Higher Education at the Vanguard of a New International Era

Institute of International Education
IIE Best Practices Conference
809 United Nations Plaza
New York, New York
March 22, 2013


Thank you very much, Allan [Goodman], for that extremely generous and very kind introduction.

I think people know that Indiana University is a basketball school. President Obama has helped to make that very clear by predicting that IU will win the NCAA Tournament, for which we are very grateful.

I had cause to send our coach a text, as we play today in what will, hopefully, be the first of many games over the next couple of weeks. I told him I was sorry I couldn’t be there because I was in New York giving a speech on international engagement. He responded that I certainly had my priorities right.

I really appreciate the invitation to speak to IIE. I have really admired what the Institute has done over the years. I first heard Allan speak in Qatar about five years ago, and he spoke most eloquently and impressively about the activities and programs of the Institute, and I was very honored when he asked me to speak to you. I have a prepared speech, which I will endeavor to stick to with a certain amount of fidelity, but I will probably go off-script just a few times to extemporize on a couple of matters because I want to give you a sense of what we’ve been doing in the area of international engagement, certainly since I became president, which is now nearly six years ago, and probably 18 months or so earlier, when I became provost, when we really started to develop our international strategy.

I will discuss our international strategy and its various components first. I always try, when I’m speaking as a president, to avoid exercises in institutional triumphalism, but I’m afraid you can’t help doing a certain amount of it, by way of setting the scene. Forgive me for that, but it’s more giving you an idea of the broad strategies for international engagement for the whole university. Then, and Allan very kindly spoke about this, I’m going to talk about our academic strategies and how we are trying to connect the two in ways that a few other institutions are also endeavoring to do, but where I think there really are genuinely unique opportunities to connect the international strategy of an institution and its educational engagement with its academic programs.

Let me start by saying that I don’t think anybody denies that the major research universities all over the world are international institutions. They are today, and even a cursory examination shows that this has always been the case for the great universities. They knew no geographical boundaries but encompassed all human knowledge, and their faculty and students came from all over the world from all cultures and social backgrounds. The great medieval universities, and the great Indian universities before them, drew scholars and faculty from everywhere.

Scholarship and research in just about every discipline from anthropology to zoology is, these days, truly international—and one cannot emphasize that enough. This process as been hugely accelerated by the Internet. This scholarship and research takes place within a global research or scholarly environment where it is, in general, facts and reason that determines progress, not national origin. I am fond of saying that there really is only zoology. There is not “American zoology,” or “Chinese zoology,” and the same is true for pretty much every other discipline. People may have disagreements within those disciplines, but those disagreements are based on fundamental intellectual questions, and rarely, and only in minor ways, on national origins.

Hence, the quality of the programs and research at universities is determined by the quality of the faculty and students who contribute to them, and they can come from anywhere in the world. And fundamental to research, especially in the sciences, is collaboration, whether it is between two co-authors on opposite sides of the world (a process that has been turned upside-down by the internet, obviously), or a group of thousands from dozens of countries working with some major experimental facility, for example, the CERN particle accelerator in Geneva, which is just one of thousands of facilities where there are multi-national collaborative teams. If you ever see any of the papers that come out of CERN, there may be a thousand authors on those papers as well.

This, then, is the present context concerning international engagement in which research universities work. Of course, many of us in positions like mine seek not merely to allow this engagement to happen randomly, but to seek to provide it with structure and direction through institutional international strategies to try to maximize its benefits to the core missions of our institutions of education, research, and service. As I said, I will sketch out Indiana University’s international strategy in the first half of my talk, but I will note that this strategy is probably not all that different than the strategies used by other large research universities, and other not-so-large institutions as well.

Indiana University

But I want to give you just a little context about the university, just to give you an idea of the scale of the institution. We are a large, multi-campus public research institution—we are not a “system”—we are one university with multiple campuses. And we have top-ranked programs in a whole range of different professional areas, as shown by some results that just came out in the last week or so, in the whole gamut of health sciences, in a whole range of different areas in technology—with the exception of engineering, which is the province of our colleagues at Purdue. And we have an extensive history of research and scholarship of the highest order over the nearly 200 years of our existence, eight Nobel Prizes, and over 50 programs ranked in the top 20 of their disciplines nationally. We are one of the 62 members of the Association of American Universities.

