Remaining globally competitive

01-04-2006

Later this week I’ll be attending the U.S. University Presidents Summit in Washington, DC, hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

University presidents and other higher education leaders from across the country will be participating in the two-day event.

It builds on one of the central themes we discussed at the National Summit on Competitiveness I attended in early December: the importance of internationalizing higher education in order for both our students and our country to remain globally competitive.

Of course, that’s not a new idea at Michigan State. We welcomed our first international students to campus some 125 years ago and appointed the first dean of international programs in the country (under John Hannah) 50 years ago. Throughout our history, we’ve reached across international borders to form partnerships with institutions around the world. MSU has been the global prototype of an internationally engaged university, extending our land-grant values beyond our campus in ways that both benefit our partners abroad and rebound benefits to the state of Michigan and its people.

“Thinking globally and acting locally” is a logical extension of our land-grant heritage: being an engine for economic development, a force for the democratization of public learning, and a model for engagement. Connecting the knowledge we generate in our classrooms and laboratories with its practical applications through partnerships is a uniquely American approach to higher education, a powerful idea that industry, and now government also, have embraced.

So this week’s summit will focus on how best to expand collaborative efforts among government and non-governmental institutions and organizations, where best to make key investments that will strengthen international higher education for Americans and, in a more general sense, on the future of U.S. higher education in a global arena.

At MSU, we know many of the pieces that make up that picture, because they’re things we’re already doing: recruiting international students to our campus, sending more of our students on study abroad programs and internships than any other public university in the country, internationalizing our curriculum and building mutually beneficial partnerships, both at home and abroad. We’re so confident of our international character and leadership, that we chose it as the focus of the self-study portion of the current North Central Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation review.

So the summit will be a great opportunity for us to share our experiences with other institutions, to learn more about what others are doing, and most of all, to think about how all of us can work together and build on the momentum we’ve already created.

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