Current State of Internationalization at PSU

Last week I had conversations with Professors Patricia Wetzel, Linda Walton, and Meiru Liu – experts in international affairs and Asian Studies – about PSU’s internationalization efforts.  The four of us were in a van traveling from Shanghai to Suzhou, China where an informative conversation took place.  Suzhou is Portland’s sister city and its university, Soochow University, is our Confucius Institute partner institution.

Internationalization progress
In 2008 President Wiewel identified internationalization as one of PSU’s five campus themes. Faculty-embraced international initiatives have contributed to successfully growing the University’s international character, with a total of 330 strategic partnerships worldwide. The quality and depth of these relationships is expanding, especially in the School of Business Administration and the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science.
Recent joint teaching programs with Changchun University of Technology and Jilin Jianzhu University exemplify this trend.International student enrollment has grown 37% over the last five years and the goal is to increase international enrollment to 10% of our student body. Students from Saudi Arabia, China, and India make up 48% of PSU’s international student body; India in particular provides a significant number of students at the graduate level. Vietnam is among the countries with the greatest potential for rapid enrollment growth. PSU’s commitment to international student success is also reflected in our mentoring program for first-year international students, which has grown considerably in recent years.

A collective effort

The Office of International Affairs (OIA), directed by Ron Witczak, oversees all of the major international activities at PSU. They provide support for our international student population as well as our international scholars and faculty. OIA offers opportunities for PSU students to study and intern abroad and for PSU faculty to teach overseas. OIA houses Centers and Institutes, promoting cultural understanding and engagement focused on specific geographic regions. In addition OIA hosts Special Programs for foreign students visiting the U.S.
OIA works closely with PSU’s International Studies Program and the Internationalization Council (IC).  The IC, in cooperation with academic and administrative units on campus, facilitates:
  • curricular integration
  • travel abroad opportunities
  • increased international presence on campus
  • increased engagement with others, both nearby and around the world
  • formation of the Internationalization Council
  • reporting on campus international initiatives and activities

Recent changes
The Office of International Partnerships was created this past year through internal reallocation within OIA.  Joyce Hamilla, its Director, joined PSU this fall. Most recently, after I consulted with faculty, staff and student groups, Margaret Everett, Dean of Graduate Studies and Professor of Sociology, agreed to add the Vice Provost for International Affairs duties to her portfolio.

The work ahead
One of Linda Walton’s suggestions during our van ride to Suzhou was the reinstatement of a full time vice provost for international affairs.  This was not a criticism of Margaret Everett’s abilities, but a recognition that for the past two years the vice provost for internationalization has been an add-on to someone’s existing portfolio. Although PSU did have a full time vice provost of international affairs prior to 2012, I chose to eliminate the position in response to faculty concerns that there were too many administrators and the need to make budget reductions. I added the duties to the former vice provost for budget and planning, Kevin Reynolds, and subsequently to Margaret.  We do not have the resources to fund a full time vice provost for international affairs. However, like Linda and me, a number of faculty, staff and students have expressed concern that we not lose momentum on our efforts.Our progress is something to celebrate, but we have work ahead. We know that PSU needs to examine existing partnerships; to sunset ones that have never moved past the “let’s be friends” stage and to strengthen those that have potential to grow.  We need to establish new partnerships that have the potential to provide PSU faculty and students with rich international experiences and connections.  Lastly, we need to be more mindful and strategic in our efforts in recruiting and retaining international students.

One thought on “Current State of Internationalization at PSU

  1. With a very small role in this great effort of internationalization, I have nothing of note to add to the conversation save acknowledging the wonderful contribution retired Associate Vice Provost Agnes Hoffman made to the establishment of numerous fruitful connections with universities in China and elsewhere. Our institutional success in the international arena will be to some extent on the foundations she helped lay.


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