Global Engagement



Global Engagement at the University of Michigan



In the other sections of this site, the focus is on the Higher Learning Commission’s five criteria for reaccreditation. In this section, we present the University of Michigan’s Special-Emphasis Study on Internationalization. The Internationalizaton section introduces the rationale for the study, provides a range of observations on the topic, and offers sets of ideas and recommendations on how the University can further grow in this important area.

Our students are entering a world in which international connections are the norm. Already they collect information, news, data, music, and video from the Internet without concern for national boundaries. The companies they will work for and lead, the scholarship they will pursue, the policies and positions they will vote on or enact, the associations they will form via the Internet, the cultures they will meld in their own experiences, and the voluntary work they will engage in, all have global dimensions and global drivers to a degree not true for their parents’ generation. It is imperative that the University help our students, whether they are resident or non-resident, domestic, or international, to prepare for lives of significant international engagement. We must give them tools to understand, to appreciate, to critique, and to engage. To live, lead, and thrive in tomorrow’s world, it is more vital than ever for our students to have ample and robust opportunities to expand their international horizons, and to experience an education commensurate with those horizons. We know that many of them are eager for such opportunities.

Today’s University of Michigan students already have numerous ways to study abroad or to engage in international study on campus, as illustrated with examples below. Building on these strengths, we can do more to forge the kind of forward-looking education for our students that we envision and that they desire. This section presents an examination of the University’s goal to broaden the international experiences of our students and to deepen the global engagement of the University as a whole. These internationalization goals align fully with our institutional commitment to diversity and our belief that the encounter with diverse people, experiences, and perspectives is critical to intellectual development and progress.

The Internationalization Self-study

What is meant by internationalizing the University? Internationalization can be defined as the process of adaptation to different cultures, regions, and languages, but the concept’s meaning and interpretation varies across campus. To articulate what internationalization means at the University of Michigan, we asked campus units to respond to a set of related questions:

  1. What does the concept of internationalization mean to the programs and activities in your unit?
  2. What are the key measures by which the University of Michigan defines itself now or could further define itself as an internationalized institution?
  3. What are the means by which you would be likely to broaden internationalization in your unit?

The results are collected in a supporting document (Units on Internationalization) that illustrates a deep commitment and urgency to internationalization activities, and that presents a range of unit-specific goals and plans.

The campus shares a set of common goals for internationalization efforts:

  • Improve student preparedness for a global society.
  • Internationalize the curricula and programs.
  • Enhance the institution’s international profile and reputation.
  • Grow international access and partnerships in research and teaching.

This section builds on, but does not summarize, the range of perspectives and approaches of units, recognizing our commitment to decentralization. The delicate balance between centralized and decentralized activities, however, will feature in a number of places in this section.


A campus-wide approach to understanding our internationalization goals and needs was established through the unit survey mentioned above and from the work of two accreditation working groups (AWGs) that were comprised of faculty and staff members with recognized international expertise. These AWGs formulated recommendations based on the premise that the University should be a leader in internationalization, consistent with a priority established by the president, provost, and the deans. An overarching goal identified by the AWGs is that our students should possess and be able to use knowledge of other places and cultures to articulate both comparative and critical perspectives about their own countries. Every student should have at least a minimum of internationally-focused coursework or curricular activity, on- and off-campus, and the University should aggressively seek to expand the scope, quality, and depth of the opportunities it offers to students who wish to make international issues a central part of their studies. The working groups’ activities were complemented by conversations with other campus constituents, new surveys of students and alumni, and information from complementary reports with an international focus (such as the 2008 China Task Force Report, described more fully below; the International Center’s Annual Statistical Report; and the Senate Assembly’s 2008 Study Abroad Programs at Michigan).

Following a description of international students and alumni, international experiences, and example activities, the report offers four sets of recommendations within the following categories: curriculum, education abroad, people and partnerships, and organization. Key questions that guided the recommendations and that will also by themselves be a resource for future discussion and actions are included with each topic. Units and programs can also customize these questions for their own uses. Then, the closing sections will highlight several key recommendations that focus on centralized efforts, anchored by the creation of what we tentatively call the Center for Global Engagement. This new center would aggregate many of the recommended changes, meet the demands associated with anticipated growth in this area, host a webportal that would support campus information needs, and coordinate the University’s many outreach efforts to the state, the nation and the world.