Africa, Brazil and possibly others. For the moment, however, UT’s focus will be “narrower and deeper” partnerships that produce measurable outcomes and regional benefits.
To help ensure the successful implementation of this strategic plan, the university is establishing the President’s Commission on Global Initiatives. This commission, comprised of representatives from across the university together with community representatives, will study global opportunities, assess costs and benefits and recommend programs and projects to help make UT a globally recognized university and attract increased international attention to Toledo and Northwest Ohio.
Globalization of a university is a long-term venture; years of intense work by faculty, deans and senior administrators will be required to reap the enhanced benefits of global engagement for our students, faculty and community.
For UT, these efforts will focus on building productive, sustainable partnerships with strategically selected international universities. It is our expectation that these partnerships will provide mutual benefits to both partners and elevate the visibility and reputation of UT as well as our City of Toledo.
For these high expectations to become reality, UT’s global strategy must be aligned with the strategies of others in our city and region engaged in international relationship-building. This includes such offices as the mayor’s and organizations such as the Regional Growth Partnership. We have made an excellent start, but we will also need to continue to broaden and strengthen our efforts to ensure we are working in concert and collaboratively.
Working together, pursuing common international objectives and maintaining aligned strategies will produce positive educational outcomes for our students and economic benefits for our city, region and state.
Dan Johnson is director of global initiatives, president emeritus and distinguished university professor of public policy and economic development at the University of Toledo. Email him at email@example.com.