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International Activities Focus Group Summary
1998 All-University Planning Retreat
September 18, 1998



Facilitator: Elizabeth McDaniel

General Comments

Study abroad programs are only part of the international picture. Also included are international students, faculty members, and visiting faculty; international studies programs on Grounds; scientific and medical research; initiatives and opportunities now available through the Internet; and more.
Unclear who at the University is responsible for international activities and priorities. Also unclear of all the international activities currently under way.
Why do we even want to become more international?
We are already a global society, and UVA must become more international; business, government, and communication now and in the future demand it.

Students and Faculty

International students are considered out-of-state students. The current 5 percent international students in the undergraduate class is carved out of the designated 35 percent out-of-state. Only two Jefferson Scholarships available to international students. Lack of financial aid means most are from wealthiest families, unrepresentative of larger international picture.
Students returning from study abroad feel adrift and changed by their experience. Their academic programs often take little advantage of their international experience to benefit the students who did not go abroad.
In their role as advisers, faculty can encourage students to do foreign study. First-year advising especially could help students develop long-range plans for study abroad.
Faculty who do not have international experiences themselves are less likely to support their students going abroad.
Partnerships: No central coordination of partnerships between institutions and programs abroad. Such partnerships currently are developed by individual faculty and schools for purposes of research, exchanges, and educational resource sharing.
Need to determine what factors contribute to successful student exchange programs at UVA and at other institutions.

Administrative Issues

University policies (or lack thereof) can impede or hinder international activities. For example, travel abroad can be difficult to plan; there is no one central office to provide expertise.
More faculty would undertake foreign enrichment of their teaching and research if barriers were removed and/or incentives given for doing so. Example: Internet access is not available in underdeveloped countries where environmental research is being undertaken. University does not support use of laptops; faculty must take CDs.
Visiting faculty/researchers need more support and visibility to play a role in the international community of the University. Broader communication among departments would be a first step. Everything from residences to office space to more flexible appointment policies would make it easier to invite, host, and take educational advantage of their presence. As further illustration of the problem, there is no consistent designation for students/researchers who are here for short periods (i.e., six weeks). Each program has to make up a designation.
University is not aggressive in hiring international faculty.

Recommended Components for Expanding International Activities of the University

Inventory of all international activities available on web for everyone to access. Such infrastructure support would facilitate communication, demonstrate the value of collaboration and cooperation across units for international activities, and take better advantage of existing and visiting expertise.
Funding to make the efforts of individual faculty and departments easier.
Communication across programs, departments, and schools about activities.
Clear articulation of new initiatives, especially Qatar campus.
An entrepreneurial spirit to engage in activities, to be passionate about purposes and possibilities, and to seek funding.
Building strategic plan for structural framework. For example, should the University focus on particular regions of the world with "beachheads" or have interests in all parts of the world? Also, should international activities become more centralized in terms of physical space, staff, and funding, or should emphasis be on leadership in coordination and funding to facilitate what goes on in the schools?
English language support programs of adequate size, scope, and quality for international students and faculty who come to Charlottesville.
More support and hospitality for visitors from other countries.
Thinking about UVA as the number one public institution puts up unnecessary constraints in building international perspective.
Drawing upon alumni who live and work abroad for their support of students and programs.

 

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