"A Presidential Vision for an Internationalized Institution"

Hamilton Crown Plaza Hotel
Washington, D.C.
November 20, 2008


It is a great pleasure to be among such a distinguished group this morning at the Leadership Network for International Education.

Before I begin my remarks, I would like to thank the American Council on Education for affording me the opportunity to speak to you today and for its years of outstanding leadership on behalf of the nation’s college and university presidents and chancellors.

I would also like to recognize Charles Bantz, Chancellor of IU’s Indianapolis campus, who is presenting later today. I would also like to recognize my former colleague from the state of Indiana, President Sally Mason from the University of Iowa and President Beverley Pitts from the University of Indianapolis.

Internationalization, Higher Education, and National Security

In June 2008, two prominent American statesmen, former U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton, the vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, co-chair of the Iraqi Study Group, who currently serves on the President’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, and Thomas Kean, former governor of New Jersey and chair of the 9/11 Commission, made a penetrating statement about the importance of global education.

In a widely publicized op-ed, they wrote, “The United States cannot conduct itself effectively in a competitive international environment when our most educated citizens lack minimal exposure to, and understanding of, the world beyond U.S. borders. . . . Ignorance of the world,” they wrote, “is a national liability.”1

As dramatic as this statement is, this idea is not new. We need only remember the Fulbright Act of 1946 or the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961 to recall previous legislation that led to highly regarded and respected programs focused on international education and understanding. In fact, there may be no better example of a tie between national security and international education than the National Defense Act of 1958, which was prompted in large part by the Soviet launch of Sputnik the year before.

Higher Education in the Vanguard of an International Era

Five decades later, colleges and universities here in the United States, and around the world, are in the vanguard of a new international era in higher education. Our engagement is becoming truly global at a time when national boundaries are becoming ever more porous. Trade, energy, access to water resources, the impact of information technology, and population movement: each of these issues, and countless others, affect humanity on a global scale. The resolution of pressing global issues that influence local circumstances requires intercultural and international understanding and competencies in every field. Ours is an era that demands multilateral and collaborative solutions to our shared problems, a point with which few would disagree.

Most of our nation’s colleges and universities have come to recognize the vital importance of globalization—for their students and alumni, for their own ability to compete in a 21st century marketplace, and for America’s strategic interests. You have probably seen the recent New York Times’ in-depth series on “Global Classrooms” documenting our race to “go global” and our efforts to send more students abroad, establish foreign campuses, expand our research partnerships, and increase faculty exchanges.

This race has produced many winners across the country, including colleges and universities that are heightening the global competencies of their faculty and students and extending their international reach. It has also produced, it must be said, some losers, or at least those who have over-reached.

Competing for the Best from Around the World

But this race is truly an international one. Increasingly, American higher education finds itself in a truly global marketplace. Improvements in transportation and communication translate into greater mobility for the world’s students and scholars. They can choose from among thousands of colleges and universities the world over with less concern about geographical constraints than ever before. Where once American higher education held sway as the powerhouse within the educational community, we are now facing greater competition for the world’s best students and faculty members.

Around the world, universities are engaged in substantial efforts to emulate the model of the American research university. A little less than two weeks ago, I returned from a trip to Korea and China. Korea’s Brain Korea 21 or BK21 and China’s Project 211 and 985 are pouring literally billions of dollars into those countries’ research universities to ensure that they become truly internationally competitive.

This level of investment is testament to, and of course a reaction to, the fact that the United States has had the very finest system of higher education in the world since the Second World War. But the continuing primacy of this system is not guaranteed. Indeed, it is facing a serious global challenge. For this reason, and many others, we must not be content or complacent in our thinking about the meaning of and strategy that drives internationalization.

As the 2006 Spellings’ Commission warned, “History is littered with examples of industries that, at their peril, failed to respond to—or even noticed—changes in the world around them, from railroads to steel manufacturers.” “Without serious self-examination and reform,” the report continued, “institutions of higher education risk falling into the same trap.”2

Gatherings such as this are a way for us to broaden our thinking and our understanding of why internationalization is so critical for American higher education.

A Vision for Internationalization at IU

Indiana University’s legendary 11th president and first university chancellor Herman B Wells had a vision. Many universities have a foundational figure like Wells. Looking back upon it today, one might call that vision simple, but at the time it was extraordinary. Wells sought to deliver the world to IU students, many of whom—at least in the middle of the 20th century—had yet to experience all that Indiana had to offer, let alone India.

