Commission on the Future Eyes Internationalization

The University is About to Change

News Report by Vadim Elenev

Though pointing out the existing strengths of U.Va., the Commission on the Future of the University’s draft report leaves no doubt that significant areas for improvement exist and must happen.

According to the Commission’s website, President Casteen initiated the Commission to “propose the strategic directions for the University for the next decade and beyond.” The Commission released the draft report this summer.

Dr. Arthur “Tim” Garson, former Dean of the Medical School who became Provost after Gene Block left to lead UCLA, ranks heading this Commission as his top priority. “The constituents are faculty, students, Board of Visitors, and alumni,” and the work to be done is “tremendous.”

Through discussions within the various committees which focused on schools of the University, student and faculty life, new programs, and funding, the Commission recognized internationalization as a central theme.

Listing “globalization of programs, faculty, and students as a strategic initiative,” the Commission takes a broad view of the topic. Distinguishing between efforts “here” and “there,” Dr. Garson mentions the establishment of overseas programs and recruitment of international students and faculty in addition to curriculum internationalization.

There have long been student accusations of inaction on the part of the administration in this regard. Last year, Student Council Diversity Initiatives Chair Ryan McElveen offered a controversial “Curriculum De-Westernization Plan of Action” and criticized the current state of affairs. A recent column by Prashanth Parameswaran in the Cavalier Daily newspaper offered a sharply worded attack on the Commission’s proposal for not doing nearly enough. Mr. Parameswaran lambastes “the few late steps the administration does take decades after institutions of its standing have done so.”

Dr. Garson sees this criticism as part irrelevant, part misguided. Asked if he was contacted before the column was published, he responds curtly,

“No.” Immediately after hearing the quotation, he retorts,

“I can’t deal with decades!” proceeding to list off a laundry list of specific proposals to counter the idea that the administration’s commitment to internationalization is just “lip service.”

“The three goals are to improve the amount and quality of opportunities abroad, enhance the experience of international students here, and globalize the curriculum,” says Carey Mignerey, student member of the Board of Visitors who works with the Commission on student life issues.

U.Va. is looking to hire a Vice Provost of International Affairs, establish a number of overseas programs, fund international service, and encourage global entrepreneurship through a new initiative.

“Should we encourage professors once a year to consider the international implications of each course they are teaching? I think we should,” Dr. Garson says, immediately providing an example in fruit fly genetics and diabetes.

However, the Commission shies away from quantitative goals in this effort.

“I’ve spoken to thirty-five provosts about metrics,” Dr. Garson says, listing possible metrics such as percentage of international students and faculty. According to him, such metrics do not exist.

“We can’t say we want to be in the seventy-fifth percentile, because there are no percentiles.”

Nevertheless, both Dr. Garson and Mr. Mignerey describe internationalization as a recognized need, and the Commission Draft Report insists on immediate and significant action.

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