From the Vice Provost and Associate Vice Provost

Personal Reflections on Internationalization at UC Davis

William Lacy at Jiangnan University

Vice Provost William B. Lacy delivers a welcoming address at Jiangnan University’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in Wuxi, China to thousands of guests.

By: William B. Lacy, Vice Provost,
University Outreach and International Programs, 1999 - 2014

In the 21st century internationalization of higher education has become core to the pursuit of the three primary university goals: knowledge generation through research and scholarship; knowledge dissemination through undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral education; and knowledge application through local, regional, national and international outreach and engagement. This emphasis on internationalization is a relatively recent phenomenon. Just twenty-five years ago, international education via study abroad was a limited program, providing a small number of middle and upper class humanities and social science undergraduates an opportunity to study in western Europe. For the large majority of institutions, international students were a very small percentage of the student body, particularly among undergraduates. The international faculty was equally small in number and campus-wide leadership in the form of senior international officers was generally nonexistent. In addition, the application of knowledge internationally was primarily focused on agricultural development. Finally, the strategic plans and goals of most U.S. institutions rarely included an international agenda.

In the early 1990s, this was the case of UC Davis. The institution had very limited study abroad programs, virtually no international undergraduate students and expanding, but limited, international research and development collaborations. At that time, UC Davis and its leaders recognized that the broad range of international education, research collaborations and academic outreach and engagement were becoming increasingly important to achieve the overall institutional goals. In 1990, the Chancellor and advisors created a new vice provost position for international programs and launched a national search. However, serious financial issues in California led to the suspension of the search.

International Task Force

Over the next several years a new Chancellor and Provost were hired and task forces were appointed to examine the organizational and leadership needs for the campus’s international activities. In 1997 the report “Toward a Global University” proposed the creation of a vice provost position with broad international responsibilities. The Provost decided to combine this proposed position with the existing Vice Provost for University Outreach position which had been recently vacated and separated from the Office of Graduate Studies. Once again a national search was conducted in 1998 and I was fortunate enough to be hired beginning in August 1999.

Location, Location, Location

Upon my arrival, the office consisted of a two-person staff with little international experience housed in a temporary Quonset hut on the edge of campus. Moreover, the typical international programs, such as study abroad and services for international students, were still components of the Office for Undergraduate Studies and the Office of Student Affairs, respectively. The Vice Provost’s office was inadequate for hosting campus colleagues, not to mention international delegations. Early in my tenure, meeting with the school and college deans to discuss their international goals and programs was at the top of my priority list. However, when one dean informed me after visiting the office that he would never return to such a hovel, I realized that new, strategically located quarters needed to be an equally high priority.

Over the course of the first two years, the office moved three times, but we succeeded in acquiring prime newly renovated space in the central administration building. Our new office was adjacent to the Office of Graduate Studies (approximately ¼ of all graduate students were international) and co-located in the same building as the Offices of the Chancellor, Provost, Academic Senate and senior campus leadership for research, undergraduate studies, academic personnel, student affairs, development and alumni affairs, and administration and finance. This enabled regular informal contact and meetings with all the relevant leaders of programs related to an expanding international agenda. At the same time I was working to consolidate the international programs that were physically and organizationally scattered. We were also seeking adequate space for the study abroad programs and services for international students and scholars, exploring ways to meet the diverse international program needs of both students and faculty, and restoring the UC Davis Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program.

Faculty Leadership

Simultaneously, recognizing the need to enhance the leadership team and to build stronger connections to the faculty and to the schools and colleges, we created two senior part-time positions: Associate Vice Provost for International Programs and Associate Vice Provost for Outreach and Engagement. During the past fifteen years, these positions have been held by highly accomplished full professors, and former deans and department chairs from the Humanities, Physical Sciences, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and Medicine. These individuals have provided invaluable contributions to our agenda and a broad network of colleagues and collaborators.