IU is one of the largest public universities in the United States with a budget of around $3 billion, eight campuses around Indiana, and eight medical education centers, which are extensions centers of our School of Medicine—which, in turn, is the second largest in the nation. We have over 110,000 students. We employ about 6,000 faculty and 11,000 staff.

Our flagship campus is in Bloomington, with over 42,000 students; and our urban research campus in Indianapolis has over 30,000 students. The majority of our international engagement takes place on these two campuses.

Our allied health system, Indiana University Health, is the largest hospital system in Indiana with hospitals or other medical facilities in nearly every part of the state, as well as being one of the largest hospital systems in the country. It has gross patient revenues of over $7 billion and employs around 22,000 people. In fact, IU and IU Health are collectively the largest employer in the state of Indiana.

Challenges and Opportunities in a Flat, Fluid World

Indiana University’s history of engagement in international activity and scholarship goes back at least 100 years. But like many other American universities, the development and maturing of Indiana University’s international engagement came during what was the golden age of higher education. After World War II, of course, American research universities became magnets for professors and students from around the world. Most universities have an iconic figure, who provided the fundamental drive and leadership for the university during that period, and for Indiana University, that was a man called Herman B Wells, a very famous figure in higher education, probably known to some people here. He attracted world-class international faculty, developed new international alliances with other governments and institutions, established area studies programs, and expanded IU’s foreign languages curricula.

Wells’ original vision to “bring the world” to students from towns and cities in Indiana, where so many of the bright young students who came to IU had never been outside the state, and, in some cases, had really never been outside the boundaries of their particular county. I should also note that Wells travelled extensively. I have also travelled extensively as president, but as the first IU president to have travelled on the scale that Wells did, I find that the number of places I go and the last IU president to have visited was 70 years ago—and that was Herman Wells—is remarkable.

Of course, the global context in which we all operate is obviously vastly different today. The “flat, fluid world” in which we now live and work has required that we change the strategies we use to engage globally.

Given these trends—and given our fundamental missions of research and education—IU’s international strategy consists of five main components.

Let me say just a little about the background here. I started at Indiana University as vice president for information technology and professor of computer science in 1997, and then became vice president for research in 2003, and provost in 2006. I have worked internationally my whole career, in Europe, and in Asia, in particular, and played a role in the university’s very substantial engagement in high-performance networking. IU manages most of the major high-performance networking connections between the U.S. and most of the rest of the world out of our Global Network Operations center. That was the world in which I worked, so I was fully familiar with the importance of international engagement in research and education in that field. But from where I sat, I noticed that the university would announce a partnership with this university or would have a delegation going to that country. When I became provost, I began asking questions. What was our strategy? Well, we didn’t have one. In saying this, I’m not being critical of anyone, it’s just that no one had sat back and actually thought about “why should we be engaging internationally?” What was the point of doing this? And what should our priorities be if we were to do so? We all could come up with reasons, but there wasn’t a clear statement institutionally of what our goals were and why we wanted to engage internationally and what was important to us.

So, when I was provost, I asked a number of members of the faculty and our then dean of International Studies to develop an international strategy. I rapidly became, to my surprise, president, so I converted that into a program to build a university strategy. That was released soon after I became president. That strategy said there were five components of Indiana University’s international strategy.

An Education that Provides Students with Global Literacies

The first of these—and I have always stressed that this is number one for the university—is to increase the number of Indiana University students who have travelled abroad.

Here, we stated as one of the real fundamentals of our international engagement that it was essential for every Indiana University student, in the future, to have an international component to their education. We believe that no student in this day and age should graduate from a university like ours without having some fundamental education in some aspect of global literacy. This is very wide, very flexible, depending on what area you’re working in. That is now embedded in our general education curriculum for the whole university. It is fairly broad in terms of what it involves, but nevertheless, it is there and it is a fundamental part of the university and has been endorsed by our trustees. So, it will be part of what we do for a long time.

