Internationalization of Northeastern Illinois University
2004 Heiskell Award Winner: Internationalizing the Campus
Nomination submitted by: Janet Fredericks, Ph.D., Dean of the Graduate College and Director of International Programs
Challenged with internationalizing a state university of nearly 12,000 commuter students, the faculty and leadership at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) have succeeded in creating a comprehensive strategy and effective programs through a decade of steady expansion. From early campus-based programs, and what was once a relatively small student participation in study abroad, involvement in international programs has increased greatly since the introduction of NEIU’s Short Term Study Abroad Tours, which are offered as a component of campus-based courses.
NEIU students are often the first-generation in their families to enroll in university; many are also from minority groups and may also be part-time students on a many-year path to degree completion. Though this combination of factors complicates providing access to study abroad opportunities, universities and colleges with similar challenges to internationalization will find a rich model in NEIU’s comprehensive internationalization strategy.
Begun ten years ago with a series of initiatives including the development of a partnership and faculty exchange with the Ural State Pedagogical University in Russia, hosting South African social workers, and initiating multi-day heritage programs on campus that focus on the origins and contributions of the diverse cultures of the NEIU community, internationalization efforts were greatly expanded with the introduction of Short Term International Study Tours. Designed as a component of campus-based courses, these two-week travel opportunities are tailored to the cost requirements and student availability issues particular to NEIU. The structure of the program allows students who have not experienced international travel to participate with the support of peers and faculty members who assist them in interpreting their international experiences.
Short Term International Study Tours have been designed for courses across a variety of disciplines. A course in comparative economics, for example, provided students with the opportunity to visit France, where they met with European economists and business leaders and studied the European Union and issues related to the adoption of the Euro. Students in an Asian history class visited China to see the historic locations discussed in the course. In another tour, education students were taken to Jamaica to interact with Jamaican pre-service education students.
To date, over 400 NEIU students have participated in 23 International Study Tours to 15 countries including Belize, England, India, El Salvador and Jamaica. This year study tours are anticipated to include visits to South Africa, Italy, Greece, El Salvador and Cuba, as well as Poland and Holland. NEIU has also formed international partnerships with eight universities. Students and faculty are currently working in five additional countries, and the university is now pursuing institutional agreements in China, Africa, and Latin America. This year, NEIU will offer its first full course at an international site, a field course for undergraduate anthropology students in Belize.