• September 3, 2015

College Chiefs Should Walk the Walk on Internationalizing Campuses, Says SUNY Chancellor

The chancellor of one of the country's largest public-university systems had a straightforward message on Tuesday for college leaders about internationalizing their campuses. Speaking to a group of international-education officials, Nancy L. Zimpher, head of the State University of New York, said presidents, chancellors, and senior administrators can't just talk about making their campuses more international places—they have to do something about it.

"Rhetoric is not going to get it done," Ms. Zimpher said, speaking at the annual meeting here of the Association of International Education Administrators. "We have to commit ourselves, we have to hold ourselves to public action."

Ms. Zimpher, who has led the New York system since June, is walking the walk. She will convene a strategic-planning session next month to set priorities for internationalization systemwide, with a focus on how SUNY can help New York's economy.

The daylong session will yield two or three measurable outcomes for international success, Ms. Zimpher said, including targets for international-student recruitment, study abroad, or scholarly exchanges. Having clear gauges for success will hold SUNY officials accountable, she said.

In addition to setting measurable priorities, Ms. Zimpher said college leaders should tie global activities to core institutional strengths. Without linking international work to areas in which a college has "substantive competence," such an effort risks becoming "a thousand points of light, uncoordinated," said Ms. Zimpher, who was an author of a 2004 report by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges calling for a greater role for college presidents and chancellors in internationalization.

Ms. Zimpher also championed a project led by Mitch Leventhal, SUNY's vice chancellor for global affairs, to certify and regulate third-party recruiters of international students. And she argued that universities' international work had to be done in the context of trade and immigration policy. International students have a significant impact on the American economy, Ms. Zimpher said, and universities must do their part to prevent a "brain drain" of talented foreign graduates, through strategies such as placing international students in internships or cooperative-education programs with American corporations.

Most important, said Ms. Zimpher, is leadership and vision. "Vision trumps everything," she said.


1. jeff1 - February 16, 2010 at 05:35 pm

Really . . . so if you envision it Dr. Zimpher it wil happen? Can leaders make such things happen? Please, that is way to naive and simplistic a view for such a large and complex set of issues. Much of what is touched upon in this very short snipet of an article, many of us are doing quite well. SUNY has no money to make these things happen at the majority of their campuses and most of these are located in the boon-docks. With all due respect SUNY needs a strategy and a series of tactics to make this happen not a vision which is just talking is it not?

2. dale1 - February 16, 2010 at 08:26 pm

Honestly, I am all for internationalization. However, how can campuses do this when they are struggling to keep their heads above water in the first place? Financial austerity is hitting every institution, even the ivies, very hard. Where are we going to find the resources to do this in a time when state funding is flat at best?

3. hijole - February 16, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Well Nancy Zimpher [PhD in education administration] wants to educate non-New Yorkers using New York taxpayer funds so that citizens of other nations can more effectively compete with us -- yeah Nancy that makes so much sense.

She is simply another example of the current crop of clueless administrative clods who talk to each other using business jargon when discussing the needs of faculty and students. The main purpose of this obfuscating rhetoric is persuade us that they ACTUALLY know something - when in fact that have absolutely no ideas rattling around in their very numb skulls. For example, New York is about to undergo a major demographic change in which African-American, Asian-Americans and Latinos will be the majority of high school graduates. A significant number of those students are already arriving in SUNY classrooms; many of those students have graduated from resource poor schools and need serious remedial help in order to succeed. So what does Nancy do -- she cuts funding for programs that make it possible for those students to graduate-- and the reason is that she wants to play with her international hobbyhorse.

Zimpher's actions are a sad commentary on the paucity of imagination and character exhibited by our so-called educational leaders. She always brings to mind Noel Coward:

We know you're trapped in a gilded cage
But for Heaven's sake relax and be your age,
Stop being gallant
And don't be such a bore,
Pack up your talent,
There's always plenty more...
Why must the show go on?

4. tvmillington - February 17, 2010 at 09:52 am

I applaud Dr. Zimpher for saying something that should have been expressed a long time ago. Many colleges talk the talk about internationalizing the campus but rarely actually follow through on their commitment. I agree with the three commentators who posted before me that the current economic climate makes it very difficulty for ANY college or university to pursue any internationalization goals, not matter how noble they may be. Dr. Zimpher should have realized this or at least mentioned it.

One possible solution may involve diverting some allocation of funds from athletics to internationalization efforts. I have always been stunned by the amount of money spent on athletics.

5. geof9052 - February 17, 2010 at 10:33 am

To argue that we should not internationalize because there are budget problems is to miss the point entirely. Priorities must be set and if college leaders don't set them, who else is going to? One thing we need to see is the Provosts speaking up. Presidents and deans are doing most of the heavy lifting on internationalization, but the provosts are the critical leaders who need to keep the pressure on. Leadership is coming from some of them (eg Duke) but a higher fraction of them need to be speaking out.

6. mjbustle - February 17, 2010 at 11:50 am

Few would argue that we don't want our academic and research programs to yield more globally competent and marketable products (cross-culturally effective graduates, a curriculum rich in international examples and trends, research programs and papers that reflect a mixture of cultural viewpoints, new funding streams and collaborations that bridge language and political boundaries,...), but what exactly do we want and how will we know we got what we set out for?

Simply increasing the numbers of international graduate students on our campuses or sending faculty abroad for short-term exchanges do not immediately or inevitably yield a change in campus climate or globalization of our communities and programs. Quantifiable yes, but does it make a sizeable and positive impact?

If we want to be serious about making our universities more "globalized" we should begin by supporting and recognizing the resources we already have and rewarding the programs and faculty that are making a difference (it's not difficult).

Make it easier for domestic students to study abroad (more funding, flexible schedules, easier transfer of credits, overseas internship and research options - dare we require an international experience of some sort of all students?), value the international efforts/impact of faculty through the tenure/promotion processes or other rewards such as supplemental pay, better integrate international students and visiting scholars in the life of the university, give hard dollar support/resources to international services offices, help the decision-makers stand up to nay-sayers and challengers by demonstrating the economic, cultural, and academic impact of this type of investment... we know what is needed.

This would be walking the walk IMHO.

7. hanco - February 17, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Just another example of how even Chronicle reporters can be fooled by a smooth talking celebrity Chancellor. Since when is forcing the attendance of 200 persons to listen to presentations on internationalization equated to "strategic planning"? Instead, SUNY's hemorraging of funds in China tells you all you need to know about its internationalization strategy.

8. sanjaykapur - February 18, 2010 at 09:05 am

Almost no President or Vice President at any SUNY institution is of Asian origin.

Administration has no clue as to the real needs of international students.

9. chinaprc - February 20, 2010 at 12:18 am

Right on for SUNY. Maybe something substantial will happen. Keep the faith.

10. lagapalidou - February 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I am a College Counselor at a high school abroad, and we send several tenths of our students to the U.S., most of them to private colleges and universities. One of the main reasons our students don't even apply to state institutions is that these schools have a rather unfriendly and impersonal admissions process. And by the way, international applicants pay higher tuition than state residents, so they are not getting educated on the American taxpayers' money. I'm looking forward to the day when I can confidently recommend state institutions to my advisees.

11. honore - February 28, 2010 at 09:37 am

sanjay, i agree with you, however SUNY administration is obviously on the scent of the money road around the planet. do they need to be culturally aware, informed or experienced? Trust me, they will not labor over such an insignificant fact.

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