Secondly, as part of that international component of our general education curriculum, one of the ways our students can meet that is by studying abroad. There, my goal was, as much as I am delighted to have students from Indiana University go to my home country of Australia, or to England, I wanted to encourage an expansion of the number of our students who went to non-Anglophone countries around the world, where they really will be tested more by working in a non-English speaking environment.

Another part of that strategy was that, when you look at where our students who study internationally come from, they disproportionately come from wealthy backgrounds. Minority students and students from low-income backgrounds were not getting funded to travel overseas to study abroad. So, I announced, about three years ago, that we would start a new $20 million campaign to fund 400 $5,000 scholarships to aid minority and low-income students in studying abroad. The university will match contributions to this campaign 1:1, as well. So, that has started and is gathering momentum. We leave it up to the donor as to whether the donor wants to fund scholarships for study in a particular country and whether they have any restrictions about the kinds of students who are funded—students from a particular school, for example.

I am also mindful of the fact that, unfortunately, there is a certain amount of political suspicion about students from overseas in some quarters, especially in state legislatures. So, I have always made the point that our priority is to get more of our students overseas. That, I have found, at least in our state, is something that is welcomed by all legislators, all politicians, on both sides of the aisle.

We have seen a steady increase every year in the number of students who study abroad. I am delighted when the Open Doors report comes out every year. It is one of the reports I am most impatient about getting, to see how our numbers stack up against our colleagues from elsewhere in the world. At the moment, our Bloomington campus ranks 7th in the number of students studying abroad—which represents about 2,300 students out of a graduating class of about 8,000. So, around 25 percent of our graduating students had studied abroad.1 I would like to increase that figure to 50 percent. I believe we would be number one in the country if we achieve that, but that’s no mean feat for a large public university. But I think this is going to become an essential part of education and I want to ensure that we do everything we can to increase the number of out students who are studying abroad no matter what their background, no matter what their family circumstances.

International Students at Indiana University

The second part of our strategy is the recruitment and retention of outstanding international students.

There, of course, we have not had any difficulty in recruiting international students. We rank 11th in terms of the number of international students.

We see international students as helping to diversify the campus. It is another vital part of the education of our students—that they learn to work with people from other countries and other cultures on a regular basis. As I tell our graduates at every Commencement speech I give, that is what they are going to be doing for the rest of their lives. That preparation of working with colleagues from overseas as students is vital to them. And, of course, there is also the argument of “soft diplomacy”—that the kinds of contacts and the relationships that one establishes with students from overseas in the university can be enormously beneficial both to the institution and to both countries. There are innumerable cases where that has been beneficial for all involved.

There is an interesting difference between the recruitment of international students at public universities in the United States and recruitment overseas. At IU, there is no differential tuition for international students, so a student from China is no different than a student from California in terms of the fees that they pay. I think it is fair to say, without naming any institutions, that there have some fairly egregious cases elsewhere in the world of institutions that have sought to make ready profit from low-quality international students, while providing a less-than-adequate educational experience. I have said this many times when I have traveled: that is not the case in the United States. It is certainly not the case for large research institutions, because we certainly want to recruit high-quality out-of-state students, but there is no premium attached to international students monetarily. There is culturally and there is intellectually, but there is not monetarily.

We have, in total, at the university, about 8,000 international students. On our Bloomington campus, we have about 6,000, which, as I said, ranks us 11th in the country.

Global Faculty Research

The third part of our international strategy is global faculty recruitment and research.

This is an area that is pretty much self-motivated. Anyone here who is a faculty member will have probably worked internationally to a greater or lesser degree during his or her whole career. These days, it is just a fundamental, a given. And this is an area where the university, at least at the first level of approximation, should keep out of the way. Let the faculty members get on with their work. Let them get on with their collaboration.

But there are two important things we can do as institutions.

