As we begin the 2017-2018 academic year, it is my pleasure to welcome you back from summer break and to welcome some of you, for the first time, to the Illinois International team. To echo a recent message from Chancellor Jones to our University community, "we are all part of a widely and wonderfully diverse university family. We come from more than 100 nations, we practice different religions, we bring different cultural practices, and we carry differing ideas and opinions on virtually every issue imaginable" (Chancellor Jones, 28 August 2017). In Illinois International, we embrace the richness that this diversity brings. In light of changes to legislation and policies, we remain committed to creating an environment where all members of our campus community can thrive. I encourage you to visit the Open Illinois website, which provides information, resources, and guidance for undocumented, DACA, and those impacted by immigration reform. We will continue to support and advocate for full educational opportunities for those who will be impacted.
We will begin this year with an exciting collaborative global forum involving two world-class public research universities, to address critical global issues around increased urbanization. The Global Issues Forum: Health in Smart Urban Environments, is a multi-disciplinary initiative that engages faculty from National Taiwan University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to address critical transnational issues, opportunities, and challenges arising from the rapid pace of urban growth and migration of regional populations to emerging mega-cities around the world. This initiative has continued to develop between faculty at these institutions since an initial forum was held in Taipei in November 2014. Illinois will host the second gathering on our campus on September 21 and 22, 2017. Additional information is available on the Forum website.
The Illinois International Advisory Committee (IIAC) will continue the work started during the past academic year, to develop our campus globalization strategy. The IIAC co-chaired by Prof. Clara Chu (Director of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs) and Prof. Peter Constable (Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine), is a campus-wide committee comprised of faculty, staff, and students that will play a critical role in the development of the campus globalization strategy. This year, the committee will work to align the globalization strategy broader campus strategic plan that will be developed over the course of this academic year.
I had the pleasure of working with our International Students and Scholar Services (ISSS) team at the O’Hare Shuttle Program, a critical service to welcome our new international students and bring them safely to campus. This year, nearly 800 international students and parents used the ISSS shuttle service over five days in mid-August. ISSS checked-in a class of international students that is expected to exceed the record 3,415 students we welcomed in Fall 2017. These new arrivals joined our returning students to increase the international student population to more than 12,000 students in the past academic year. More than 3,500 of these students participated in at least one ISSS35 event. ISSS35 is a new programming initiative that delivers 35 social, cultural, and educational events over 35 weeks.
Over the course of the academic year, ISSS will launch a series of intercultural trainings that will be made available to our campus partners. ISSS will offer 12 different trainings, each with unique content and learning outcomes, on topics as varied as “Communicating Across Languages,” “Fundamental Intercultural Concepts,” “Challenges to Cultural Adaptation,” and more. While each training will be available at least once during the year, ISSS will also offer these trainings by request for departments who wish to have a large number of staff members attend. The first trainings will be available mid-Fall. Details and registration will be available on the Intercultural Training page of the ISSS website. Participants who take part in 4, 8, or 12 trainings will receive bronze, silver, and gold level certificates from ISSS to recognize their successful completion of the trainings.
The safety and security of our students, faculty, and staff is imperative as they pursue academic and research endeavors around the world. To this end, we continue to strengthen the capacity within the International Safety and Security unit. This Summer, we filled the Associate Director position, which broadens the unit’s emphasis on policy and process, campus-wide coordination, and risk management analysis. The Coordinator in this unit provides dedicated oversight and assistance related to travel and international insurance, as well as training for study abroad program leaders and students. Now fully staffed, the team provides greater support to travelers abroad on a 24/7 basis.
Over the course of the upcoming year, the International Safety and Security team will implement the Illini Abroad Network (IAN). IAN is a database and network of resources to enhance the safety and security of University travelers abroad. It will facilitate quicker and more efficient emergency assistance to travelers by identifying crisis locations and providing targeted messaging. IAN will have a rolling debut, starting in early November. By January 2018, students and other travelers will be able to actively manage and update their locations while abroad.
