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‘A whole higher level'

Of course, Brown has been building its worldwide presence for the better part of the last century, explained Vice President for International Affairs Matthew Gutmann P'14.

"We've been a global university for a long, long time," he said, adding that for decades Brown has worked to incorporate foreign perspectives into the classroom, offered study abroad opportunities and encouraged faculty to collaborate with their counterparts abroad. The precursor to the Watson Institute for International Studies — the Center for Foreign Policy Development — had already been in place for 25 years when the latest drive to internationalize began.

"This is not new," he said. "What's new is that we're taking it to a whole higher level."

It all started in 2006, when President Ruth Simmons listed increasing Brown's international profile as one of the top priorities for the next academic year. At its October meeting that fall, the Corporation — Brown's highest governing body — authorized a 30 percent increase in financial aid for international students and offered a series of recommendations to strengthen the school's global reach.

As a result, newly appointed Provost David Kertzer '69 P'95 P'98 took the helm of an internationalization committee that tried to "think deeply about how Brown could become more of a world university," he said. In its 2007 report, the committee called for more international research and educational initiatives, better University-wide coordination of internationally focused coursework and the creation of advisory councils to focus on understudied world regions.

The report also identified the "distinct European bias" to study abroad patterns, stating that although 35 percent of the junior class spent a semester or year abroad in 2005-06, more students needed to be drawn to India, China, Africa and other areas.

In the fall of 2007, University Hall unveiled a new office dedicated entirely to fulfilling these objectives, and David Kennedy '76 stepped in to lead it, as Brown's first-ever vice president for international affairs.

Gutmann — who took over for Kennedy in September 2009 — now directs the office and manages many of the key aspects of Brown's internationalization: coordinating funding for international projects, overseeing the annual Brown International Advanced Research Institutes conference and building and maintaining meaningful partnerships with foreign research universities.

"I think there's a great deal of enthusiasm from the faculty and students. There's a lot of support from the administration," Gutmann said. "The fact is that if you want to be a top university in the world today, you've got to be working with the top people, you've got to be attracting the top students." And that means internationalizing.

 

Over 100 courses

Though Brown had an international focus long before 2006, the University needed an organizing body to coordinate all of its resources and to "highlight those aspects of Brown that are international already," Kertzer said.

For example, even before the Global Health Initiative emerged in 2009 as an outgrowth of the internationalization process, Brown boasted a wealth of global health projects in over 30 countries involving more than 100 faculty members. But these were mostly run independently and without a unifying focus.

"Nobody was minding the store," said Susan Cu-Uvin, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and medicine at The Miriam Hospital and the Warren Alpert Medical School, who became director of the program. She said it was so difficult to find information about Brown's international health programs that the Consortium for Universities in Global Health was not even sure whom to contact when it tried to invite Brown to participate in events.

Simply by building a website and sending weekly emails, Cu-Uvin said, the Initiative was able to better coordinate faculty efforts and connect more people with resources. In a particularly poignant example, the Initiatve put together a listing of all the courses Brown already offered with relevance to global health, and came up with over 100 classes spanning disciplines like Africana Studies and Anthropology all the way to Political Science and Sociology. Pulling these courses together not only alerts them to each others' existence and allows for collaboration, but it also means outsiders can have a better picture of what global health looks like at Brown, she said.

Furthermore, with a set of administrators dedicated to supporting University-wide global health initiatives, Brown has access to more grant and fellowship opportunities than it would with only the disconnected efforts of individual research teams.

Many new funding opportunities require that researchers combine multiple disciplines — like biomedicine and engineering or anthropology and community health — and a centralized office is well-poised to bring those different specialties together, Cu-Uvin said. The Initiative has been able to bring in funding from the Framework in Global Health, USAID and AIDS International.

Many of the area studies programs — like Middle East Studies and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies — have taken similar steps over the past few years, expanding their online presence and their listings of relevant coursework, research opportunities, internships and job postings.

 

‘Year of' series

Some of those area-studies programs have also been heavily involved in the "Year of" series, a new initiative that has brought two semesters of University-wide focus to several major world centers.

The Year of Latin America, Year of Africa and Year of India were implemented for 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years, respectively, and the upcoming year has already been established as the Year of China. The months of lectures, video screenings, conferences and discussions that compose these endeavors bring energy and attention to Brown's efforts to expand its connections to these parts of the world, said Dean of the Faculty Rajiv Vohra P'07, who spearheaded the Year of India.

With its 70 panel discussions, student productions, lectures and more, the Year of India provided a structure and framework for a plethora of short-term programs that drew immediate attention to India's importance on the global stage. Salman Rushdie's talk in February 2010 filled nearly every seat in the Salomon Center, and the thousands of attendees at last year's Commencement ceremonies saw President Ruth Simmons present Indian historian Romila Thapar with an honorary degree.

But the Year of India's biggest success, Vohra said, was in encouraging "long term initiatives which have strengthened our relationship to partners in India."

