Harper College Humanities students taking notes at Painted Dog Conservation habitat in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Global Region of Focus Initiative
In 2014, Harper College set up an Office of International Education to serve as a resource for the college and help educate students in leadership in an increasingly complex world. With the support of the administration, they also established the Global Region of Focus Initiative (GRF). GRF is a 3-year cycle that focuses students on an area of the world and develops goals and themes for each year. The program leverages existing college resources, connects to the campus’s educational mission, and invests strategically in its internationalization programming.
Now in its second iteration, GRF invests in teaching the college’s faculty about the region in year 1 through its Faculty International Field Seminar professional development program that includes coursework and travel to the region. In year 2, a visiting faculty member from the region is brought to campus, and in years 2 and 3 faculty-led student study abroad programs to the region are prioritized. Between the first 2 cycles, nearly 90 students have traveled to 6 countries in the regions of focus, and thousands have been affected by specialized coursework and programming.
Building partnerships is a critical element of GRF. In the first cycle, which focused on East Africa, Harper College built relationships with regional universities in Uganda and Rwanda, hosted a Fulbright Scholar from Uganda, and ran study abroad programs in Zimbabwe and Uganda. In the second cycle on Latin America, a faculty group traveled across Central America and hosted a Fulbright Scholar from the National University of Costa Rica. The Office of International Education is also planning ahead for the third GRF cycle, which will begin later this year and focus on South Asia. Development is a multiyear process, so they have already begun to build relationships with Department of Education-funded national resource centers in Illinois and Wisconsin to design and implement programming.
“Harper College is aware that not all students have access to study abroad or courses with infused global learning outcomes,” said Interim Associate Provost, Dr. Kathy Bruce. “International programming on campus, which includes an annual International Education Summit and enriching workshops and development opportunities, is abundant and accessible to all Harper College students.” That is what makes the thematic elements of GRF so important. It allows Harper College to steep many different activities and events with elements drawn from the political, historical, cultural, and economic legacies of the region of focus. By first training faculty and then bringing the region to the campus and student to the region, GRF permeates the campus community with international perspectives.
The Office of International Education at Harper is a lean operation and it leverages subsidies for GRF through grants from the administration and outside donors. Harper College also draws on widely available programs like Fulbright Scholar to bring regional expertise and experience to campus. The combination of these elements that characterizes the strategic approach of the Global Region in Focus Initiative at Harper College.