After years of university-wide collaboration, Lehigh has been recognized by the Association of International Education (NAFSA) for its excellence in international education, becoming one of eight U.S. colleges and universities to receive the 2021 Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization.
Considered to be one of the most prestigious awards a university can earn in recognition of its international education programs, the 2021 Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization recognizes institutions that are exemplars in the space of global engagement.
“It’s the recognition of a lot of work of many people across the university to ensure that Lehigh, our students, our faculty and our staff are all involved in global networks and advancing our international learning programs,” said Cheryl Matherly, vice president and vice provost for International Affairs. “We’ve worked really hard for several years to put together the kinds of programs, experiences, networks and partnerships that ultimately led to Lehigh being recognized.”
Matherly said Lehigh began working towards this achievement five years ago with the formation of a university-wide committee. Consisting of faculty, staff and students from across campus, the committee worked to develop the Global Lehigh Plan—a plan closely aligned with Lehigh’s mission and goals of the Path to Prominence.
The plan builds on Lehigh’s international portfolio, strengthening its programs, partnerships and networks and creating new ones as well.
“As we were looking at how Lehigh should really deepen and broaden its global engagement, it was all within the aim of what made sense to make Lehigh a better place,” Matherly said.
The Global Lehigh Plan consists of programs such as the Global Union, its United Nations Partnership and its Mountaintop Initiative.
Other types of high-impact experiences include Passport to Success. With the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity; this one-year long mentorship program was designed with the Office of International Affairs 10 years ago to connect low-income and first-generation students to learning opportunities such as study abroad.
These are the types of programs that allowed Lehigh to earn the 2021 Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization. This began with the establishment of the Iacocca Institute in 1988, which was the true beginning of international education programs at Lehigh.
With the mission to increase global leadership and global competitiveness, the Iacocca Institute formed many relationships outside of Lehigh with universities, other organizations and its own alumni operating internationally—later bringing those relationships back to Lehigh.
“We had unique opportunities to lead in terms of developing relationships,” said Kira Mendez, director of the Iacocca Institute. “Our own global footprint was very broad compared to the rest of the university’s at that time, but, of course, the goal was to contribute and work with others to drive an overall growth in Lehigh’s global footprint and global involvement over time.”
These relationships helped to form international programs offered by the university, such as the Iacocca International Internship Program.
Erica Fischer, ‘22, will be working remotely this summer with a London-based company through the Iacocca International Internship Program.
“I think it is extremely important for (the) moral and educational growth of any person to have the opportunity of international education,” Fischer said. “Being able to understand what is going on in other countries allows a greater understanding of almost everything we deal with in everyday life.”
While Lehigh’s quality global education benefits domestic students with the opportunity to travel abroad, it additionally delivers Lehigh’s prospective international students with the support needed when adjusting to life in a new country.
From Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Nick Lorch, ‘22, decided to enroll at Lehigh not only for its engineering program, but also for its location in the U.S.
Although he is a U.S. citizen, Lorch has lived the majority of his life in Brazil. When coming to Lehigh, he said he struggled somewhat from culture shock, but felt that Lehigh understood his needs and was committed to helping him and other international students be successful.
“To me global learning (is) a form of cultural appreciation,” Lorch said. “It’s the gathering of knowledge from different cultures solely for the purpose of becoming a more globalized citizen… it could really be anything from trying international cuisine to studying the origins of a different culture to learning a new language.”
From the work done by the Office of International Affairs and other campus members years ago to the work being done today, internationalization has proven to be a top priority to Lehigh.
Not only does this award convey to students that global education is a fundamental part of a Lehigh education, but it also recognizes the quality of the international opportunities being offered to them.
“While it feels good to be awarded with this achievement, it also gives us renewed energy to go to the next step,” Mendez said. “It’s an encouragement to go even further and it’s something that gets us excited about what else is possible.”