Ideas to globalize Kent State ready next week

Carrie Blazina

The university’s efforts to globalize its students, curricula and programs are culminating in a final set of recommendations made by the Globalization Task Force at the end of the Spring 2012 semester.

“We are confident that this report will be accurate and try to reflect the strategic plan of the president … as well as document the successes of the Office of Global Education as they work to recruit and retain international students,” said Mark James, chair of the task force and professor for the college of public health.

The group formed four subcommittees — participation in study abroad, recruitment and retention of international students, globalizing the curriculum and international research. Each subcommittee wrote a section of what will be the final report that includes four to six specific recommendations within their area, and the final report will also include over-arching themes. 

The task force was originally set up under former Provost Robert Frank, and new Provost Todd Diacon is continuing to monitor its efforts. The group is comparing Kent State’s practices to those of other universities and seeing what changes need to be made.

Mary Ann Saunders, a member of the committee by virtue of her position as the director of the Office of Global Education, and James both said one of the general recommendations will be to identify additional sources of funding for student scholarships to study abroad. Other recommendations were to raise the already-high 93 percent retention rate of international students and make them feel welcome as well as to add more diversity courses to each program.

“The most direct change would be the identification of sources of scholarship money,” James said. “I think that’s a universal recommendation that’s going to be very important. In order for many of our students to take advantage of the opportunities abroad … we’re going to have to accommodate students who aren’t really able to afford such [programs].”

James also said the university is looking into adding residential programs in New Delhi, India and Beijing, China in addition to its programs in Florence and Geneva.

Saunders said through the group’s research she has seen an incentive program at other universities for students to earn their own scholarship money, and she said she hopes Kent State would look into implementing it.

“There could even be a matching fund program, where students get credits for doing specific things at the university — volunteering with international students, whatever it is — and then the university would provide funding for them at the end of the year based on these credits,” she said.

James said all the changes they make will be in line with the university’s mission to “brand” Kent State globally.

“The idea here is that we want to make sure that we appropriately, through our international students, brand the university so that when these students graduate and go home they can tell other friends and family about Kent State,” James said.

Saunders said she hoped the recommendations would make it so that students who study abroad would not lose time in their program, and that study abroad would be someday required of every program.

“We’ve found that in architecture and fashion, that not only means that a lot more students have the opportunity to study abroad, but it also begins to serve as a recruitment factor,” she said. “Really good students want to come to Kent for those programs — they know they’ll be studying abroad.”

James said the new provost has been receptive to the task force’s work.

“[Diacon] indicated that he was going to support successful international programs that are financially viable [and] profitable,” James said.

Financially, this may pose a bit of a challenge. Saunders and James both said the current budgeting model, Responsibility Centered Management Budgeting, can unintentionally make it hard to get certain study abroad programs off the ground because, James said, with RCM, “the income is returned back to the respective units.” In other words, RCM supports programs that fund themselves, so there needs to be a lot of cooperation from the faculty and incentives for them to create programs.

“[The provost] is encouraging faculty to take the lead and develop those types of opportunities for students,” James said.

Students could see changes as early as 2013, James and Saunders said, and James said all the group’s recommendations have an end date of 2015.

Saunders stressed the university’s desire to make students well-rounded, and she thinks the Globalization Task Force’s work will do that.

“In the end, that’s what we’re looking for is for students who are well-rounded, and well-rounded today means round like the globe,” she said.

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].