North Central College is one of five institutions nationwide to receive a 2015 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization.
This prestigious award recognizes colleges and universities that are making significant, well-planned, well-executed and well-documented progress toward comprehensive internationalization using innovative and creative approaches. Other recipients for 2015 are Mount Holyoke College and the universities of Delaware, Virginia and San Diego. Among last year’s recipients were Rutgers University and The Ohio State University. The award is named for the late U.S. senator from Illinois.
Award recipients will be honored by NAFSA: Association of International Educators in Washington, D.C., in November and profiled in the 2015 edition of “Internationalizing the Campus: Profiles of Success at Colleges and Universities.” The report is distributed to campuses throughout the United States every year.
For North Central, the award represents the fruition of grant funding, campus programming, expanded study abroad, international recruiting and administrative support over the past 20 years. The Office of International Programs was established in 1994 with a director, professor of English Jack Shindler, and a part-time secretary, and today has grown to five full-time staff members. Shindler first developed a plan to internationalize the campus in 1989.
“Our culture has been infused with significant global dimensions, largely as a result of the generous and continuous support from campus administration,” Shindler says. “We’ve also benefited from long-term involvement by faculty, staff, students and the community of Naperville.”
Among North Central’s accomplishments that were considered for the award:
- An increase in study abroad programs to 50 from 18 and financial support to make the program affordable
· Establishing the English Language Institute (ELI) in 2014
· Recruiting faculty from all 18 academic departments to lead long-term and short-term study abroad programs
· Support for 48 students to conduct international research in the past five years
· New international fields of study, including global studies, East Asian studies, international business and master of international business
· International student enrollment growing to 94 students in 2014 from 50 in 2006, and programs like Friendship Family, international roommates and International Club
· Stipends for faculty development
· Global awareness programs that are open to the community focusing on different regions of the world
· Major grant funding from federal and private sources for curriculum expansion
· An all-college intercultural requirement satisfied through coursework or travel
· Assessment of students’ experiences
· Steady participation in the Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence program
“The presence of a rich international environment with students from across the globe is critical to cross-cultural understanding,” says Jesús E. Velasco, international student advisor. “International student presence is imperative both on our campus and in the Naperville community. Countless students and families have benefited from participating in our International Roommate and Friendship Family programs,” he says. “In addition, there are clear pedagogical contributions that our students bring to class discussions when sharing stories of their cultures.”
Among the many opportunities for students is the availability of December Term courses led by faculty for short-term study abroad experiences.
“Studying abroad promotes peace and diplomacy, educational understanding, cross-cultural awareness, and individual growth,” says Kimberly Larsson, director of study abroad. “When I think about international ethos and a common mission, embraced by all, which is what the Paul Simon Award highlights, it is easy to place faculty, staff, administration and students at the heart of our support and central to all our efforts.”
One popular offering involves three weeks of travel and study in Germany under the guidance of Gregory H. Wolf, Dennis and Jean Bauman Professor in the Humanities and Professor of German. “The Paul Simon Award is a great honor for North Central College,” says Wolf. “Our students who pursue multilingual and intercultural competency will undoubtedly have an edge when they apply for jobs and graduate school in an ultra-competitive, globalized society.”