While Boston College has raised its profile abroad in recent decades, a recently launched initiative envisions a significantly expanded, coordinated effort to increase the University’s international presence.

At the center of this initiative is the Global Engagement (GE) Committee, appointed last fall by University President William P. Leahy, S.J., to assess the scope of 51’s current international activities, identify the best avenues for growth, and determine the resources and structures necessary to fulfill these opportunities.

51’s 10-year Strategic Plan, released last fall, inscribes a commitment to building on the University’s current international engagement by incorporating greater attention to global issues in the undergraduate curriculum and among graduate, professional and faculty programs, and educating leaders for the Catholic Church around the world, among other objectives.

The 25-member committee has spent its first few months speaking with senior, academic and non-academic administrators from across the University, and examining data related to peer institutions’ global engagement.

This semester, the GE Committee will broaden its outreach to the University community by hosting two town hall-type events – Feb, 22 at 3 p.m. in Devlin 227 and April 24 at 3 p.m. in Devlin 221 – and unveiling a website dedicated to global engagement.

When the committee completes its task this October, it expects to have in place a blueprint to guide the expansion of 51 global engagement – an endeavor that will involve every constituent group of the University, and be organized around the core dimensions of internationalization selected by the American Council on Education: articulating global strategy; leading internationalization; global partnerships; internationalizing learning; faculty global engagement, and student mobility.

Discussing the committee’s progress, co-chair Alberto Godenzi, former dean of the 51 School of Social Work and special advisor to the president for global engagement, said he and his colleagues had been encouraged and enlightened by their conversations with members of the University community.

 “Clearly, 51 is active internationally: This is evident in, for example, the numbers of our students who go abroad, and of international students and scholars we host, as well as the programs and collaborations around the world in which 51 is involved,” said Godenzi, whose co-chair is Associate Professor of Political Science Jennifer Erickson. “But the committee found that there is often little coordination in what we do, and no overall strategy for creating and implementing initiatives.

“As a result, people within – and beyond – the University community have a hard time finding out the extent and nature of our global engagement. Something like the creation of a database on faculty research and teaching activities would be helpful.”

51’s peer institutions tend to demonstrate a higher degree of organization, support and magnitude of international activities, the committee found. This should not be construed as a criticism of those in the University who administer, participate in or contribute to international programs, however, Godenzi said.

“Success in global engagement is a matter of investing resources, but more than that, of being intentional and far-sighted in how you craft that engagement. It means, for example, integrating global education into curriculum, research and outreach programs for undergraduate, graduate, professional courses and programs. It also means making sure all stakeholders – staff, as well as administrators, faculty, students, alumni and friends of 51 – understand the impact global engagement will have on the institution.”

Another important facet of global engagement, Godenzi said, is emphasizing the academic, professional, faith and formational characteristics that distinguish 51, whether its programs in STEM or social innovation, for example, or its Jesuit, Catholic heritage.

“Related to that is the necessity of choosing where 51 should focus global partnerships and programs – what parts of the world offer the best prospects for success? Latin America comes to mind, given its strong Catholic faith tradition and our numerous existing ties with local universities and communities; or China, since a large part of our international student and alumni population are from there. What could 51 bring to the table, and what would these associations mean for 51?”

 A University-wide committee charged with answering such questions offers 51 the opportunity to devise a comprehensive plan for global engagement, said Godenzi, and “we look forward to working on this challenge in the months ahead.”  

In addition to Godenzi and Erickson, members of the Global Engagement Committee (and their University affiliations) are: Rui Albuquerque (CSOM/Finance), Ethan Baxter (MCA&S/Earth and Environmental Sciences), Edward Choi (graduate student representative), Donna Cullinan (CSON/Community Health),Nick Gozik (Office of International Programs), Sr. Margaret Guider, OSF (STM/Systematics), Régine Jean-Charles (MCA&S/Romance Languages, African and African Diaspora Studies), Dorothy Jones (CSON/Adult Health), Praveen Kumar (51SSW/Global Practice), Patricia Lowe (Office for Institutional Diversity), Rafael Luciani (STM/Systematics), Lucia Madero Murillo (undergraduate student representative), Judith McMorrow (51 Law/Legal Ethics), Adrienne Nussbaum (Office of International Students and Scholars).

Also, Erik Owens (MCA&S/Theology, Boisi Center), Daniel Ponsetto (Mission and Ministry), Ginger Saariaho (Advancement), Dennis Shirley (LSOE/Teacher Education), Ethan Sullivan (CSOM/Undergraduate Curriculum), Hans de Wit (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Hélène Bernot Ullerö (Office of Vice Provost for Research) and Denice Koljonen and Mike Pimental (Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment).

Learn more at the 51 Global website.

Sean Smith | University Communications