2014 Internationalization Symposium

symposium posterSince President Skorton's White Paper, "Bringing Cornell to the World and the World to Cornell", much discussion has taken place about the nature and the meaning of a "meaningful international experience." The symposium was a unique opportunity to improve our collective thinking on global-oriented learning goals, different types of international experiences, and pre- and post-departure programs. It was also an opportunity to seek a better understanding on what constitutes a meaningful international student experience and to “raise the bar” by critically reviewing our approaches and learning from others.

The symposium was very successful in creating lots of interest and “buy-in” across campus. Over 140 participants registered for and attended the symposium. There was great enthusiasm and support from the co-organizers (i.e., Cornell Abroad, the Center for Engaged Learning + Research, the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI), and the Center for Teaching Excellence).  In addition, the symposium was endorsed and supported by the three university councils on internationalization, language education, and public engagement; the Offices of the Vice Provost for International Affairs (VPIA), the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, and the Vice President for Student and Academic Services; and last but not least many faculty, staff, and students that are actively involved in international experiences.

Three outstanding colleagues from peer universities and experts in the field of international education, Darla K. Deardorff of Duke University, Michael Vande Berg of the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) and Jane Edwards of Yale University, assisted in developing and participated in the symposium. Their experiences and expertise enriched our thinking and discussions.

In preparation of the symposium, the members of the Internationalization Council played a key role in identifying meaningful international experiences of their respective colleges. Faculty and administrative leaders of these programs prepared over 30 case study reports from across campus (see case studies). These reports reflect on a wide range of opportunities abroad including study abroad, exchange programs, courses with an international travel component, field work, service learning, and internships. Faculty and students of 10 experiences were chosen to participate in panel discussions and over 20 case studies were featured on display boards.


Session 1: International experiences and student learning outcomes: Where Are We Now?

Darla K. Deardorff focused on defining and assessing student learning. Despite their common use, terms like global citizenship and intercultural competence are ill-defined. Assessment needs to be aligned with articulated outcomes and there is not one “best tool” to do so. The discussion underlined the importance of cross campus sharing of information to move forward and the necessity of assessment to justify programs and identify the value added to students.

Session 2: Current types of international experiences

Michael Vande Berg presented a paradigm shift in student learning abroad and concluded that students don’t develop interculturally on their own; they need intervention to foster intercultural competence.  Faculty talked about what they would like to accomplish, e.g., following up with students after the experience and involving host country students. Students reported on experiencing cognitive dissonance and how their training helped them frame their experiences. They appreciated mixed professional, cultural, and academic experiences.

Session 3: Institutional strategies and challenges towards global learning

Reflecting on internationalization strategies particularly at Harvard (federal decision making) and Yale (imperial decision making), Jane Edwards explored three central questions: whose initiative is it, what is the buy-in, and where is the money? Leaders of Cornell’s key institutional units related to international learning including ISSO and the Language Education Council discussed challenges and potential forms of collaboration.

Session 4: Promoting meaningful international experiences at Cornell: Where Are We Going?

Speakers and three council leaders reflected on the underlying question of the symposium. It was suggested that Cornell should provide a complex richness of experiences that combines personal, professional, and disciplinary growth. Important consideration needs to be given to the intentionality of the experience, the ability of putting ourselves in someone else’s world, and the depth of relationships developed during these experiences.

Takeaways and next steps

  • International experiences need to be integrated into the curriculum; there is a need to design intentional curriculum pathways/pipelines in all colleges.

  • There are many types of potentially “meaningful” international experiences and those need to be defined by intention (learning outcomes), duration, immersion, intensity, engagement, and reflection.

  • Mentoring and facilitated reflection are indispensable components of “meaningful” international experiences.

  • Developing a set of university-wide learning goals/outcomes for international experiences that would complement learning outcomes specific to the major or discipline of the course is essential.

  • While many extracurricular international experiences may be meaningful, a next step would be to develop a set of criteria that determines which international experiences should receive Cornell credit and/or should be financially supported through the Internationalization Initiative.

  • Offer training opportunities for leading faculty and staff of international experiences such as the international experience leader training seminar, and create a “learning community” or a forum for faculty to share ideas and learn from each other as well as a repository of best practices.

  • Strengthen and streamline organizational structures that support meaningful international experiences and foster and encourage collaborative efforts such as the Global Education, Engagement, and Inclusion Group.
  • Clarify the role of languages for international experiences.

  • Secure funding for developing and maintaining international programs.

Additional Information

Below you will find information about the symposium including the agenda and distinguished speakers. 

PDF icon Agenda

PDF icon Distinguished Speakers