International Programs Advisory Committee

It was clear from the beginning that the goals and agenda of our office had to include more than those of the important international education programs. To internationalize the campus meant involving all components and functions of the university. Through regular meetings with the Chancellor, Provost, vice chancellors, vice provosts, and deans, a broad international agenda began to emerge. In the early 2000s we created the Deans and Directors International Programs Advisory Committee; it provided a forum for discussing a number of programs that were being created and sharing among the schools and colleges best practices and new developments both on the campus and overseas. When I invited the deans one influential campus leader indicated he would attend the first meeting but did not expect to attend any subsequent ones. However, because the meetings were structured to discuss substantive issues and seek their input and advice, at the end of the first meeting, this dean asked the time and location of the next one. He and most of the others have continued to participate in these quarterly meetings for over a dozen years.

Colleges and Schools Briefings

Equally important were annual meetings of myself and three or four of the office program leaders with selected college and school department chairs and executive councils to introduce our diverse educational and research programs and to discuss how to better serve their students, faculty, and visiting scholars. Our office also provided yearly presentations to new faculty on our programs and resources for their international educational, research and outreach activities.

Seed Grants

Faculty participation is also a key to campus internationalization. During the first year I negotiated with the Provost for a modest start-up program package and devoted a half million dollars to a seed grant program for new creative international and outreach faculty initiatives. After a few years the funds were expended and we began to use reserves generated in part by our direct report units and from donors. In recent years, lacking sufficient funds, we turned to the school and college deans and the Vice Chancellor of Research for matching funds. In nearly every case the deans matched our office funds dollar-for-dollar for the competitively selected projects. This was an important measure of the value this program was providing and the partnership it had generated. Over the dozen years of the program numerous new international collaborations and partnerships were initiated. Moreover, the 154 faculty projects totaling in excess of $1.7 million have generated over $35 million in additional funds.

Provost Hexter signs and Agreement of Cooperation with China Scholarship Council

Provost Ralph J. Hexter signed an Agreement of Cooperation with Liu Jinghui of the China Scholarship Council to offer up to 20 Ph.D. fellowships annually to students from China.

Funding Resources

Our office provided additional support for faculty international research and education efforts through a funding sources database, a funding opportunities newsletter, and several workshops each year, often in conjunction with the Office of Research. These workshops have included presentations by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation and representatives from Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom. The emphasis on the Fulbright Program has resulted in our campus being a national leader in sending our faculty overseas. All of these programs and services for faculty research, education and professional development have required a new analyst position created early in my tenure. The position has resulted in a close partnership with the Office of Research and many collaborative efforts.

Eric Schroeder in South Africa

Eric Schroeder, Faculty Director of UC Davis Quarter and Summer Abroad programs greatly expanded the faculty-led programs and taught courses abroad in Scotland, Australia and South Africa (above).

Study Abroad

To further involve and support faculty and students, we also turned to faculty-led study abroad programs. In 1999 five summer abroad humanities and social science courses were being taught in western Europe and Japan by a few dedicated faculty. By making this a higher priority, hiring key faculty leaders, assembling a talented staff of professionals, recruiting UC Davis professors and lecturers and enhancing financial aid, today these programs annually include over 50 faculty teaching both summer and full quarter programs on six continents with one third of these programs in engineering and the physical and biological sciences. This has created a group of dedicated and committed faculty with current international experiences to share when teaching on campus. When the campus and the faculty senate tackled a comprehensive revamping of the general education curriculum, this cadre of faculty became particularly important. With strong support from these and other interested and informed faculty, the new general education requirements now include an international component.This component consists of courses in world cultures that provide students with a global perspective and can be satisfied through study abroad.

