Skip to main content

Northwestern leads Big Ten Academic Alliance professional development program on internationalization

Northwestern leads Big Ten Academic Alliance professional development program on internationalization

This was an amazing opportunity to both network with colleagues at other BTAA institutions and reflect on what it means to support internationalization within my own role at Northwestern, which includes centering Indigenous knowledge to address critical global concerns.”

Jasmine Gurneau

This summer, a group of 13 U.S. university administrators from the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) spent a week in Germany as the capstone to a six-month professional development program on internationalization in higher education.

The goal of the program is for higher education professionals to gain a greater understanding of best practices for campus internationalization and partnership development while reflecting on how their own roles intersect and support international efforts at their university.

“Internationalization touches all corners of the university, and our administrators all work in a global environment to some extent, whether they advise students, support faculty research, or manage contracts,” said Northwestern's Assistant Vice President for International Relations Kim Rapp, who co-leads the program together with Michigan State University's Director of the Office for International Students and Scholars Krista McCallum Beatty.

However, each university employs distinct strategies to achieve internationalization, whether that be through campuses abroad, targeted international recruitment, internationally-focused programs, or other approaches. Through the BTAA professional development program, staff members have the chance to delve deeply into comparing different approaches amongst BTAA institutions and partner institutions abroad, and consider what new ideas can be taken back to their home institutions.

The impact of university staff members participating in professional development opportunities can be seen far and wide, observed Rapp, who also leads the One World \ One Northwestern program for staff across the university that facilitates the collaboration and sharing of best practices in the area of university internationalization.

“Building the intercultural capacity of our staff and developing a culture that embraces internationalization,” Rapp said, “helps make all feel welcome in our community and advances Northwestern's position as a global leader.”

Professional Development at Home and Abroad

The BTAA program commenced in 2019 with six monthly seminars followed by a field experience in Mexico City where the cohort visited several universities (including Northwestern's partner Universidad Panamericana) and U.S. and Mexican government offices. Though the field experience component was cancelled in 2020 and 2021, the program ran each year with the regular seminars, including the group's would-be host sharing their internationalization strategies via Zoom.

This year, Northwestern's Assistant Provost for Faculty Celina Flowers and Director for Native American and Indigenous Affairs Jasmine Gurneau participated in the program.

Through monthly webinar discussions joined by senior international officers from BTAA member universities, participants acquired an understanding of the importance and challenges of internationalization, and in June, the cohort traveled to Germany for their field experience.

During the week-long trip, the group met with representatives from Indiana University's Europe Gateway office, the EducationUSA Center at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, the DAAD German Academic Exchange Service, Fulbright Germany, and Hamburg Universität and Humboldt Universität in Berlin, two of Northwestern's partner institutions.

While discussions around initiatives for collaboration among transatlantic universities and the strengthening and building of new relationships with global partners were goals of the site visits, the participants took away much more.

“The ability to immerse myself in a group of higher education professionals who work in a different University function than I do and to learn about their challenges and joys in supporting global endeavors within their institutions was both inspiring and humbling,” said Celina Flowers.

Long-Term Impact

Deborah Rosenberg, an academic advisor in Weinberg College, was in the first cohort of the program and recently reflected on its long-term impact. The part that mostly stayed with her, she found, was the study abroad piece of internationalization.

“Learning about how partner universities in the host countries and our universities, especially Northwestern, communicate and structure their study abroad programs and the curriculum, was very useful to me, in that I advise students on my end about what their experiences are going to be like, academically and socially,” Rosenberg said, who is also an assistant professor of instruction in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

Northwestern administrators interested in participating in the program can contact Assistant Vice President for International Relations Kim Rapp. Participants for the 2023 program will be selected by January 5, 2023, and the program is expected to begin in late January 2023.

Previous program participants from Northwestern include:

  • 2019: Deborah Rosenberg, Academic Advisor, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • 2020: Greg Buchanan, Assistant Director, Program in Global Health Studies, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • 2020: Nell Novara, Assistant Director of International Student Support, Pritzker School of Law
  • 2021: Louie Lainez, Manager of Diversity and Inclusion, Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion
  • 2021: Jennifer Gerrard, Senior Director, Global Engagement and Intercultural Initiatives, Office of the Vice President for International Relations
  • 2022: Celina Flowers, Assistant Provost for Faculty, Office of the Provost
  • 2022: Jasmine Gurneau, Director for Native American and Indigenous Affairs, Office of the Provost