DUE’s Strategic Themes: Global Theme Update

By Elizabeth Reed, Senior Associate Dean

The February edition DUE newsletter announced the appointment of Melanie Parker, Executive Director of the MIT Careers Office, as leader of DUE’s Global Theme. Melanie took over from Kim Vandiver who led the theme from June 2006 through 2007.

Members of the recently-reconstituted Global Team which Melanie heads are Michael Bergren (UAAP), Pat Gercik (MISTI), Malgorzata Hedderick (Office of Foreign Study/MITCO), Betsy Hicks (SFS), Alison Hynd (International Development Initiative/PSC), Vijay Kumar (OEIT) and Elizabeth Reed (DUE.) A primary focus for the team will be continued implementation of the recommendations of GEOMIT, the Global Educational Opportunities at MIT Committee established by Daniel Hastings in June 2006. The Committee was charged with defining the best approach for MIT to provide global opportunities in undergraduate education. Several DUE people served on the Committee-- Malgorzata Hedderick, Kim Vandiver and Elizabeth Reed-- and Jen Cook provided staff support. GEOMIT’s final report,
completed last fall, made 17 recommendations which, overall, reflect the distinctive, innovative MIT flavor that characterizes some of our existing, excellent models for international experience, i.e. CMI, MIT-Madrid, MISTI, IROP, D-Lab, etc.

Moving forward with the GEOMIT recommendations, the Global Team will be guided by these principles articulated last fall:

  1. It is in MIT’s and the nation’s interest that MIT students be comfortable and confident operating on a global stage.

  2. MIT should invest in global programs in a manner consistent with its core values: high quality research and teaching, merit-based, need blind admissions and need-based financial aid.

  3. We should focus on putting our current global programs on firm financial grounds beforelaunching new ones.

Below are several of the recommendations most directly related to the Global Team’s scope, and an indication of how the initial team responded last fall, as well as updates about recent progress:

MIT should set up a Global Education Program, which includes and expands existing global education opportunities, including study abroad, research, internships and work (including student-initiated projects).

We support development of a Global Education Program (GEP) that builds on MIT’s distinctive strengths, provides an integrated approach to global education and helps to publicly represent MIT as a player in international education. On a relatively quick timescale, participation should be recognized as a mark of academic distinction and valuable international learning experience for undergraduates. Currently, MIT’s commitment to international education is evident in programs such as CME and MISTI which regularly exchange information, but we need a consistent, integrative approach. In the past six months, progress has been made toward integration. A new global website and brochure describing MIT’s principal international programs, collaborative events at Orientation and Parents’ Weekend and regular engagement through the Global Theme Team during spring/summer 2007 helped connect the various offerings. Scope and structure of a GEP will need to be defined by administration and faculty.

An administrative Global Education Office, which coordinates and facilitates global education programs and student participation and safety in them, should be established.

We strongly supported this concept, but with a scope that transcends coordinating and facilitating.  When GEOMIT made its recommendations, the Office of Study Abroad (part of the Careers Office) was already performing many important support activities. It seemed uniquely positioned to develop into a Global Education Office, with additional administrative infrastructure and budget. Through the FY09 budget process, the Careers Office received resources to begin this expansion of mission, scope and expertise. Moving forward, they will build upon their strong foundation of the Study Abroad Office and career development expertise, to contribute to a more unified framework and strategy for global education at MIT.

Financial obstacles should be removed to allow all students access to equal opportunities for global education.

This is crucial in facilitating widespread student participation. Undergraduate financial aid is currently portable only for credit-bearing study abroad. CUAFA is working on proposals to address additional funding opportunities.

MIT should initially invest primarily in the expansion of the unique global models that already exist.

Supporting our existing models is a high priority in the DUE budget process and Campaign for Students (C4S.) These programs have proved their value and should be well-resourced before or simultaneously with creating new initiatives. In the past two budget cycles and through related efforts, funding has increased for programs such as IDI, MISTI, D-Lab and CME. Through C4S and the Institute budget, we plan to continue this progress. The extent to which they are funded will determine in a practical way the size and impact of a Global Education Program.

Global education opportunities should be offered primarily during IAP and over the summer.  Initial expansion of educational opportunities abroad should be focused on those occurring during IAP and summer.

Scaling up the number of IAP and summer global opportunities is a smart, relatively easy first step. It would facilitate foreign language study and not interfere with course requirements. We believe that an Institute strategy for expanding opportunities should go beyond IAP and summer, and send a strong signal that international learning is an integral part of an MIT education.

The number of available educational opportunities abroad should be expanded to allow every undergraduate an opportunity to participate at least once. This expansion should lead to 600 opportunities per year by 2009-10, and 1,200 opportunities per year by 2012-13.

We need to think through carefully what is needed to achieve these targets. Most of the programs upon which GEOMIT’s strategy builds (D-Lab, MISTI, Foreign Study etc.) have capacity to grow with more resources and, as stated earlier, we have already increased the base of about 300 opportunities.

A Faculty Advisory Committee on Global Educational Opportunities should be appointed, to provide faculty oversight of global education initiatives and policies.

Faculty engagement and leadership is essential to bring action on several important
recommendations of GEOMIT and the Task Force on the Undergraduate Common. Kim Vandiver is chairing this committee and will announce its membership and charge in an upcoming newsletter.

Future articles will bring more news of the many ways DUE is insuring that MIT students Go Global with the strongest possible support.