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President Jack Thomas with State of Illinois-China Office Managing Director Zachary Zhao.
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President Jack Thomas with students at E'nan High School.
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The Internationalization of WIU

June 26, 2012

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MACOMB, IL -- Maurice Harari, the former Vice President for International Programs at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), answered the question "What does it take to internationalize higher education?" by stating "... the degree of internationalization of a campus is not a function of size, location or budget. It is a function of faculty/staff competence and commitment of institutional leadership."

The AASCU's 2011 review of internationalizing the Western Illinois University campus began with that comment and concluded that "the leadership is committed, the faculty and staff are competent and the international structure and organization is effective." Building upon that commitment and the effective structure of Western's international studies, WIU President Jack Thomas and Richard Carter, executive director of the School of Distance Learning, International Studies, and Outreach, recently embarked on a 10-day recruitment trip to China to further promote Western abroad.

During the trip, which was organized by Western's partner, Inner Circle Education Center (ICEC), Thomas and Carter visited students and educators at E'nan High School in Wunan, Xianning City and Shanghai International Studies University. They also met with officials from the China Ministry of Education in Beijing and with the state representative from Illinois in Shanghai.

According to Carter, the primary purpose of the trip was to continue Western's comprehensive recruiting efforts abroad and to further bolster relationships with Chinese educational institutions.

"ICEC regards WIU as its premier partner and is moving to link the first Language Advantage Center (LAC) concept with Western," Carter explained. "The first LAC will be established in Xianning City, with American teachers, including Western graduates, leading intensive English classes. Students from the center will then transfer to Western's English as a Second Language (WESL) program and will eventually move into a four-year bachelor's degree program at our university."

The goal of the center concept is to allow a greater number of level two and level three students into WESL, which reduces the students' time spent studying ESL by 33 percent, Carter added.

While the LAC has not yet been created, four new students from China will arrive at Western this summer to begin their intensive English studies and transition into a WIU undergraduate degree program. ZuoTiantian Zuo, a visiting faculty member from Shanghai Donghai College in China, will serve in the broadcasting department and the Center for International Studies during the 2012-13 semester.

"Visiting with our educational partners in China was an incredible experience and an outstanding opportunity for Western Illinois University," Thomas said. "Western has a rich tradition of providing quality educational experiences for its students. As our University moves forward to further internationalize our campus, partnerships with such organizations as ICEC, embassies and high schools and centers abroad will become even more essential to our mission.

"International students provide incredible cultural exchanges among the University and local schools, organizations and churches. These students expand the cultural horizons of other students and area residents," he added. "We are committed to providing international students with the support needed to have a successful college experience."

In addition to the efforts in China, Western welcomes 16 students from Gwangju University, South Korea, who arrived in Macomb this past weekend. The students will be on campus for a five-week intensive English language program.

"Dr. Thomas's dedication and commitment towards campus globalization is evident. Working with WIU administrators and faculty, I believe we can establish Western as a premier university option for prospective Chinese students," said Jim Brosam II, ICEC CEO. "By traveling to China, President Thomas has demonstrated the strong resolve of Western to internationalization.

"ICEC is firmly committed to assisting the University as it develops its China plan including student recruitment, study abroad and faculty exchange," Brosam added. "We look forward to a long partnership with Western and to making the University the first choice of many Chinese students."

To build upon Carter's visits earlier this year to Washington, D.C., he and Thomas will travel to the nation's capitol this fall to meet with embassy officials, and Carter will return to China in the near future to continue discussions for establishing formal partnerships.

"Traveling to China and meeting with the embassies are just a few of the steps in many we are taking to further globalize the Western Illinois University campus," Carter added. "Not only do these visits bring further recognition to WIU and help increase our international student population, they provide greater opportunities to build upon Study Abroad exchanges, internships and academic cohorts."

Carter and members of the Center for International Studies (CIS) staff are currently working on a comprehensive five-year international strategic plan. The AASCU's review of the University's international activities, which was completed by AASCU Director of International Education Arlene Jackson, and select recommendations, will be incorporated into the plan.

"Expanding the number of faculty-led study abroad programs and creating new international partnerships involved are two primary recommendations that we can implement almost immediately as part of our plan. We are also reviewing opportunities such as Fulbright Fellowships and other international faculty fellowship programs," Carter explained. "We all have a responsibility to further develop and support the internationalization of the curriculum, our campus and our community."

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