The Office of International Affairs has begun to offer new plans and options for international students and students wishing to study abroad. Lehigh has not yet announced a decision on what the fall 2020 semester will look like. (Kate Morrell/B&W Staff)

Lehigh joins American Council on Education’s Internationalization Laboratory

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Lehigh is joining six other institutions as part of the American Council on Education’s Internationalization Laboratory.

Internationalization is the process of planning and implementing products and services so they can easily be adapted to specific local languages and cultures. 

Members of the non-profit organization ACE, which promotes U.S. higher education and senior leadership at universities, reached out to Lehigh and several other universities over the summer.

Over the following months, a committee of Lehigh faculty began working with ACE to develop a strategic plan for the Internationalization Laboratory. This will provide Lehigh with a new intercultural dimension that will be established throughout the university’s educational programs.

“The plan is not to do just more of what we’re currently doing,” said Cheryl Matherly, the international affairs vice president and ACE committee co-chair. “It’s really to look at opportunities to think differently and how to think more ambitiously.”

Lehigh is working on a self-study plan to assess and review the university’s intercultural awareness programs. The plan is still in the first stages of development, but it looks to involve environments for internationalization, international students and engagement with institutions abroad.

The self-study plan is projected to be completed in April and will help improve these programs while also applying the university’s data to recruitment, study abroad, faculty research and regional partnerships.

“This deep dive in what we are currently doing will really help us understand where our strengths and weaknesses are,” Matherly said. “There are aspects of what we do that might be done differently. These might appeal to a different population student, and that will give us the chance to scale up.”

Matherly said the self-study plan might be something that will allow a higher number of students to participate in study abroad or support faculty research with partners overseas.

Before working on the plan, a faculty committee was created and finalized in October 2016 to help keep Lehigh on track with its internationalization plans. According to the committee’s co-chair Jack Lule, who is also the chair of the journalism department, the group was designed to create a diverse sample that represents faculty from all of the colleges.

“Forming the committee was an important part of the process because there is a lot of Lehigh faculty who are doing some extraordinary things internationally,” Lule said. “We needed to make sure we had their expertise.”

Lule said part of the committee’s process has been reaching out for student opinions.

“Students are our foremost ambassadors,” he said. “Most of our programs are student-based, so students will certainly have a role in what we’re doing here.”

Matherly said once the self-study plan is completed, the committee will look at potential outcomes for international engagement and develop a plan to achieve their goals. She said the committee wants to have a draft of the strategic plan completed by September.

In October, a peer group will visit Lehigh to go over the strategic plan and critique it. The committee plans to finalize their strategy by the end of December. Matherly said the program is meant to line up with Lehigh’s Path to Prominence expansion program.

Lule said while international programs like the Iacocca Internship, the United Nations partnership, Global Citizenship and the Martindale scholarship are all credible programs, the help of the Internationalization Laboratory can transform them into the legacy programs the Path to Prominence seeks to create.

“I can’t imagine there’s a Path to Prominence that doesn’t have some global aspect,” Lule said. “If Lehigh wants to be a prominent university, it has to be a global player. This will help us get there.”

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