Global Engagement



Global Engagement at the University of Michigan

Global Engagement:
Findings and Recommendations

The Organization

As noted in many places in this report, the University of Michigan has a strong and successful tradition of decentralization. This practice has been important in fostering effective program development and administration, and has provided the latitude needed for innovation. It is important to recognize and continue to capitalize on this tradition. However, it is essential that a university as large and complex as the University of Michigan, and one with as many international programs, has well-functioning mechanisms in place to broadly communicate and share information about its internationally-themed activities. It is also important to have administrative arrangements that coordinate activities, thereby minimizing undesirable duplication; that provide access to common policies; and that facilitate collaborations to expand or enrich international activities and programs.

A new University-wide operation charged and supported to enable and enhance international engagement, located in a prominent facility that houses units dedicated to international experiences and collaborations, would provide heightened visibility, both on campus and beyond, for the University’s commitment to the global dimension of its teaching, research, and service missions. Such an operation would better serve students with international interests, and would significantly increase opportunities for interaction among faculty members, students, and visitors involved in international activities and programs. A central facility could also provide space for international visitors, who are currently scattered in offices across campus with minimal interaction, as well as host cultural experiences through the offering of gatherings and performances. Additionally, the cultural dimensions of an international center would present a novel opportunity for outreach to the citizens of the state of Michigan, offering education about and exposure to international societies and cultures. The top ten institutions ranked by the Institute of International Education, which includes the University of Michigan, typically have a coordinating international office headed by a dean, vice-chancellor or vice-provost who oversees international activities. In a growing number of cases, this central office is housed in a dedicated facility to reflect the commitment to international experiences, such as UNC/Chapel Hill’s FedEx Global Education Center and Michigan State University’s International Center (complemented by campus-wide webportals). Many other schools are in the process of reorganizing their international structures. A new center at the University of Michigan (possibly called the Center for Global Engagement) would demonstrate a commitment to our students, faculty, and staff, and would provide a path to nationally and internationally recognized leadership in internationalization.

Increased support for activities and programs that strengthen the University’s international character should be among the top priorities of the University’s development efforts. Our alumni and friends from and/or living in other countries are an important source of support for the University and the many constituents it serves. Their involvement could be significantly enhanced.

Questions for Reflection

  • Would the creation of a central facility dedicated to international experiences be consistent with the decentralization that characterizes the University? Is there any danger that this would reduce the interest or involvement of schools and colleges in international studies and programs?
  • Which units with an international focus should be brought together in a single physical space? Should a central facility dedicated to international engagement be the home of both academic and administrative units? Would the creation of a central facility dedicated to international experiences isolate the units it houses? Would it become an unused “second home” for University faculty members and graduate students with international interests?
  • What are the roles of the International Institute and the International Center, as well as unit-based programs (such as LSA’s Office of International Programs [7] or the International Programs in Engineering)?
  • How can we best develop a virtual environment (web portal) on internationalization that supports our students, faculty, and staff? Where will this web portal be housed? Who should administer and maintain it?
  • Should there be any change in the responsibilities, staff, and resources of the vice provost for international affairs?
  • The University’s schools, colleges, and departments have widely differing priorities and needs for development, and also differing kinds of alumni and friends in other countries. Given these circumstances, how can we cooperate more fully yet avoid competition in the area of development? Will increased attention to development efforts that strengthen the international character of the University--both in general and when working with alumni and friends in other countries--require any changes in the ways that the University currently organizes development and alumni relations?

[7 In fall 2009, LSA’s OIP merged with the GIEU program into the Center for Global and Intercultural Study (CGIS).]