One is to provide the best possible access to Internet technologies to our faculty. This drove the involvement that Indiana University has in things like Internet2. I am actually now chairman of the board of Internet2, but we, at Indiana University have, since 1998, run the Internet2 network in the United States, that probably connects every university represented by people here, and, as I also said, we also run all the international connections that connect the Internet2 network to all of the equivalent networks in most of the major developed countries in the world, and, then, interconnects specialist networks in the United States like the Energy Sciences Network, which connects all the energy labs with the research and education networks. This is a massive undertaking. If anybody is ever interested, you can visit our Global Network Operations Center in Indianapolis. We have 100 people, nearly all of whom are funded with external funding and grants—this has become a business—who run this whole massive exercise. It provides enormously high-speed internet connectivity to faculty, to researchers, to students in the United States, and connects them to their colleagues—at that level of connectivity—all over the world.

And that’s almost taken as a given. You log in in the morning, you do your work, and you never actually think about what is going on at the “plumbing” level, as we call it, that is making all that happen, and that continues to be able to scale up to deal with the increasing complexity and sophistication of multi-institutional collaboration over that infrastructure. That was what drove our initial participation in all of these areas. I think not only do we provide a service to the faculty and researchers of our institution, but we help to support many other faculty and institutions around the country and around the world as well.

I just gave a keynote at a meeting in Hawaii to all the leaders of all the regional networks around the world, and all of them think the same way about this. What they are really doing is enabling the collaborative activities of their faculty whether they are in archeology or genomics.

The second thing simply is to do everything we can to enable our faculty to transport themselves physically, as it were, as opposed to virtually—to enable them to travel. It is still such a fundamental part of what they do. We try to remove impediments to them doing so, to reward the ones who are most able, and to encourage that kind of activity and not to deter faculty from being able to collaborate internationally and, at the same time, enable their colleagues to come and work with them.

International Institutional Engagement

Supporting all three of those areas is what I call international institutional engagement. Here, again, many institutions have not been systematic about how they have approached this. I have been struck by this—you travel the world and you find other institutions that have been wrestling with the same problem.

When I took over as president, we had over 450 MOUs and agreements of various kinds with universities all around the world. I would ask “what are the criteria we use when we sign an MOU?” “Which countries do we give priority to?” “Which institutions do we give priority to? Which institution do we say ‘no’ to?” None of that was written down. Again, I’m not being critical, it was just that we hadn’t really thought about it. But this huge enterprise had extended to a massive size. And I looked at some of these institutions that I knew were, how should I say, less than adequate. And I know it’s too easy. You go out and get wined and dined, and somebody would sign an MOU and then wake up the next morning and say “what have I done?” And I’m afraid that every institution has done a few of those in their time.

So, I promoted the dean of international studies to a vice president, creating a new vice president’s office, and then asked that office to carry out a comprehensive purge of all these agreements. I asked them to identify the ones that really were active, the ones that we wanted to become active that had become dormant, and then convert them all to a standard format, and make them all renewable every five years so we didn’t have something that had been lying around for 20 years that was of questionable quality.

So the total number was reduced to less than 200 over a couple of years.

Then I asked the question “how do we determine which other countries we should be signing MOUs with?” My time is limited. The time of the vice president in this area— David Zaret now, previously Patrick O’Meara, who many of you probably know—is limited, and there are limited resources we can put into this. So, how do we determine priority countries?

So, I had our institutional research people do an analysis—what computer scientists call a constraint analysis—and I asked them to look at where our students went to study abroad, where our international students came from, where our alumni are, where our major international donors are, and where the major institutions in the world are, and a number of other criteria—and use that to come up with what was a list of about 30 priority countries that we would give most of our attention to. Now, that group is not that surprising in terms of who popped out, but the key thing is that we have the data behind it to support those particular countries.

Then, we proceed as follows: we systematically seek to renew or continue to reinvigorate the relationships we have in those countries that are the ones we want to preserve. Because we are an AAU institution, we believe we should be establishing relationships, in general, with comparable institutions that are ranked according to some country’s equivalent of the AAU grouping within that country—or an institution that has some specialist competency in certain areas, maybe not a top university, but one that has the first-ranked school of x, y, or z.

In the countries where we didn’t have those relationships, we would seek to establish them, and that would be systematically what we would be doing institutionally.

We have a group now that gives pretty thorough scrutiny to any proposed MOU. Again, it was too easy for deans to come up with MOUs in places that didn’t meet those kinds of criteria. I personally review every one and decide whether or not we are going to sign that MOU with that institution. My career has been such that I tend to know most of the institutions that are worth establishing such MOUs with, so if I don’t know it, I want to know a lot about that institution and why we should be establishing something with them.

