One VU to the World
What is our global strategy? Vanderbilt’s international presence and influence are critical to our mission to “shape the future of higher education and to foster the creation of knowledge that together improve the human condition.” Discovery and learning are never contained by national boundaries nor are the grand challenges that we face today as a global society. In recent weeks, Vanderbilt’s future plans for international initiatives have been top of mind for me through our searches for a new Vice Provost and a new Dean of the Graduate School. We have accomplished much in key areas of international affairs, and there is tremendous opportunity ahead of us.
I’ve worked with many of you over the past year on topics ranging from graduate education to study abroad to international research partnerships. The Academic Strategic Plan makes gains in this area possible because international issues naturally cut across all four pillars. As we move forward, there are several principles that I believe should guide the further development of our future global approaches.
1- Building a Grassroots Foundation
Over the past decade, Vanderbilt established key institutional partnerships abroad including those with the University of Melbourne, the University of Sao Paolo, Leipzig University, and Queens University in Belfast. Peabody also has a significant partnership with the government of Abu Dhabi to improve public school education. Our global reach, however, extends well beyond these focused endeavors. Looking at where faculty traveled from April 2014 to March 2015 reveals visits to 108 countries in a total of 2,870 trips. Our top destinations include Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa and China. How can we leverage the international connections that our faculty already have? Where do the faculty see the greatest future global opportunities for discovery and learning?
We have an active pilot grant program for seeding international collaborations. The Trans-Institutional Program awards are a newer bottom-up approach that fosters the most promising and innovative collaborations where faculty and student interest is strong. One project from the 2015 awards brings together experts from across campus to assess healthcare needs in Brazil; another brings together engineers and doctors to develop much needed technologies for low-cost diagnostic tools in developing countries. I am looking forward to more TIPs proposals this year with an international focus. Such grass-roots input will be essential to guiding and driving future investments.
2 – Leveraging One Vanderbilt
The Center for Latin American Studies is Vanderbilt’s oldest trans-institutional program dating back to its start in 1947. Through its commitment to interdisciplinary teaching and research, Latin American Studies reach all corners of campus, from working with the Institute for Coffee Studies, to Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Societies, to the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health. Next month, I’ve asked several students and faculty to share stories about their work in Latin America with the Board of Trust Academic and Student Affairs Committee [see sidebar] as an example of how the One Vanderbilt approach creates unique opportunities and impact. As we consider and develop our future international strategies for the university, the “One Vanderbilt” trans-institutional approach in Latin America offers a model for success in other areas of the globe.
3 – Enhancing Student and Faculty Scholarship
Considering all the places around the world our faculty are traveling to, there are almost too many choices in terms of where, why, and what to focus on. Such decisions require us to select those that offer great opportunities to enhance student and faculty scholarship. For example, our new digital partnership with Duke and the University of Virginia allows us to offer more language training in uncommon areas and leverages Vanderbilt’s excellence in Mayan. For study abroad programs, with support of the Faculty Advisory Council on International Education (FACIE), we are aiming to enrich our students’ experiences in important ways and build synergies with the Immersion Vanderbilt initiative. The Global Education Office is supporting this with new efforts to integrate study abroad programs with academic courses and faculty research. By strategic and aligned investments in education and research areas, I am confident we will lead in a rapidly changing globalized economy and society.
4 – Communicating Global Impact
With international students, fellows, faculty and visitors, we bring the world to our campus. This is critically important, and equally so we must let the world know about Vanderbilt. What difference is Vanderbilt making in the world? Through this academic year, objectives will include a re-inventory of our extensive international efforts, considering new ways to ensure recognition of the transformative work of our students and faculty, and enhancing communication platforms for our international efforts both on campus and to the world.
These guiding principles will set the stage for launching a new study group in 2016 that be charged with identifying our top priorities and defining our strategic next steps in international areas linked to research and education. I am committed to continually refining our international strategy to create pathways for initiatives that enhance both the Vanderbilt experience and impact. If you would like to be involved in an international strategy study group, please do let me know.
Previous Open Dore Issues
In case you missed it….
On Location Update – September 2015
The Feedback Loop – August 2015
The Discovery ROI – May 2015
Strategic Decisions for Strategic Impact – April 2015
New Leaders and Calls for All to Engage – March 2015
A Culture Powered by Ideas – February 2015
Welcome to the First Issue of The Open Dore – January 2015