Diversity and International Affairs
2016 Heiskell Award Winner: Internationalizing Minority Serving Institutions
Nomination submitted by: Dr. Jewell Winn, Senior International Officer
In 2012, Tennessee State University had 79 International students, 36 students participating in study abroad, and one faculty member leading a study abroad experience. Campus leadership created the Office of Diversity and International Affairs (DIA) to provide cultural collaborative initiatives that support TSU's strategic goals in producing global leaders. The results have shown the new initiative to be a rapid and astonishing success. In three years, TSU’s international efforts grew to hosting 900 International students, helping 121 students take part in study abroad experiences, enabling 12 faculty members leading study abroad experiences with support from four staff members, entering into MOU's with 26 universities abroad, and signing a commitment with IIE's Generation Study Abroad initiative.
This new focus on internationalization reflects the changing nature of the society TSU was created to serve as a historically black college, and a commitment to prepare the students with a competitive edge required to excel in a global environment. With a very intentional institutional commitment, DIA promotes greater involvement of all students in significant international education experiences.
As a new unit in this evolving urban university, the Diversity and International Affairs office was faced with a huge challenge to move international programs from the periphery to the center of teaching, research, and outreach activities with very limited resources. Under the leadership of an Executive Director/Senior International Officer (SIO) with the support of a Director of International Education, Director of International Student Services, Coordinator of International Programming, Administrative Assistant, and five graduate research assistants, the office quickly reached its initial goal of ensuring that 60% of students gain a global perspective and have experiences that enhance global awareness through participation in a curricular and/or co-curricular global experience abroad or domestically.
DIA executed 20 cultural learning and diversity opportunities for over 5,400 student participants—who represent 60% of the 2014 student population of about 9,000 students. New international student enrollment increased by 156% from Fall 2014 to Fall 2015. DIA staff support of international student clubs resulted in three international student groups receiving inaugural Student Government Association awards for New Student Organization of the Year and Best Cultural Programming, as well as the Diversity Award.
After seeing the rapid results of DIA’s growth and overall engagement, it is apparent that the new office has earned phenomenal support and respect campus wide, and the campus has now set a five-year goal to provide ALL students with new world experiences "at home" or "abroad."
"We are extremely proud to receive this honor, as it speaks to the exceptional work and importance of the Office of Diversity and International Affairs at our institution," said Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover. "ODIA has done an outstanding job cultivating the international student experience into campus life at TSU. Just as important, the staff has strategically implemented international exchange programs with our academic units to ensure students are prepared to succeed in the global market."