We have done that systematically. My goal as president is to visit every one of those 30 countries. I have now visited well over half, and hope within about three years, to have visited all of them.

That process is what we use to either renew relationships with top institutions there or to establish new ones. And it is those institutional relationships, and other relationships with government departments and entities, that provide the support for study abroad from IU to those countries and those institutions, for recruitment and exchanges between those institutions and our university, and, in many cases, they deepen and enrich faculty collaboration and faculty engagement.

Finally, I have instructed our alumni association that I want a chapter of our alumni association established in every one of those countries. We are now just three short of having a chapter in every one. Now, in about half of them, we already had chapters, and in a couple of cases, long-functioning, very active chapters—but in many of them we didn’t. So, we now have chapter in all those countries except for three, and some of them have become very active very rapidly, which is delightful. I personally try to inaugurate as many of those chapters as I can. Some of them are in countries where we have very substantial numbers of alumni. We probably have more alumni in Southeast Asia than just about any other university in the United States. We would certainly be in the top five, I would think, in terms of our alumni in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia. I was there last year and inaugurated an alumni chapter in every one of those particular countries.

So, that really is what provides the structure behind those first three areas. And, of course there are many other programs that we take advantage of, run by other organizations.

International Outreach and Service

And then finally, of course, there is international outreach and service, the broader engagement with programs that benefit the nations, but also benefit some other country or constituency. Indiana University has been heavily engaged in many countries around the world for years, but the one I always give as an example is our engagement with a program called AMPATH in Kenya, where I will be visiting later this year. It is an AIDS treatment and prevention program that has treated hundreds of thousands of Kenyans and other people in the region who have AIDS, and it has educated people in AIDS prevention. It is a marvelous program that was, at least once, nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, that aims at a holistic approach. There is such a stigma attached to AIDS in that region, that quite often, people can be cured or the disease can be brought under control with the antiretroviral drugs, but then either their family is all dead, or they are shunned and they die or starvation or malnutrition. These are terrible stories. But, one of the fundamentals of the AMPATH program is really to be able to teach people how to survive, either in new occupation or ways by which they can continue to support themselves after they leave the facility. This humanitarian program is funded by USAID and by donors from Indiana.

This program also provides an opportunity for many of our medical students, as well as students in our school of nursing and a number of our other health science-related schools, who interested in global health issues and issues of pandemics, to be able to go and work in a very serious real-life situation. We have an extremely active, vigorous relationship with the local university, which has a medical school, and we helped to establish Moi University nearby. So, that’s an example of that fifth area of international outreach and service.

So, that’s the strategy. There is probably nothing hugely surprising there, but the goal really has been to roll all this together into one coherent strategy, and then use that to drive priorities for the whole of the university—all 22 schools in the university. If it conforms to the strategy and is of merit, it will be supported and pursued; if it doesn’t, it won’t be.

International Engagement and IU's Academic Strategies

Now, let me come to the academic strategy of the institution, because I think one of the most interesting things we have done, as Allan was alluding to, is that we are now starting to weld the academic strategy of the university together with the international strategy.

The international strategy is broad. It covers the whole university, all campus, and all schools.

As for the academic strategy, I set up a committee about four years ago, just as the recession really started to bite. I think it was Rahm Emanuel who said “never let a crisis go to waste.” I wanted to really use that crisis, as it was, to really have people seriously think about the academic future of the university. The way I posed it to them was “if you were given a budget of $3 billion and told to create a university system for the state, does anybody think it would look like what we have in Indiana today?” Not a single person says “yes, it would.”

So, having made that point, whatever we did with that $3 billion would not look like what we have today, I then asked the question “what would it look like?” Well, of course, no one agrees on what it should look like.

But, the goal of the committee was to have a group of people, co-chaired by our then-provost and the chancellor of our Indianapolis campus, sit down and try to hammer out where there were opportunities to offer new degrees and to better serve our students in the nation and internationally. Where were the areas where we should be building research strength and academic strength in the institution?

