Global Engagement



Global Engagement at the University of Michigan

Global Engagement:
Key Challenges and Opportunities

Centralized Support to Benefit a Decentralized Community

Perhaps the biggest barrier to implementing many recommendations in this section and advancing the University’s vision for the future is also our greatest strength: decentralization. In the University’s campus culture, decentralization promotes academic excellence and innovation. As a result, academic aspects of international education will and should continue to originate in the schools and colleges. However, it also appears that an openness exists among many campus groups for a greater degree of central infrastructure that will foster communication and collaboration among our programs, that eliminates redundancies and inconsistencies, that conserves increasingly stressed resources, that enhances the quality of student services and programs, and enables the schools and colleges to focus their energies on academic issues. A more central approach to internationalization would ultimately support the diversity of offerings and activities that are the hallmark of an otherwise decentralized institution.

Many of the recommendations in this report focus on units and disciplinary activities. Our organizational culture has time and again demonstrated that our decentralized structure is optimally suited for a diverse approach to change. However, today’s lack of coordination and cooperation limits the impact and efficiency of the University’s enhanced vision for internationalization, as envisioned in this study. Below is a list of key recommendations that, if implemented, would significantly help to address the disadvantages of our decentralized environment, but in ways that respect and do not dampen in any way its benefits.

The main recommendations for centralized action are:

  1. Create a Center for Global Engagement with a team of professionals to coordinate support systems and processes for education abroad, as well as to build, promote, and institutionalize campus-wide international programs and activities. The center would be headed by the vice provost for international affairs (expanded from today’s role), supported by a global engagement council made up of faculty and staff members.
  2. GlobalMCreate a centrally-supported international web portal that would include interactive software that provides comprehensive and up-to-date information for students interested in education abroad, as well as a web magazine format for publicizing individual experiences and highlights, documenting international research activities and listing relevant campus events. In addition to information sharing for campus constituents, this web portal would make our commitment to internationalization to the outside world more visible.
    Update: Global Michigan webportal is now available.
  3. Remove cost barriers to education abroad for both in-state and out-of-state students in a variety of ways (e.g., through alternate tuition models, grants, scholarships, and fellowships) , and increase the number of short- and long-term international offerings through new University partnerships, both educationally- and project-based.
  4. Leverage our international cohorts. Capitalize on the presence of international students and faculty members on campus and the commitment of our international alumni, and attract more international visitors to campus through University fellowships and hosting activities. Adding an international “backflow” to campus would complement our efforts toward our students’ off-campus experiences.

Measurement, Tracking and Accountability

The findings and recommendations in this section form an enhanced vision for the University’s commitment to internationalization. As we look ahead to the process of reviewing, planning for, and implementing these recommendations, it is important to reflect on the ways in which the University will measure not only its progress in this regard, but also to consider the ways in which we will measure the degree to which we are achieving our goals.

Measuring the success of internationalization efforts and drawing comparisons with other institutions is a complicated but critical matter. One ready measure, which the U.S. News & World Report has used in its rankings, is the number and proportion of students and faculty members at the University whose citizenship is outside the U.S. While highly ranked overall with respect to international activities, the University of Michigan scores in the lower range for this particular measure, showing that considerable progress can be made here (see 2008 World’s Best Colleges and Universities). Increasing the number of international citizens in the University community would improve our international reputation and expand our growing international alumni network.

However, assessment of success should have a much broader base than the national origin of students and faculty members, and a first attempt at measures of internationalization is offered below. Ultimately the range and nature of our offerings, the make-up of the University, and our international reputation are measures that will assess the impact of our activities.

Earlier in the report, we described a set of questions that we asked each of the schools and colleges to respond to about their internationalization activities (see Units on Internationalization report). One of the questions was, “What are the measures by which the University of Michigan defines itself now or could further define itself as an internationalized institution?” Drawing directly from these responses, a summary set of measures was created for students, for faculty members and for the University. In each of these main categories, measures were sorted by type. Below is the overall structure for this summary, along with one or two sample measures within each type, representing a widely varied set of both quantitative and qualitative measures. As the University takes the next steps toward the recommendations in our self-study, this list of measures will be a useful tool to assess the progress toward meeting our goals.


Incoming Students

  • International students who enroll.
  • Students who test out of school/college language requirements (e.g., in LSA).

University Programs and Practices to Support International Students and Internationalization

  • Funds for international student travel (e.g., to attend an international conference, participate in or undertake international research, or participate in an international service activity).
  • Survey results about students’ international interests, values, and concerns (e.g., students’ ability to participate in international programs).

Student Accomplishments and Outcomes

  • Alumni who obtain positions in international settings or with international organizations.
  • Ph.D. students who write their dissertations or produce creative work on international topics.


Composition of Faculty and Scholars

  • Non-U.S. born faculty members on campus.
  • Faculty members who do international research.
  • Visiting scholars at the University (either international scholars or scholars with an international focus).

Faculty Activities, Accomplishments, and Honors

  • Faculty members who apply for external funding to do international research.
  • Faculty presentations for an international audience (e.g., at international conferences, universities, institutes, government entities, or businesses).

Support for Faculty Involvement in International Research or Creative Work, Teaching, and Service

  • University funds that support faculty members in their international endeavors, for example to travel internationally, to do research, or to develop and teach courses.
  • Efforts to help faculty members identify, articulate, and use competencies for internationalizing the curriculum.


History and Mission

  • Articulation of critical areas of focus by central administration, and by schools and colleges.

Institutional Rankings and Prominence

  • Placement in international rankings of universities (e.g., rankings by institutes).
  • Description of key accomplishments in areas of international research, teaching, and outreach/engagement.

Structure & Organization

  • International development initiatives.
  • Interdisciplinary activities that support or contribute to international scholarship.


  • Undergraduate concentrations or minors/specializations with an international focus.
  • Foreign language requirements (by school/college or program).

Research and Creative Work

  • Research initiatives and creative activities with an international focus (e.g., international populations or international matters).
  • Visiting scholar programs open to international scholars.

Academic Resources

  • Foreign language collections held in the libraries.
  • Information technology resources that enable international communication and collaboration (e.g., classrooms with the necessary technology to enable international communication and collaboration among students and faculty members)

International Partnerships and Agreements

  • Formal collaborative programs and partnerships developed with other international institutions.

Other Outreach Activities

  • International conferences on international topics or issues, hosted by the University (e.g. to further international collaboration).

Funds for International Initiatives and Activities

  • Amount of Title VI and Fulbright-Hayes funds (Federal Department of Postsecondary Education—International Education Programs Service) received by the schools and colleges or academic programs.
  • Amount of competitively awarded funds for international activities.