Lehigh goes global with strategic plan

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Lehigh students pose outside of the Taj Mahal during their Iacocca intership this summer. Lehigh’s Path to Prominence is focused on programs that have an impact beyond the Lehigh and Bethlehem communities. (Courtesy of Angelica Benares)

Although a large part of Lehigh’s Path to Prominence focuses on campus construction and expansion, its international strategic plan aims to have an impact beyond the city of Bethlehem, the state of Pennsylvania and even the United States.

The international strategic plan focuses on strengthening the visibility of Lehigh as a globally influential university.

Cheryl Matherly, the vice president and vice provost for international affairs at Lehigh, said the five-year plan is broken down into five pillars: population, programs, partners, people and places.

The first pillar, student population, aims to see how the anticipated growth of Lehigh’s student body is affected by the school’s work internationally.

More specifically, Matherly said it looks at how Lehigh’s international programs give visibility to different international markets, how Lehigh ensures its programs are made available to all students and how Lehigh looks at growth and diversification of its international student body.

According to Lehigh’s website, as of May 17, 2018, international students make up 10 percent of the class of 2022, with more countries of origin than ever before. The percentage is intended to increase by 2020.

Angelica Benares, ‘20, an admissions ambassador for diversity and former Iacocca intern in India, thinks Lehigh’s initiative is an important one.

“Diversity is such a positive thing to bring to campus because you can learn so much from different perspectives,” she said.

Matherly said the second target focuses on developing programs, especially experiential learning programs, and improving existing ones. She said the Iacocca Internship program has been one of the most successful international programs so far.

Alana Hill, ‘19, had an Iacocca Internship and studied abroad for a semester in London.

“After my time abroad I came back so passionate about global initiatives and wanted it to be possible for as many Lehigh students as possible,” Hill said.

Hill’s experience and commitment to Lehigh’s global initiatives led to her election to the Global Lehigh committee by Student Senate.

“I came into the committee with very big ideas,” Hill said. “After being on the committee, I was able to see what goals could be achieved over the next few years and feel confident we’re heading in the right direction.”

The third area looks at strategy through the lens of partnerships.

In December 2017, Lehigh announced a collaborative partnership with Ashoka University in Haryana, India. The initiative created opportunities for student exchange and cross-institutional research. Hill said Lehigh is also taking strides to partner with the London School of Economics.

Matherly said the fourth target, people, examines how Lehigh can recruit and retain world-class faculty and staff by providing resources for their internationalization efforts.

The final pillar focuses on the countries and regions in which Lehigh can become more engaged.

Matherly said the university is specifically interested in strengthening its initiative in India and making London a centralized location for Lehigh’s international engagements.

“All of these pillars lead up to the idea of people thinking of Lehigh as a globally connected and influential university,” Matherly said.

Matherly said that these initiatives are all intertwined — with each one building off the next — which ultimately makes it easier for global partnerships to gain traction after their inceptions. The Iacocca internship in New Delhi, India, was offered for the first time this summer.

“I think (the Iacocca Internship program) is a really great program for Lehigh because the network allowed us to meet so many people and make so many connections,” Benares said. “I really hope they expand it so more Lehigh kids can experience it.”

Hill said she hopes to see a Lehigh campus abroad in the future so it’s easier for students to receive credit for classes.

“I want every student to be able to go abroad once, so if that’s what it takes, then hopefully it can become a reality one day,” Hill said.

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