Wells’ deep appreciation for the global community led him to initiate IU’s concerted efforts to become an international force in higher education. Over many years, he succeeded in attracting world-class international faculty, particularly in the liberal arts and humanities, developing new international alliances with governments and institutions, establishing area studies programs, and dramatically expanding IU’s foreign language curricula. From that deep and lasting commitment can be traced the fact that Indiana University now offers over 70 world languages—perhaps the largest number in the United States—and is home to nine federally-funded Title VI Area Studies Centers, including seven National Resource Centers, again the equal largest number, I believe, in the United States.

Clearly, Wells’ vision remains highly relevant for today’s college and university leaders, but the opportunities and the constraints that the nation’s colleges and universities face are far different from those we faced after World War II. No longer is it enough to bring the world to us. We must engage with the world so that we are fully prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

This point has been brought home to me with stark emphasis in a number of different ways over the years.

Global Epiphany

Many of you have likely had what you might term a “global epiphany”—a time when you also realized that the world, to borrow New York Times’ columnist Tom Friedman’s memorable and felicitous phrase, is truly flat. My global epiphany occurred about four years ago, when I led a group on a visit to the headquarters of Cisco Systems for a non-disclosure presentation of what was then a major new network router: the CRS-1. After the presentation, my group was led into a waiting room with a large world map on the wall. This map had a pin for the hometown of every engineer who had worked on the CRS-1 router project, of which there were about 200. The U.S. had around ten pins and the same for Europe. There were a few around Japan, a few more around China, and a scattering around other places like Australia. But there was a great dense clump of pins around India and Pakistan. It was really quite remarkable. I would say that 75 to 80 percent of the pins were stuck in that part of the world.

It made me realize how profoundly this American company, once the most highly capitalized company in the world, relied on international engineering talent.

The way in which large organizations like Cisco—and like Indiana University—critically rely on talent from all over the world has been brought home to all of us in various ways. In fact, in the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal that I am Australian by origin.

During my decade of leadership at Indiana University, I had similar moments that encouraged me to think more deeply about IU’s international engagement and educational programs. I came to IU in 1997 as Vice President for Information Technology, added responsibility for Research in 2003, and in 2006 became Interim Provost for the Bloomington campus.

In each position, but particularly as Provost, I have seen the university engage in international projects of various kinds all over the world. I have had visiting dignitaries from all over the world in my office. But through all of this, I kept asking: Why are we doing this? Why is it important for me to meet with this person? Why are we using resources for particular global initiatives and not for others? How does it all fit into what we are doing as an institution? How does it align with our institutional priorities? What should we be doing?

International Strategic Planning

No doubt many of you have asked yourselves similar questions. These are questions about institutional strategy and direction. They are questions about the way international activities are integrated into the educational and research missions of the university as a whole. And as simple as the questions seem, we all know that they are very difficult to answer.

The answers required strategic and coordinated efforts from a range of people across the university, from what is now the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs to the deans to the faculty who are involved in collaborative international research projects.3

Unlike other strategic planning efforts that have taken place at Indiana University—our Information Technology Strategic Plan released in 1998 and our Life Sciences Strategic Plan released in 2006—this strategic planning effort was simultaneously a top down and bottom up process. We had to have institutional commitment at the highest levels of the university at the same time as we needed faculty and student interest and participation in international research and education.

We also needed to be as clear sighted as possible about the practical realities of international education. Such education requires active and productive institutional partnerships that build on a university’s strengths.

On my recent trip to China just a few weeks ago, I participated in the Beijing Forum on international education. Almost to a person, every presenter proclaimed the number of institutional partnerships their university had in place, and on the surface those numbers were quite impressive. But part of IU’s international strategic planning process has included an evaluation of our institutional relationships to ensure that the agreements we have in place are more than symbolic. We have actually reduced the number of institutional agreements from around 400 to around 200 as we have identified our strategic key international partners and terminated agreements that have proven of little value.

Ultimately, this planning process has yielded a four-part approach to international education that includes global faculty research, global educational opportunities, institutional partnerships, and other institutional outreach efforts. These four elements form the basis of Indiana University’s new international strategic plan, which I approved earlier this year. The plan provides a philosophical framework within which to pursue the university’s international goals, and we are evaluating all of our activities in the international arena in terms of what they contribute, directly or indirectly, to our core missions of education and research.

Let me take a moment to describe the plan’s four main parts in more detail.

IU’s International Strategic Plan: Global Faculty Research

The Greek philosopher Socrates once said that he was not a citizen of Athens, nor a citizen of Greece, but he was a citizen of the world.

To me, that statement exemplifies the sense of global community that exists in nearly all areas of research. Fostering IU’s participation in the global research community is one of the four elements central to IU’s International Strategic Plan.

