From Passports to Partnerships: Connecting the Dots at James Madison University

Given the global nature of our work at IIE, our conversations with members, partners, and colleagues all too often happen via phone or virtual meetings. But this spring, a few members of IIE’s Higher Education Initiatives (HEI) team had the rare opportunity to visit the campus of James Madison University (JMU), a higher education institution taking advantage of IIE’s full range of programs and services to advance its international education goals.

IIENetwork Membership

JMU has been an institutional member of the IIENetwork since 2005, but it has never been more active. In a discussion with JMU staff — including Dr. Malika Carter-Hoyt, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Tiffany Brutus, Head of Inclusive Excellence, REDI, and the Center for International Stabilization & Recovery team — the HEI team had the opportunity to shed light on our extensive portfolio, explaining the numerous benefits of IIENetwork membership. We gained valuable, firsthand perspectives from JMU administrators; we exchanged ideas on everything from potential JMU programs to the importance of cultural competence and cultural humility.

IIE American Passport Project

We ventured across campus to the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) where we met with Katie Sensabaugh, Director of Study Abroad, and staff. The IIE Center for Access and Equity recently awarded JMU with an American Passport Project institutional grant, which will cover the expense of obtaining a U.S. passport for up to 25 eligible JMU students. Sensabaugh shared exciting ideas for awarding the students their first passport and the ways in which the office aims to utilize existing scholarship programs to identify eligible students. In collaboration with colleagues in the Student Success Center, they will engage Valley Scholars and Centennial Scholars, programs that cater to a very similar demographic that we wish to reach through the Passport Project. Both programs focus on first-generation college student success, and the majority will meet the requirements to receive their first passport, opening the door for a potential study abroad experience.

IIE Center for International Partnerships

In her work with the IIE Center for International Partnerships, Cori Crisfield met with JY Zhou, CGE Executive Director, to discuss preparations for the delegation to Thailand with IIE’s International Academic Partnership Program (IAPP). IAPP guides participating universities through the process of identifying and securing partnership opportunities with the focus country. Meeting just days before departing to Thailand, Cori and JY were able to touch base on the upcoming delegation that hosted a cohort of 28 U.S. and Thai higher education institutions to build academic partnerships. Cori also met with Dr. Bayo Ogundipe, Department Head at the College of Engineering, to discuss the IIE Global E3 Consortium that she manages and potential pathways.

Higher Education Initiatives team members on their site visit to James Madison University.

From conversations about JMU’s extensive efforts to support diversity, equity, and inclusion —including having diversity officers in every department — to learning about campus quirks — clapping in the quad creates a unique squeak sound, for example —  this visit was filled with immense learning, deep understanding, and promising opportunities for the future. We would like to acknowledge Besi Muhonja, Ph.D., JMU’s Associate Vice President of Research and Scholarship and Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, and the Division of Research, Economic Development, & Innovation (REDI) for graciously hosting us. We would also like to thank our IIE colleague, Jeremy Coats, who oversees the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program (CADFP), for introducing us to Dr. Muhonja (who was a CADFP Fellow).

If you are interested in exploring the various ways in which your institution can be involved with IIE, please visit