By Andrea Gils
A team of American Council on Education (ACE) representatives visited the University of Kentucky to conduct a peer review in early September, as part of UK’s participation in the ACE Internationalization Lab 2.0.
“The internationalization division of ACE is known to represent national and global best practices,” said Susan Carvalho, interim associate provost and dean of Graduate School, and associate provost for Internationalization. “While we know that we have made great strides in all areas of internationalization, it is still very beneficial to bring in their objective peer-review process, to let us know what opportunities we might be missing, what vulnerabilities we should think about, and how best to partner with our colleges, our faculty and staff, and our students.”
After the analysis of several documents provided by UK International Center and face-to-face meetings with leaders on campus, the ACE team provided the UKIC a comprehensive report highlighting its strengths and recommendations.
The ACE team met with Provost Tim Tracy, Carvalho, each of the UKIC’s unit leaders, members of the International Advisory Council, as well as deans, professors and staff members from multiple colleges and departments.
Throughout the report and feedback gathered during interviews, the ACE team noted the concept of comprehensive internationalization to be “on everyone’s radar” and that students whom they met conveyed positive responses to UK’s academic community and leadership opportunities.
“UK has undergone a culture shift in the last five years, from a parochial institution to one that takes its engagement with global issues and problems seriously,” the report described.
In the report, the ACE team noted that the UKIC staff is professional, and up-to-date on trends and best practices, which, according to the report, “is why the peer reviewers as individuals have long followed and admired UK’s continued progress in comprehensive internationalization.”
“Even though we invited ACE here to tell us how we can improve and accelerate internationalization at UK, we were thrilled to hear the reviewers say that they often look to and cite UK as a model in particular areas,” Carvalho said.
Additionally, the report identified UK Education Abroad as a “revamped and energized” office, praising the equitable pricing structure for programs and noting the creation of Major Advising Pages (MAPs), which places UK “ahead of most institutions.”
The report highlighted the UK Confucius Institute’s focus on the arts, which gives a public dimension to the institute and made it easily accessible for both UK and the surrounding community.
Another strength ACE identified was the Global Health Initiative, which showed strong opportunities for UK to integrate the unit into UK’s overall strategic plan, build partnerships with other institutions and tackle world-wide problems, given UK’s cutting-edge research capabilities and leadership in the healthcare field.
“We consider the university’s strengths in chronic health issues to be a major advantage in creating a niche that can address an emerging global health concern, the aging of the population, occurring in China, Japan, all of northern Europe, and of course, the United States,” the report said.
Opportunities & Recommendations
The ACE team identified areas of opportunities and improvement for both UKIC and UK as a whole. “Perhaps internationalization and the land-grant mission could be further articulated as cross-cutting themes, which would make it easier to link internationalization to the directions that UK is taking,” the report said.
White Paper on Internationalization
The ACE team said the “White Paper on Internationalization,” which UK’s Internationalization Task Force published in 2010, “has been widely distributed by ACE because of the clarity and cogency of its message,” the report said.
ACE strongly urged UKIC to distribute the white paper internally and externally so that the benefits of internationalization become clear not only to the Commonwealth but also to the nation.
Cross-university Strategic Partnerships
The report noted UK’s advantageous location to build partnerships with international companies and corporations, as well as opportunities to build cross-university strategic partnerships.
The report recommends UK to “…invest resources in these strong partnerships, particularly those that engage an increasing number of schools and departments, and go beyond student exchange to include other opportunities for collaboration.”
The ACE team also recommended that UK encourages faculty to incorporate “global learning beyond education abroad and to infuse it into all programs.”
Strategic Plan on Research & Community
Additionally, the ACE team said there are research and community engagement sections in the current UK-wide strategic plan that could incorporate the global perspective even more.
“We see that there are areas for development and expansion here, and we find that some of the items in the strategic plan for the International Center have direct relevance and could be incorporated into those sections,” the report said.
Other areas identified for improvement and expansion included the Center for the Study of English as a Second Language, risk management, and fundraising for faculty development, scholarships and grants for research.
“A world-class higher education institution must be globally engaged, which UK is,” the report concluded. “It also must prepare students to be citizens of a multicultural community both at home and in a globalized world, which UK is beginning to do. We encourage UK to continue to be a leader in the Commonwealth and the nation.”