It is not always fully appreciated that international collaboration in higher education is driven by, and grows out of, in part, the imperatives of academic freedom. Academic freedom calls for the free flow of ideas. It calls on the world’s researchers to continually challenge, question, explore, and create new knowledge in their unrelenting search for truth. It is built on a firm foundation of logic, reason, rational inquiry, and the scientific method. These are the fundamental pillars upon which intellectual and scientific progress is built.

And this search for truth, in turn, has forged and united a truly global intellectual community. Together, researchers around the world ceaselessly search for answers to the fundamental questions raised by their disciplines. Together, they work to understand the causes of disease and discover cures for them, to develop new and cleaner sources of energy, to address the causes of poverty and hunger, and to gain a deeper understanding of the moral, physical, and metaphysical universe. Together, these researchers exemplify a world community where national boundaries recede into the background in the interest of understanding the human condition and the world and changing countless lives for the better.

But all of us realize that the global intellectual community is no utopian community. It exists within the same political, social, and cultural structures as other communities. I noted in my address at the Beijing Forum that the very search for truth that drives the global research community forward can unearth new knowledge that conflicts with prevailing beliefs. The search for truth can be stymied by politics and ideology. And this is true around the world. Take Lysenkian genetics in the Soviet Union, for instance, which was supported by Stalin but was in conflict with scientific evidence. Take stem cell research here in the U.S., which was slowed by the policy decisions of the present U.S. administration though this can be expected to change under the Obama administration.

These examples, and many others, reaffirm the vital importance of academic freedom as a vehicle for progress around the world. They reaffirm the importance of worldwide collaboration among our finest researchers driven by logic and reason towards truth.

On a practical level, this search for truth translates into some of the strongest international research partnerships forged at the level of the individual researcher. These are the kinds of alliances that universities across the country must encourage and facilitate. Ultimately, we look towards our faculty to initiate, implement, and expand their programs abroad as a natural extension of their education and research activity without needing specific rewards for such efforts.

By way of example, we could look to IU’s long-standing partnership with Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. Last year, I led a delegation of deans and other administrators to Zhejiang for a research symposium on university research commercialization and technology transfer. This coming April, IU will host a joint conference with Zhejiang University focusing on entrepreneurship, innovation, and related legal policy, including industry tours for Chinese visitors, and a program to help Zhejiang University develop a legal clinic modeled on IU’s Elmore Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic. In 2010, Zhejiang University will, in turn, host a parallel set of programs in China.

Such collaboration draws upon and engages the expertise of faculty from a number of different disciplines at the same time as it looks towards a future of deeper partnership. These are the kinds of collaborations that require institutional support to thrive.

IU’s International Strategic Plan: Global Education

The international search for truth I mentioned earlier necessarily involves the next generation of scholars and thinkers.

Just as we have an international research community, so too must we continue to cultivate an international community of students who are prepared for the challenges of the global future. This is the second element within Indiana University’s International Strategic Plan.

In American universities, and indeed universities around the world, this effort includes developing programs that will encourage students to study abroad in larger numbers in Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and other areas. It includes providing assistance to students who may not have the resources to study abroad. In fact, the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act is still pending in Congress and aims to make study abroad more accessible and increase the number of participants four-fold over the next ten years.

Whether our graduates are in Bloomington or Bangkok or Beijing, they will be living and working in a global environment. I have said on many occasions that international experience is a practical necessity. Of course, that is a telegraphic statement. Within it we see the increasingly global marketplace within which students will be expected to work before or upon their graduations. We see energy and environmental issues that involve ecosystems spanning the globe. We see the economic interdependence of nations around the world, which causes national financial peaks and valleys to reverberate on an international scale. In this world of increasing global interdependence, each of us needs to know what is happening in other parts of the world. This is not just a matter of individual success. The very health of our democracy depends on an understanding of the global issues about which we are making decisions every time we cast a vote or make a purchase.

Enhancing international education also includes implementing a comprehensive strategy for attracting and retaining a diverse population of international students. Our international students transform the culture of this university, bring a truly international perspective to their classes, activities, and to Indiana University as a whole. They raise awareness through sharing their different cultures, histories, and languages, and through their day-to-day interactions with students and faculty both in and outside of the classroom. In short, they make Indiana University more diverse.

At Indiana University, we are developing a new undergraduate curriculum to commence in the 2010-11 academic year that substantially increases the global competencies of the 32,000 undergraduates on our Bloomington campus. This will be accomplished through required course work in world languages and cultures or an approved study-abroad experience.

Already, approximately 20% of our undergraduate students travel abroad for a certain period of time before their graduation. In our Kelley School of Business, that figure is approaching 50% for undergraduates. In order to encourage additional study abroad activity, we must work with our international partners to align curricular requirements so that students’ experience abroad dovetails with their graduation requirements at Indiana University.