We are committed to graduating globally competent students by not only welcoming international students to our campus, but also providing opportunities for our students to study abroad. Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange (IAGE) is continuing with its implementation of the core services model to study abroad. This new approach aims to bolster the capacity of all study abroad programming across campus and to ensure that more students benefit from the opportunity to broaden their horizons in the global classroom. The core functions embedded in this model include:
- Program Development to provide expertise in the development of education abroad programs;
- Program Management to coordinate signature, exchange, direct enroll and customized education abroad programs;
- Partner Relations to maintain collaborative links with partners through agreements that allow for student mobility;
- Business to execute international financial transactions;
- Outreach and Marketing to create a dynamic print and media presence to communicate the value of education abroad, and promote education abroad opportunities to the campus through targeted outreach;
- Systems to support the campus through the management of the education abroad software.
Having defined core services allows for clearer use of resources, while allowing the IAGE staff to achieve excellence within its mission.
IAGE has also launched its newly redesigned website. The new website is dynamic, cohesive, and easy to navigate. IAGE hopes that the new site will not only allow their audiences to easily find the information they need, but will also outline a clear path for students wishing to pursue education abroad. View the new IAGE website.
The Illinois Business Operations (IBOPS) team continues to work actively with all units across IIP to streamline our financial processes. IBOPS remains committed to focusing on best practices and communication to support programming initiatives across IIP. Over the course of the academic year, the IBOPS team will collaborate with key stakeholders across campus to establish a Global Operations Group, a campus-wide resource to support our community and provide expertise on global operations matters. The team will launch a new and improved contracts and agreements process, to streamline our internal processes for the development and approval of agreements with our international partners.
Global Education and Training (GET) continues to diversify and grow its programs targeted to international executives and students. This past year, GET hosted higher education leaders representing ministries of education and universities from 10 countries for an EducationUSA Leadership Institute, sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the Institute of International Education. GET continues to expand its annual undergraduate summer school programs for international students in fields such as Economics, Accounting, Finance, Information Science, and Engineering. This summer’s programs attracted 224 students from 11 partner universities abroad.
This fall, GET will initiate a new collaboration with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) on behalf of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For the full 2017-18 academic year, GET will host 15 Saudi high school graduates in the KAUST Gifted Student Program. This foundation year pre-college program is designed to prepare the students for admissions and success as undergraduates in STEM fields at top U.S. universities. Illinois is one of six host institutions in the United States, along with Boston University, University of California Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas Austin, and University of Washington.
The European Union Center (EUC) at Illinois, in a joint effort with the Center of European Studies at KU Leuven, have secured another grant from the European Union Commission. This grant is titled “Illinois-Leuven Conversations on Transatlanticism and Europe.” This award will allow the EUC and the Center of European Studies at KU Leuven to fully fund and facilitate the transatlantic movement of Illinois and KU Leuven graduate students for a two-year period. Each year, a select group of graduate students from both universities will be traveling across the Atlantic to Belgium and Illinois for a week in order to engage with their transatlantic discussion partners, faculty, and policy-makers in Brussels, Leuven, Chicago, and Springfield. This project was one of only two Jean Monnet Projects funded this year with U.S. institutional recipients. This grant illustrates the continued commitment by the European Union Center to respond to strategic calls to advance and internationalize Illinois curriculum and research.
The Women and Gender in Global Perspectives (WGGP) Program has received a generous estate provision to make a gift to support an endowment for a graduate student fellowship and programming. Professor Emerita Barbara A. Yates bequest will create The Barbara A. Yates Graduate Fellowship and Barbara A. Yates WGGP Program Series which will allow students from across disciplines and backgrounds to develop a better understanding of the ways in which gender equity and human development are shaping the world.
With all these achievements, I am excited about what the future holds for us this year and look forward to working with all of you to make it happen. Thank you for all that you do to make Illinois International and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign a pre-eminent global destination for all of our faculty, students, and staff.
Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela
Vice Provost for International Affairs and Global Strategies