Chancellor’s Fall Conference

Campus support for internationalization was further enhanced through an annual Chancellor’s Fall Conference focused on the topic. Each year an important issue was selected and approximately100 campus leaders including administrators, faculty, students, staff and alumni were invited to a two-day retreat to address the subject. Through conversations with the conference planning staff, the 2005 topic was internationalization of the campus. At that Chancellor’s Fall Conference nineteen specific recommendations emerged across six key areas: internationalizing the undergraduate experience in curriculum; internationalizing the undergraduate experiences abroad; new models of international graduate education; new models of international research collaboration; creating an international community on the UC Davis campus; and expanding the campus’s engagement and presence abroad. These recommendations continue to be a valuable framework shaping our goals and priorities.

Chancellor Katehi in Hong Kong

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi and Office of Corporate Relations Faculty Coordinator Spyros Tseregounis meet with alumnus Eddy Lee, Chairman of Lee Kum Kee at an alumni event hosted at their facilities in Hong Kong. Lee Kum Kee has also hosted a UC Davis student for an international internship.

International Meetings and Travel

Another important effort was the building of international partnerships and the involvement of the Chancellor and relevant faculty and deans in these efforts. Beginning in 2000 with a trip to China, our office coordinated numerous international trips to over 20 countries on six continents. These involved visits to universities, government agencies, alumni gatherings, and when possible, to UC Davis students studying abroad. Our close working relationship with several consular offices in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C., was often instrumental in planning and coordinating these trips. The delegations always included key faculty and deans appropriate for the country. Often our international hosts were more interested in meeting and interacting with the UC Davis distinguished faculty than with the Chancellor. To further facilitate and strengthen the achievements of these trips, we prepared a one page guideline entitled “UC Davis Senior Leadership Strategic International Meetings and Travel.”

Professional Associations and Organizations

The knowledge and shared experiences gained from professional associations and organizations have been equally valuable parts of our internationalization efforts providing assistance from colleagues in California, elsewhere in the U.S., and abroad. To foster interactions with my colleagues in the University of California (UC), I founded the UC Senior International Leaders Council of Deans, Directors and Vice Provosts from the ten campuses. We meet twice annually on a UC campus, learn about the specific programs of the host campus, and share best practices. Unfortunately the UC system has few international appointments at the senior level. This led us to turn our attention to national organizations. In the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) we found kindred spirits, excellent colleagues and substantive annual meetings that have been invaluable. The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU), the Institute for International Education (IIE), and the American Council on Education (ACE) have also been important sources of useful information and advice. At the international level, the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) has enabled us to meet and learn from the rectors, presidents, chancellors and fellow senior international leaders from the 45 leading research universities in Asia, Oceania and North and South America. Complementing these important sources of advice and counsel have been Fulbright programs for administrators in Brazil, Japan and Korea and a similar program by DAAD in Germany.

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi spoke during International Education Week at UC Davis in 2005.

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi spoke during International Education Week at UC Davis in 2005.


Providing a platform for sharing information and knowledge on new international education, research, and outreach initiatives and issues, promoting and publicizing excellent campus wide programs, and building the visibility of the international efforts on and off campus were also early efforts. Although the Provost cautioned against a newsletter because of the time and resources required, we launched the “Internationally Engaged” newsletter in fall 2000. The lead article of each issue allowed us to address a number of key issues such as: 1) the need to keep our doors and our minds open in the face of 9/11; 2) the role of international students and scholars in enriching our campus; 3) the value of building and rebuilding bridges to the Middle East and Latin America; 4) the importance of expanding academic opportunities while managing risk; 5) the need for promoting study abroad as academically core, professionally essential, and increasingly affordable; 6) the reasons and functions of UC Davis Global Centers; and 7) internationalization as vital to UC Davis’ Future Leadership. These topics were complemented in each issue by 10-20 articles addressing creative international programs in all of the schools and colleges. The web and other social media have also become increasingly important in publicizing key events, such as the study abroad fairs; the International Education Week schedule of 25-30 programs, talks, demonstrations, and other activities; and guest speakers (e.g. Shirin Ebadi, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Allan E. Goodman, President of Institute for International Education). Effective, frequent, and strategic communication has only increased in importance over the last decade.