IU’s International Strategic Plan: Institutional Partnerships

The third element in Indiana University’s International Strategic Plan is institutional partnership and affiliation.

While continuing to maintain existing partnerships and developing new ones in areas such as Africa, Europe, Latin America, and Russia, we have been giving special attention to technologically advanced and rapidly growing areas of East Asia, in particular China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, as well as the Indian sub-continent. Together, these countries account for the majority of international students attending Indiana University. In fact, over 1,200 of our 6,000 international students come from South Korea alone.

Over the course of the past three years, I have visited this part of the world on four different occasions. It is a part of the world with which I am very familiar, having traveled there in a variety of roles around 50 times since 1987. Perhaps the strongest impression I have felt over those 20 years of travel there has been of the region’s phenomenal development and specifically the strength of their systems of higher education. With economies that are dramatically expanding—China alone has achieved economic growth of between 8 and 9% for over 30 years—these regions provide dramatic educational and research opportunities for students and scholars of technology, business, economics, and many other important areas.4

My visits to Korea, China, and Japan over the last three years have also provided a “feet on the ground” experience that has been vital to assessing the strength of our institutional partnerships. I have seen first-hand the facilities where research takes place, have sat in on classes at our partner institutions, and have met the faculty who teach those classes. Beyond that, the deans of our Schools of Law, Informatics, Business, and other schools, have had the opportunity to meet their counterparts at these institutions to discuss details of the partnerships between their schools. Their expertise and presence are invaluable in laying the groundwork for further collaborations and for strengthening the partnerships that are already in place.

While in Korea and China, we established new partnership agreements with Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul National University, and Peking University, and discussed future partnership opportunities with officials at Yonsei University, with whom IU has had an active agreement since 1986. These are, by the way, three of Korea’s top four universities, and Peking University is normally ranked in China as second only to Tsinghua University, with whom Indiana University also has a relationship.

These agreements, and many others, build on the strength of Indiana University’s research and educational programs by forging alliances with the premier research universities throughout southeast Asia. Increasingly, they are allowing us to expand our international offerings within academic disciplines ranging from business and law to environmental affairs, informatics, public health, and music.

IU’s International Strategic Plan: Outreach Efforts

The final element of IU’s International Strategic Plan involves global outreach and service projects. These may not always seem directly relevant to our fundamental education and research missions but can be in the national or regional interest, have humanitarian importance, or contribute to institutional prestige.

One must not confuse such projects with the narrower interests of the institution. Indiana University’s involvement in helping rebuild democratic and educational institutions in Afghanistan or treating HIV-positive patients in Kenya through its Nobel Peace Prize-nominated AMPATH program represent far more than just the university’s interests. IUPUI Chancellor Charles Bantz will be discussing AMPATH and the IU-Kenya Partnership this afternoon.

At all universities and colleges engaged in international activities, these sorts of international efforts reflect national needs and policies but also require institutional energy, focus, and resources. As with other international activities, we must be strategic in order to determine which projects are best suited to faculty expertise, student interest, and national self-interest. Which projects help the university maximize its strengths on a global scale while also serving the nation or broader global community?


Universities around the world are working to achieve similar aims. Together, I believe we are at the beginning of a new era in international education. It will be an era of greater educational opportunity for all students; an era of deeper global collaboration and cooperation among universities around the world; an era of stronger alliances in the interest of mutual progress. In short, this era will be the global future of higher education.

Thank you very much.

Source Notes

  1. Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, “We can’t be competitive globally if we lack exposure beyond US borders,” Christian Science Monitor, 12 June 2008.
  2. U.S. Department of Education. “A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education.” Washington, D.C., 2006.
  3. Indiana University established the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs in 2007, transforming whaxt had been a dean-level position to a vice presidential-level position in accordance with the university’s increased focus on strengthening its international educational and research partnerships.
  4. See, for instance, Zuliu Hu and Mohsin S. Khan’s “Why is China Growing So Fast?” (International Monetary Fund, Economic Issues 8 (1997), (www.imf.org). Hu and Khan state, “While pre-1978 China had seen annual growth of 6 percent a year (with some painful ups and downs along the way), post-1978 China saw average real growth of more than 9 percent a year with fewer and less painful ups and downs. In several peak years, the economy grew more than 13 percent.” See also “Reflating the Dragon” (The Economist 13 Nov. 2008), which notes China’s annual growth average of over 10% over the last five years (http://www.economist.com/), and the Asian Development Bank, which in 2007 marked an average annual growth rate of more than 8% over the last three decades (http://www.adb.org/)