Internationalization Efforts: Serving Students and Society
In recent years, internationalization has emerged as one of the University of Denver’s top priorities. As understanding advances in most fields of study, students need firsthand access to knowledge produced throughout the world. To educate future generations effectively, to generate new knowledge and to contribute to the betterment of humankind, the University realizes it must emphasize internationalization.
According to Provost Gregg Kvistad, employers are increasingly looking for people able to function well in diverse, multicultural and international environments. For some, that means acquiring language skills, while for others, it means learning to live and work in situations dramatically different from the familiar home environment. To prepare students for the world beyond DU, the University introduces them to a variety of different cultures. “The best university is the one that mirrors the world it is a part of, and not one that strives to keep the world outside of its walls,” Kvistad said.
With that in mind, the Office of Internationalization has begun focusing its study abroad and international service learning programs to ensure that students are academically immersed in the countries where they study. It has also worked to help academic departments integrate that study into their majors wherever possible, said Eric Gould, vice provost of internationalization.
The service learning projects, in particular, allow students to plunge into a culture, becoming acquainted with its challenges as well as its amenities. These programs—which take students to India, Ecuador, El Salvador and South Africa, among others—marry classroom learning at DU with volunteer projects in international settings. Some of these volunteer efforts are led by DU faculty, who collaborate with nongovernmental organizations to structure opportunities that provide meaningful learning experiences.
Gould has begun work to reshape the Cherrington Global Scholars program to include service learning opportunities that span a quarter or semester. Another goal is to enlist DU’s international students in the preparation of students embarking on Cherrington experiences. Gould also seeks to have study abroad veterans help new international students connect with the DU community.
By enhancing academic immersion in the study abroad and service learning programs, Gould expects DU to continue its leadership role in internationalization efforts. “We already have a large and effective study abroad program, and we are actively pursuing agreements with other universities. But by adding stronger academic, assessment and cultural elements to study abroad, we will deepen that memorable transformation that occurs for students studying abroad,” he said.
Still another component of the University’s internationalization efforts focuses on enhancing language instruction and pedagogy.
To help students and faculty across the disciplines gain greater language proficiency, the University laid groundwork in 2008–2009 to open a new language center by 2010. As the final piece of a years-long initiative to intensify DU’s academic experience, the language center will serve as a resource for undergraduate and graduate students who need training in a wide array of languages—everything from Arabic and Chinese to Urdu and Farsi. Eventually, the center will launch a summer intensive program to buoy language skills for students preparing for a fall study abroad experience.
The center has been designed with two primary goals in mind, said Anne McCall, dean of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences. First, it will help all departments and students across campus gain cultural awareness and greater knowledge about the world around them. Second, it will help DU achieve its goal of having more undergraduate students study abroad in the target language.
“We want our students to eagerly embrace the idea of going to countries that, a few years ago, they wouldn’t have considered,” McCall explained. “To do that, they must have more access to language training. It speaks to our priority for internationalization and top-quality teaching, by working across the boundaries of schools and colleges on campus. It’s giving physical space, substance, curricular reality and resources to our goal of internationalization.”
The language center also will serve graduate students who need to access materials in other languages or who hope to incorporate international opportunities into their studies.
DU’s strength in language instruction was boosted by the addition of a full-time Arabic languages instructor, who assumes her DU post in fall 2009. According to McCall, Arabic enrollment has risen 126 percent nationwide in the past five years, making it difficult for universities to compete for qualified instructors. “To get somebody who is a native speaker with great university credentials and teaching experience is the hat trick, really,” she said.
The University’s concern with internationalization and international issues extends far beyond classroom instruction into the realm of public education. In 2008–2009, DU’s celebrated Strategic Issues Program (SIP), which assembles panels to explore critical questions facing Colorado, focused on immigration policy. Appointed by Chancellor Robert Coombe, the immigration panel comprised 20 accomplished citizens from various segments of the community.
More than 30 people—including union leaders, corporate CEOs, the current and two former governors, academics, advocates, the Denver mayor and federal government officials—presented evidence and opinion to the panel from January to May. After the final speaker, the panel convened to discuss the issues around immigration, which ranged from the hidden tax undocumented workers place on our economy to the guest worker program, smart cards, biometrics and the implications for education.
Complex though this topic may be, it represents standard fare for the Strategic Issues Program, created in 2004 when people concerned about the Colorado economy approached DU about providing a mechanism to examine pressing issues. Since then, DU has developed a number of nonpartisan panels dealing with everything from water issues to the future of Colorado’s constitution. Once panel members investigate the topic fully, they conduct their own dialogue about the subject and issue a consensus-based report that is distributed to public officials, business and community leaders, the general public and the media. The immigration panel report will be released in late 2009.
“As far as I’m aware, it is a unique model, nationally, for looking at public policy questions in a careful and unbiased way,” said Jim Griesemer, professor, dean emeritus of the Daniels College of Business and chair of the SIP.
Shedding light on important international issues also is important to the University’s academic units. For example, Claude d’Estree, director of DU’s Center on Rights Development and chair of the Task Force on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, seeks to boost our understanding of human trafficking, a $9 billion global problem considered second only to the illicit drug trade in terms of its toll and impact. Experts estimate that between 23 and 27 million people worldwide are forced to live as slaves— ranging from orange pickers in Florida to sex slaves in Southeast Asia.
While many groups and individuals work to rescue and rehabilitate the victims of the trade, few conduct research or collect data on the topic, making it difficult for policy makers to address the problem effectively. D’Estree aims to remedy that by filling the knowledge gap.
In August 2008, d’Estree started a human trafficking clinic that operates throughout the year. Before beginning work in the clinic, students completed a course on human trafficking at the Josef Korbel School. Students were then matched with a private-sector, international or nongovernmental organization, often venturing overseas to assist the group with its work. Upon their return to DU, students prepared monographs based on information collected during their experience. Working jointly with the participating organizations, the human trafficking clinic will publish these materials in the coming months.
One of only two such programs in the country, the clinic is breaking new ground in an emerging field. “The human trafficking clinic, through the Korbel School, is internationally known, and many countries are very interested in what we’re doing,” d’Estree said. “We’re training the first generation of policy makers and people who are going to be working in the field, solving the problems of trafficking. We are on the cutting edge of doing some work to begin alleviating the trouble.”