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Faculty forum explores internationalization opportunities

About 40 faculty and administrators and the newly appointed vice president for international affairs, David Kennedy '76, met for a forum on the University's internationalization effort Thursday afternoon in Salomon 101, offering a range of opinions and concerns about what such an initiative should look like.

Following the discussion, which focused largely on student experiences and the need for more support for international programs, Kennedy spoke broadly on his vision for the University's new global effort.

In his remarks, Kennedy drew a parallel between Brown's current goal and its mid-century transition from a regional to a national university. "It took a generation," he said. "I hope we can do the same sort of thing with our international efforts, but in much less time."

After the forum, Kennedy told The Herald he sees two goals of internationalization: the transition to a global university and a deepening of Brown's ties to international universities. There's a lot of energy at Brown about how we can make this transition," he said. "I'm also struck by the real interest faculty have in student experiences. The main topic here has been, 'What student experiences work?' And that's the place to start."

With respect to creating more international opportunities for students, some professors said the University should focus its efforts in an unprecedented way. "We could get away from the model of sending students away to the periphery of the empire for a semester and then bringing them back. Can we imagine a more radical change?" asked one professor.

"I'm assuming this is more than sending more students abroad for a semester," another professor said. "I'm assuming new relationships are envisaged."

"I'd like to hear a discussion of something more innovative than what we've been talking about today, which we're all very familiar with," another faculty member added.

Others raised concerns specific to their departments. One faculty member from the Center for Language Studies said Brown should make foreign languages part of its internationalization strategy. A staff member from the Career Development Center said she would like internships to be a focus.

Professor of Visual Art Richard Fishman, director of the Creative Arts Council, said he had some concerns about conflicting values. "The artist may comment in a way that has the potential to unseat the work going on in that area. I'm wondering how the University will respond to that," Fishman said.

Assistant Professor of English Thalia Field said new media, like video projects, will help build international collaboration even if students never leave campus, citing a project involving students from the Rhode Island School of Design and a university in Cameroon.

Field also said she sees opportunity for faculty exchange and incentives to persuade professors to research in an international context. She said the Wayland Collegium for Liberal Learning, which subsidizes interdisciplinary research and brings faculty to the University for three to five day visits, rather than for just one lecture, provides a good model.

The idea of bringing more international students and faculty to Brown raised many comments from faculty about the need for an infrastructure that supports foreign visitors. Several professors said it is difficult to bring scholars into residence because of a lack of hotel or housing accommodations. Right now, one professor said, the University's support for international students is mainly limited to helping with visas and tax filings.

Another faculty member pointed out the need for a centralized place in which people can find out about Brown's international partnerships, especially for research collaboration. "I was hoping that there would be some area at Brown where there could be someone you could talk to - a person you could talk to - who could provide you information on this," said the professor, a member of the internationalization committee.

Professor of Classics Kurt Raaflaub voiced concern that the University might invest in new initiatives without adequately supporting those already in place, noting that the Plan for Academic Enrichment highlights Brown's need to avoid getting ahead of its ability to grow. "Faculty have been hired at an impressive rate, but we don't have the infrastructure for them. We hire leading faculty with endowed chairs, but we don't give them graduate student support because the Grad School doesn't have the money for fellowships, and that's not good," Raaflaub said.

Other professors made similar points about supporting financial aid and facilities for existing students and programs. "We could imagine having lots of institutes abroad, but these could drain resources for projects here," one faculty member said.

Professor of Mathematics Thomas Banchoff, who moderated the forum, told The Herald that the discussion raised important questions on how to create specific international programs. "In what ways should we support new initiatives versus finding new ways to support existing initiatives?" Banchoff asked.

Banchoff said he expected the discussion to be more focused with more disagreement. "I was a bit surprised that we didn't focus more on the (internationalization committee's) report," he said. "We never got to the point of identifying priorities in the sense of, 'Should we do this? Should we not?' "


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