The DUE Role in International Education

By Daniel Hastings, Dean of Undergraduate Education

As a result of the Task Force report, our own discussions through the Global Theme team, and the work of the Global Educational Opportunities at MIT (GEOMIT) committee, there is now campus discussion about how we provide an international education for our students. The data from MITCO indicates that some 23% of our students in each class have an international educational experience at some time in their four years with us. There are three big types of experiences. These are study abroad experiences, international work experiences including internships, and international development. In the study abroad category, we have students who participate in the Cambridge MIT Exchange (CME) and MIT Madrid programs run through MITCO as well as departmental programs and student self-created study abroad programs.

Relative to work experiences, we have students who go participate in MISTI internships in China, India, Japan, etc and well as a growing number of international UROPs. Finally, students pursue many international development opportunities through multiple programs run out of the Public Service Center (PSC) as well as through D-Lab experiences run through a joint effort between the PSC and the Edgerton Center.

Our goal, set by the Task Force as well as GEOMIT, is to raise the fraction of our students who have an international educational experience to over 50%. We want our students to prepare, engage and reflect on their experience and see themselves as individuals who have been educated to understand other cultures and who have the transformative skills to become capable and responsible leaders in the global community.  Allowing more of them to have an international educational experience will help in this vision. We are executing towards this goal through the Global Theme team under the leadership of Kim Vandiver with Elizabeth Reed overseeing all the Themes. The very capable members of the Global Theme team are Michael Bergren, Malgorzata Hedderick, Betsy Hicks, Shonool Malik, Sekazi Kauze Mtingwa, Sally Susnowitz, and Bernd Widdig.  We plan to augment and replicate the successful small scale programs that have taken root at MIT. This includes programs such as D-Lab, MISTI, CME, and international UROPs.

We have multiple challenges as we move towards this goal. These challenges include resources and cultural resistance. Some of the existing programs are resource limited including MISTI, D-Lab, and the Africa Internet Technology Initiative in EECS. Student interest in these programs is high. However, students are turned away from these experiences since we do not have the resources to support all of them. We are working hard with the Campaign for Students to raise more resources for the support of our students. We also know we have to deal with cultural issues. In the Cambridge MIT exchange, we have a reciprocal exchange with Cambridge University. For several years, the limiting factor on this has the number of MIT students who want to go Cambridge not the number of Cambridge students who want to go MIT. We find, anecdotally, that our students say that they are discouraged by faculty mentors, feel they cannot leave their (predominantly) engineering programs and do not see the value of an international experience relative to more experience at MIT. We will have a major messaging campaign in the Fall to address some of this cultural resistance.

More generally, as DUE moves forward in this arena, we are playing a key role at MIT in defining what should be the MIT strategy towards international education. This will occur through the newly formed International Activities Committee* chartered by the Provost to lay out the principles for MIT international engagement as well as by understanding best practices in our international interactions.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas on how we provide an international education to our students. Look for some interesting and exciting things to start happening by the Fall in this area.

*MIT News Article on the Creation of the International Activities Committee: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/iac-0525.html