Goal 3: Realize Penn State’s Potential as a Global University
Strategy 3.3: Expand Opportunities for Education Abroad and International Visiting Scholars
It is clear that a growing number of students would like to study abroad. The current stresses of global recession and the challenges of finding affordable and available student financial aid may temporarily reduce the number of Penn State students able to do so. Penn State is re-examining the budget model for Education Abroad to enhance student access to international experiences and improve collaboration among the academic colleges and campuses. Although Penn State ranks among the top universities nationally in the number of students experiencing education abroad, there is room for much improvement. Some years ago, it was stated that 20 percent of graduating seniors having studied abroad for a semester was a worthy goal, and Penn State still has a way to go to achieve that goal. While semester-based education abroad remains the “gold standard” for international experiences, it is clear that an increasing number of undergraduate students are availing themselves of short-term international experiences led by Penn State faculty members. This is an alternative experience that Penn State must seek to encourage further, as these experiences are typically embedded into regular courses, and the time spent in another country connecting the course work with on-the-ground exposure can lead to a very rewarding outcome in terms of a better understanding of the international aspects of a particular program of study. As more faculty seek to incorporate international travel into their courses, the University must establish a more formal process for approving these trips, managing risk, and assessing the outcomes as valid internationalizing experiences.
Penn State takes pride in providing all of our students with opportunities to develop abilities that can help them to live, work, and lead in a global environment where multicultural skills are at a premium. Special attention may be needed to assist students from underrepresented, underserved, and lower-income backgrounds to access these opportunities.
Our faculty and graduate students from different parts of the world also represent a tremendous resource for the University in our efforts to internationalize the curriculum and student/faculty experiences. Additionally, each year, Penn State welcomes more than 700 visiting international scholars, most of them faculty of overseas universities, who come to study, lecture, and engage in joint research with our faculty. The interactions they have within their host academic units with faculty and students are tremendously enriching. The Fulbright Scholar Awards program creates opportunities for us to learn from visiting scholars as well as take advantage of the experiences of Penn State faculty and graduate students who, as Fulbright Scholars, return to the University with experiences that enrich their scholarship. Academic units within the University should actively seek to host international scholars and use their talents and perspectives more fully while they are in residence at Penn State. We also should avail ourselves of their network of contacts as they return to their home nations and universities.