They came up with a report called the New Academic Directions Report—a really excellent piece of work, for all kinds of reasons, and it included a number of recommendations. I will say, in summary, that since I got that report and approved it and had the Board of Trustees agree to endorse it, we have, in roughly the last two years, either closed, established, merged, or transformed seven schools in the university. So, we have seen more academic change at Indiana University than we have seen since the 1920s, when most of the schools from our earlier generation were established.

I will focus on just one of them, although there are very interesting developments in public health, for example, that are nor entirely irrelevant to our discussions today.

Indiana University—as some people may know—is extraordinarily strong in languages. We like to think we teach more foreign languages that any other university in the country. Certainly, we teach as many as any other university in the country. We teach somewhere between 70 and 80, depending on the year, many of which are not taught anywhere else or are only taught by one or two other places, including a real specialty in the languages of central Eurasia, Uzbek and Pashto, and languages like that.

But this is all spread over multiple departments, centers, and units.

We also have quite a strength in area studies. We have 11 Title VI centers, which is also more than any other university in the country. People, again, may not know this unless they’re in one particular area or the other.

All of this, in my view, had been dissipated across multiple units—this enormous intellectual strength, which, collectively, really represents international studies as a whole, was an area that we had not, in any way, coherently welded together.

So, coming out of the report was a proposal to establish a School of Global and International Studies. We put together the appropriate faculty groups, and had the lengthy processes of consultation and discussion. We eventually got a very good proposal for a new school. We approved it. We have funded it. And our Trustees have approved it, as well.

So, that will weld together what we think of as an extraordinary intellectual strength into one new school.

Since I started by talking about basketball, I can’t resist mentioning that we also have approved a new $53 million building that will house the school. Half of that building is funded by revenue from the Big Ten network. I think this is the only case that I know of where athletics revenue of that scale—$25 million, to be precise—is actually funding a fundamental academic building at the university. So, as I tell my colleagues, “absolutely support basketball on the weekend, because you’re supporting international studies at the same time.”

Creating Sustainable International Relationships

The final part that I want to mention, that welds all this together, is part of a developing strategy that really came out of a number of the visits I have paid overseas.

As I said before, I met various people who said “it is wonderful to see you. It is great to see you. The last IU president here was Wells. How do we know that it won’t be another 40 or 50 years before we see an IU president back here again?”

And there is a fair point there. There is only so much you can do. Presidents come and go. The interests and the foci change over periods of time.

In thinking this through, what we want to do is to develop a fundamental connection between our alumni in these countries and the academic department in the institution.

Presidents can come and go. The next IU president might not have the interest in international studies that I do. But if you can weld together the alumni in all those countries, and give them a stake in what we are building with Global and International Studies (and our Kelley School of Business is also very strong in this area), but if you can weld them together, that is something that is going to transcend any change of interest at the administrative level at an institution.

The first real success that we had was late last year, when we announced our first chair of Korean Studies, which was funded in part by the Korea Foundation, but this large endowment was half funded by our Korean alumni.

We are now in extensive discussions with alumni in a number of other countries, all focused on supporting the funding of other chairs or similar academic appointments in our new School of Global and International Studies.

We have extensive international alumni. We have 580,000 living graduates around the world, a significant number of whom are international. That is the way in which we see the university really welding together its international strategy with the academic mission of the university, to build this new School of Global and International Studies, which will provide education from the bachelor’s to the Ph.D. level. This really brings together the two strategies in a way that really had not been done before. We are hoping that, over the next few years, we will see further chairs funded by alumni or through similar mechanisms. This will give our new school the final boost it needs to elevate it to the top level in international studies in the country.


So, that is what we are doing at IU. Those are the strategies. That’s how we are trying to put it all together.

I am very pleased with how it has gone. I am delighted that we now able to establish ourselves in the position internationally that we should have done many years ago, and that we can really play a major role in global education and global understanding in the United States.

Thank you very much.

Source Notes

  1. “Overseas Study Celebrates 40th Anniversary,” Indiana University press release, December 19, 2012, URL: http://overseas.iu.edu/about/media/press/2012_12-19.shtml