Click and Mortar

  • Establish a well-located facility that houses units and programs with an international focus. Such a facility would showcase and give prominence to the importance the University attaches to its international activities and the pride it takes in the high quality and extensive character of these activities. Moreover, a dedicated space centered on international programs would permit deeper and more regular interaction among faculty members and students with international interests, as well as with and among visiting international scholars and artists. Such interaction would not only enrich the international dimension of campus life, but would also encourage and facilitate conversations that can lead to programmatic innovations and to collaborations that transcend disciplinary boundaries and regional specializations. A campus facility would foster communication and collaboration among the schools and colleges, limit duplication of effort, create organizational efficiencies, and better utilize resources.
  • Offer internationally-themed outreach and public affairs programs that are dedicated to international experiences. These would serve and deepen engagement with campus communities but also with other constituents of the state and nation. Such activities would broaden the role and value of a centralized international facility.
  • Continue to develop living-learning spaces and integrate international themes into existing ones, where applicable. While living-learning spaces with an international component exist on campus today, the University should do more to engage students in this type of environment with internationally-focused themes and topics. Today’s rapidly evolving communication and technology environments, including social networking, allows further expansion of these efforts through the creation of Internet-based international spaces.
  • GlobalMCreate a campus-wide interactive web environment related to global engagement. The University needs a campus-wide international web portal, Michigan International, to (1) illustrate and promote the broad array of educational programs, activities, and events that define and support the University’s global community; (2) to inform students of all education abroad opportunities that the University offers (e.g., study, research, internships, and service-learning), as well as funding options; and (3) to provide unified information and publicity regarding the value and importance of international education at the University and the extent of its global engagement and initiatives. We envision that school, college, and central administrative international offices would be linked to this web portal, including campus-wide software for education abroad. Examples of successful web portals elsewhere include Stanford’s Global Gateway and the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign’s Illinois International.
    Update: Global Michigan webportal is now online.


  • Centrally coordinate procedures for safety, security, and emergencies, as well as shared databases of contact information for all students and all education abroad programs. Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of students, faculty, and staff while abroad on University-related programs and activities is of the highest importance. Therefore, University-wide policies and procedures related to health, safety, and security must be designed, implemented, and enforced for the benefit of those involved in overseas activities, and for the institution as a whole. In the event of a crisis abroad, an emergency team and well-defined procedures must be in place in order for us to act quickly on the best information available, and to monitor the situation as it unfolds.
  • Create standard processes, procedures, policies, and support services for education abroad (study, research, internships, and service learning). It would be beneficial to students and to staff and faculty members if certain operational functions that cut across the University were handled centrally. This would provide a great service to students by simplifying their search for the right overseas program, and to faculty members, academic units, and college/school international education offices by enabling them to focus more on academic matters and less on logistical/administrative matters. For example, the University’s international web portal, travel policies, emergency procedures, pre-departure and re-entry programs, student peer advising, data collection, and assessment of student learning would benefit from central coordination.

Alumni and Friends

  • Mobilize alumni and friends in other countries for purposes of development, not only for fund-raising but also to increase international awareness of and appreciation for the University of Michigan. In many parts of the world, the University is not as well known and respected as it could be, or as it is, by comparison, in the U.S. Continued engagement beyond academics enables overseas alumni and friends to remain connected to the University and to assist in building its international visibility and reputation. It also opens or expands channels of communication that allow the University to stay more fully informed about regional and global trends and opportunities, including new international partnerships and fundraising. The University has made significant progress in undertaking these efforts with respect to alumni and friends in China, and to a lesser extent in some other countries in East Asia. It lags with respect to other world regions, however, and needs to engage more fully with alumni and friends in these areas as well.
  • Leverage the knowledge and contacts of international alumni and friends. In establishing and maintaining ties to alumni and friends in other countries, and also in defining objectives and identifying opportunities for development and other programs in certain countries, the University should take advantage of the deep knowledge and broad contacts of the University’s international faculty and its area studies centers. The University faculty members who are affiliated with these centers represent most or all the University faculty members who have teaching or research interests in the relevant country or world region. In the International Institute’s Center for Chinese Studies, personnel in development and alumni relations are already working productively in this capacity, and their work could be used as a model for other area centers. Such increased efforts could require additional dedicated staff in alumni relations, development, and/or the area studies centers.
  • Work with overseas alumni and friends beyond country-specific projects. Many of the University’s friends in other countries have an interest in global themes and international problems of more general relevance, such as international human rights, economic development, environmental change, democratic governance, poverty reduction, and health care delivery. The University needs to give such themes a prominent place in conversations with, and programs organized for, alumni and friends in other countries. It also needs to find ways to foster and coordinate conversations among groups of alumni and friends who share an interest in a particular global theme or issue to which the University also wishes to devote greater attention—despite the fact that they live in various countries. Centers and institutes with an international thematic focus, such as the area centers that are housed in the International Institute, could assist in identifying and shaping such thematic international development efforts.