Provost Hexter and Vice Provost Lacy with UC Davis alumni in Chile

Provost Ralph J. Hexter and Vice Provost William B. Lacy meet with UC Davis alumni in Chile.

Leadership Transition: Embrace Global Issues

After a decade of building international programs, a new chancellor was selected in 2009. Early meetings and briefings with the new Chancellor were important and active participation in the strategic planning process was critical. The vision document identifying six key goals has served as the framework for the campus for four years. One of the six goals is “Embrace Global Issues” and several of the other goals have strong statements supporting internationalization. Since Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s arrival and the hiring of a new provost, Ralph J. Hexter, the internationalization efforts have increased and flourished. Our office has continued to assist in international travel with strategic efforts in Europe, South America, the Middle East, Australia, and Asia. Key agreements to support research, education and student exchanges have been negotiated with Brazil’s CAPES, CNPq and FAPESP and Chile’s National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (BECAS Chile) with critical faculty leadership. Several other important and creative institutional agreements in China with the Chinese Scholarship Council, Hanban (Confucius Institute) and dozens of universities have been jointly led by the Director of Asian Programs and key faculty and administrators. In all these instances a well-informed, native speaking colleague with country experience was essential. Equally important were face-to-face meetings with senior leadership in the Ministries of Education and Science in Brazil, Chile and China.


With declining state budget support for higher education, new funding models have been introduced. Increasingly our international programs and services are funded with fees and substantial tuition charges. In the last 10 years, another important source has been gifts from both alumni and friends. To promote this effort we hired an Assistant Vice Provost for International Alumni and Development (formerly the Executive Director of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association). A key element in this agenda was the formation of an International Programs Executive Development Council of interested and wealthy regional and international leaders. This group was charged with making a substantial gift and identifying other potential donors. We learned quickly that fundraising is a long, arduous endeavor, particularly at a public university that has only recently completed its first $1 billion initiative. Although we have had limited success, we have built the foundation for several seven figure donations for four key initiatives: study abroad scholarships; faculty seed grant funds; support for international students and scholars; and building a new international center.

Global Centers

More recently the nature and opportunities for internationalization have greatly expanded and diversified. Faculty and deans are bringing new proposals for a variety of programs and for a physical presence overseas (Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Asia). After our office prepared a white paper on the topic of UC Davis Global Centers, the Provost appointed a new Global Strategies Workgroup to review the goals and purposes of such physical locations, the issues and challenges, the resources needed and the tactical locations to consider.

Reviewing the International Center Plans

(Right to Left) Vice Provost William B. Lacy, Director of Program Operation Letha Sines and Assistant Vice Provost Robert A. Kerr review plans for the new International Center, scheduled to open in 2016.

International Center

A ten-year planning process to address the growing need to accommodate the various international programs and activities on campus has culminated in the identification of a central location for an International Center. The first phase consisting of a three story, 40,000 square foot building is scheduled for completion in fall of 2016 and will house Services for International Students and Scholars, UC Davis Study Abroad, and the UC Davis Extension Center for International Education.

Future Initiatives

In May 2011, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter formed an International Advisory Committee to recommend an overarching strategy for international engagement. The committee was charged with formulating a vision of UC Davis’ aspirations in the global arena, as well as developing appropriate strategies to advance the campus’s international development in harmony with the Vision of Excellence. In June 2012 the committee submitted its final report. One of the changes in response to it was to transition University Outreach and International Programs to a refocused mission focused solely on global engagement and to a new name, Office of Global Affairs. 

While much was accomplished before its creation 15 years ago, this new Vice Provost office, together with faculty, staff, students, administration, alumni and friends has greatly expanded existing programs and provided UC Davis the foundation for many future initiatives and global leadership. As Chancellor Katehi has said, “We will remain a leader in promoting diversity as a measure of quality. And we will strengthen our international programs and international visibility. We will become the place of choice for students, faculty and staff from the U.S. and around the world who want to receive a broader education or professional experience deepened by a uniquely rich perspective.”