"The real aim was to think of it as an investment in our future," Vohra added. He accompanied Simmons on a trip to Delhi and Mumbai last March, as part of the Year of India, and said her visit allowed Brown to expand an existing exchange program with St. Stephen's College, an Indian university in Delhi. While Brown students had travelled to St. Stephen's for study abroad in the past, the program only became a full exchange when they agreed to send a master's student from India to study at Brown.

"While that had been under discussion for some time, we were able to use President Simmons' visit to St. Stephen's College to renew that agreement," he said. The visit also generated a lot of media attention in India, making many more Indians aware of Brown as a world-class academic center. That media buzz, alongside longer-term efforts by the Office for International Affairs to increase Brown's visibility, has lead to an ever-growing alumni base and applicant pool in India, Gutmann said.

In part to support alums and applicants, Brown is now planning to build a new office in Delhi, India, he said.

C
hung-I Tan, professor of physics and past chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, said he hopes the upcoming Year of China will be similarly beneficial for Brown's relationship to the most populous country in the world.

"We certainly would like to leverage the enthusiasm and activities we have now to further Brown's contacts and connections with institutions abroad," said Tan, who is spearheading the initiative. Already, Tan is working to involve the robust alumni base in the area and faculty members from all disciplines in the effort.

The program is a "very natural outgrowth of this whole internationalization of Brown's curriculum," Tan said, particularly because it involves such a wide range of University players. Every incoming first-year student will be drawn in to the project, since Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron chose Leslie Chang's "Factory Girls" as this year's "First Reading" to herald the Year of China, Tan said. Because the year's programming will address everything from traditional culture and society to international perspectives on China from the past century, Tan said he hopes every discipline can find a way to participate.

In March 2011, Tan told The Herald that past "Year of" initiatives had not successfully reached a large portion of the student body and that he wanted to make sure the Year of China was more successful with outreach. Neither the Year of Africa nor the Year of Latin America maintained much of a long-term presence after they ended.

The Office for International Affairs is supporting the Year of China, and it is also working tirelessly to expand the long-term connections that Tan hopes the year will generate. Gutmann spent a week and a half in the country this May meeting with representatives from Chinese academic centers, and he looked at offices opened in Beijing and Shanghai by some of Brown's peer institutions.

Gutmann said he would "love to see" Brown open its own center in China — similar to the one planned for India — and that partnerships and exchanges between the community at Brown and Chinese students and faculty are continuing to grow. During Simmons' and Gutmann's visit to China and Hong Kong in November 2010, Brown representatives signed two major memorandums of understanding; one established a Nanjing-Brown Forum in which social sciences and humanities faculty at Nanjing University and Brown will have annual exchanges, and the other renewed the Zheijiang University-Brown Medical School exchange program. Other initiatives focused on environmental research are also in the works.

 

What's next?

"We have by no means achieved all of the ambitious goals set for Brown as an international University," Simmons wrote in an email to The Herald. "But we are well on our way."

Because of the growing severity and complexity of world problems and the increasingly international nature of academia and many professional occupations, Brown must continue to intensify and expand its internationalization efforts, Simmons wrote.

Among the many specific programs Brown will start and expand over the next few years is the Brown International Advanced Research Institutes, a summer conference that brings together hundreds of young faculty members from around the world for colloquiums and presentations, and sends them back to their home countries with new professional connections and scholarly understandings coordinated by Brown, Gutmann said.

There is also a particularly strong focus on bringing together international scholars to address climate change, a discussion of noting language expertise on students' transcripts and work being done to create more English-language study abroad opportunities for engineering and science students, he added.

A few of the more recently established partnerships and study abroad opportunities — particularly for graduate students — will also demand continued support from the University. For the first time this year, sophomores could apply to the "Brown Plus One" program — a new initiative where they will graduate with a bachelor's degree from Brown and a master's from either the University of Edinburgh in England or the Chinese University of Hong Kong. These students will spend an undergraduate semester or two and a post-baccalaureate year at the partner school, so they earn nearly two full years of international experience with their degrees.

This year also marked the start of a joint business master's program with the Instituto de Empresa in Spain. The 24 students in the inaugural class ­ — representing 12 different industries and a dozen nationalities — will have a chance to combine liberal arts learning and international focus with conventional business skills, The Herald reported in March.

The Brown Plus One and joint business master's programs join the study abroad programs in 10 countries Brown already offers to undergraduates. Brown operates its program under a consortia model — where it uses partnerships with other universities — rather than building campuses in other countries. At the end of May, Gutmann is meeting with the Council for Advanced Studies Abroad to discuss coordinating with other American universities to start new consortium programs in Turkey, Argentina, China and other countries.

These sorts of new initiatives all take time and money, and not everything has been easy. Even after years of effort, the Office for International Affairs has yet to create a system that lets Brown researchers know that their peers in other fields are doing research in the same countries, Gutmann said. Brown is still not as well known as some of its peer institutions in countries like China and India, and it needs to continue to build its presence before it will be fully competitive.

But administrators agree that despite the financial burden and immense challenge of working on an international stage, the University will continue to focus its efforts on building its global profile.

"It's really the entire administration that is permeated with these international goals," Kertzer said. It all comes down to making Brown "better known as one of the greatest universities in the world."




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