Global Engagement



Global Engagement at the University of Michigan

Global Engagement:
Findings and Recommendations

People and Partnerships

International students, visiting scholars and artists from other countries, and faculty members who come from other countries all contribute significantly to the international character of the University. These individuals bring information, insight, and perspective both from and about other societies and cultures. They represent a valuable, underutilized resource for the University’s efforts to strengthen and expand programs and activities with an international focus. Employing graduate student instructors (GSIs) from other countries in ways that are effective and that address learners’ concerns is particularly important, both to accomplish the University’s instructional mission but also to foster positive student attitudes toward people from other societies and cultures.

Partnerships with overseas universities and other educational institutions deepen the international character of the University of Michigan, as well as facilitate student study and faculty research in other countries. With the production of knowledge in all fields more than ever a worldwide phenomenon, contact with faculty members and students in other countries expands learning opportunities, broadens intellectual horizons, and helps students to contextualize the information and insights to which they are exposed. The University has established study abroad agreements with many institutions around the world. More noteworthy, however, are the partnerships based on cooperation and collaboration that the University has developed with major overseas educational institutions. For example, the University has established two joint institutes in China, the University of Michigan- Peking University Joint Institute for Interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Sciences and the University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute. These programs and others like them serve as international platforms for research and training that are open to undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty members.

All the University’s interactions with internationals and with international partnerships should be guided by the principles of reciprocity and mutual value, of maintaining academic quality and scientific and ethical integrity, and of the projection and protection of the University of Michigan brand. These criteria should also govern the University’s response to invitations to establish a branch campus, a degree-granting program, or project-based experiences in other countries.

Questions for Reflection

  • How can the University make information about international visitors and international students more widely and readily available, so that they may be identified and invited to participate in programs and activities that increase interaction with other members of the campus community? What other uses might be made of a database constructed and maintained for this purpose?
  • Does the University currently provide adequate support services for international students and visiting scholars? What would contribute to giving international students a more satisfying and productive experience at the University of Michigan?
  • How should the University think about partnerships with non-peer institutions in other countries? Are there some countries or world regions in which such partnerships might undermine the University of Michigan brand?
  • How should the University think about partnerships that enhance research and academic capacity at universities in countries that are important economic competitors of the United States?
  • What is the role of project-based international experiences?


Interaction with Internationals

  • Increase and expand opportunities for international scholars and artists to visit campus, and increase and expand opportunities for these visitors to interact with the broader campus community, especially with undergraduate students, during their time at the University. Particularly useful in this regard would be in-class presentations and/or discussions, as well as other meetings attended by students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to interact with international visitors. Students who have frequent opportunities to interact with people from other countries are likely to develop a deeper global interest and understanding, and at the same time the international visitors will have a richer experience at the University and a better sense of the importance of their visits. More generally, beyond the benefits to individual students and visitors, activities that expand opportunities for interaction with visiting scholars and artists from other countries will help create a more robust international community on campus.
  • Develop new support services and learning opportunities for international visiting scholars. Like international students, international scholars and employees need more opportunities and planned programs to become involved and integrated into campus life. Programs such as a campus-wide research forum, a scholarin- residence program, and specially designed faculty development programs would prove beneficial for these individuals and the campus community as a whole.
  • Encourage and support extracurricular and classroom activities that increase interaction between international students and other students. As described with respect to international visitors, this interaction would broaden the perspective and horizons of our students from the U.S. and give international students additional opportunities to meet others and deepen their ties to the University. This would also reduce the need for international students to depend so heavily, and sometimes almost exclusively, on their own ethnic or national communities for campus involvement and life beyond the classroom. Efforts to increase interaction between international students and other students at the University should not be limited to periodic meetings of an ad hoc nature. The University should sponsor and support groups and cohorts that bring international and other students together for sustained activity relating to problems or issues in which they share an interest. The University offers an ideal setting for such exchanges, which would expand the “bridging” social capital of all participants and increase their appreciation of other cultures.
  • Develop opportunities to benefit more fully from the knowledge and experience of the University’s international faculty members, beyond that associated with their academic specializations. International faculty members bring a valuable cross-cultural dimension to the campus, even if their academic or research interests do not focus on international issues or are associated with language departments. To explore ways to capitalize on this asset, the University might organize meetings with interested international faculty members to discuss whether and how members of the University community coming from other countries could more fully share their experiences and perspectives with others at the University and could contribute more fully to its internationalization efforts. It may be appropriate for some of these efforts to include University staff members as well.
  • Take steps to address the difficulties that are associated with the use of international Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs). These difficulties may result from English language limitations, differing teaching styles, or a lack of sensitivity on the part of the students being instructed. Such steps might include a more thorough orientation for international GSIs, at which topics such as undergraduate student expectations and the teaching styles familiar to them receive attention. Some of this enriched orientation might be organized centrally rather than being left to the GSIs’ departments. The University should also explore ways to foster among our students greater sensitivity to the challenges faced by GSIs who are unfamiliar with American higher education, and to encourage students to reflect on the ways their own attitudes can help to make the teaching experiences of international GSIs a positive, value-added learning opportunity.

International Partnerships

  • Expand and promote diversity in international partnerships with respect to location, type of partnering institutions, type of collaborative activities, and the innovative use of new technologies. The University should not limit its partnering activities to familiar regions and well-established institutions, but should include partnerships for mutually beneficial engagement and exchange throughout the world. In particular, the University should increase its programs and partnerships in developing countries.
  • Assess and exploit opportunities for cooperation with other U.S. universities, including Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) universities, in the development and administration of international partnerships. Such cooperation would increase the range of possible international partnerships, permitting activities and exchanges beyond the capacity of a single U.S. university.
  • Make greater use of information technology and communications innovations in the University’s international partnerships to deepen and sustain interaction with faculty members and students at overseas partner institutions. Among other things, new technologies expand the possibilities for curriculum enrichment through course sharing, distance-learning, and international team-taught instruction.
  • Take fuller advantage of the University’s international partnerships to organize major and well-publicized on-campus scholarly conferences and public affairs programs. This would increase the national and international visibility of the University and at the same time enable the University community and the constituencies it serves to benefit more fully from connections with scholars and institutions in other countries.
  • Provide seed money for research or pilot projects involving collaboration with overseas partner institutions. In allocating such funds, beyond scholarly merit the University should consider the potential for subsequent external funding and for additional collaborative opportunities with the partner universities.
  • Create a database of the University’s currently active (and perhaps inactive) international partnerships and develop criteria for assessing the benefits and costs of these associations. Understanding the scope and value of existing partnerships would better position the University to make long-term, strategic plans in this area and help to ensure that the University’s international partnerships are of the highest quality.
  • Coordinate centrally the University’s processes for reviewing, approving, and managing international agreements. Information and procedures related to all international agreements, such as Memoranda of Understanding, should be available in one place to guide academic units in creating them, and to provide all entities on campus with information about the number and scope of all active agreements at the University. This would also enable the University to be strategic in forming international agreements and ensuring that international agreements are mutually beneficial.