The Changing Role of the SIO: New Directions in Internationalization and Student Success

Joanna Regulska at podium
Vice Provost and Associate Chancellor of Global Affairs Joanna Regulska

By Joanna Regulska, Vice Provost and Associate Chancellor of Global Affairs, University of California, Davis

Change is inevitable. We see the world becoming more interconnected and interdependent; we know human and planetary challenges demand global engagement; we see the demographics of students changing; and we understand the increased demand for skills, knowledge, and sensibilities gained through global experiences.

Senior international officers (SIOs) must keep up with these shifts, facilitating access to global learning that prepares each and every one of our students for current and future challenges and opportunities. We must also ensure that we recognize and cultivate the capabilities of our students coming to campus with significant experiences navigating across cultures and systems.

Adapting to Meet Changing Needs

As SIOs we must see internationalization as not just a goal in itself; it’s also a way to advance the university mission and student success. This includes shifting away from a focus simply on mobility to adapting our strategies to meet changing experiences, aspirations, and needs of students. Some students have specific careers in mind—others don’t. Some students are inspired to transform their communities or are driven by interests outside their major. Other students are balancing academics with work and family responsibilities. Many students have extremely limited financial resources.

At UC Davis, 17% of undergraduates and 23% of graduate and professional students are international students, thousands of domestic students have global ties, and 42% of undergraduates are first generation. Given the diverse capacities and interests of our students and the imperative to prepare them for today’s changing world, we are working toward a goal of Global Education for All—aiming to provide meaningful global learning experiences for all 39,152 UC Davis undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.

To achieve this, global learning opportunities must be flexible to meet changing needs, while tapping technology and our campus’ cultural wealth. They must also cultivate abilities that will help students collaborate with a diversity of people to take on complex challenges—equitably and sustainably—such as critical thinking, cultural humility, and adaptability.

Our emerging efforts have included students participating in the Millennium Fellowship, initiating a Campus Global Theme program inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We actively involve students with the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program and Mandela Washington Fellowship, and created a global living and learning community for first-year students. We support and promote existing opportunities; for example, global health programs in our backyard at student-supported clinics. These types of experiences do not have fees and offer valuable leadership, experiential, and intercultural learning opportunities for domestic and international students on or near campus.

Students with fellows
UC Davis students participating in community service with Mandela Washington Fellows.

Providing a "One Stop Shop"

Another way we are championing the campus vision of Global Education for All is by building on our Study Abroad infrastructure to launch a Global Learning Hub. This hub is envisioned as a "one stop shop" for finding opportunities that support global learning on campus and in communities around the world.

A robust web presence and physical location bring together existing and new programs to help remove barriers for students, whether they be related to finding the right opportunity across various websites or offices, travel capabilities, curricular or extra-curricular demands, financial limitations, or any number of factors.

UC Davis students, fellows, and staff members on campus.

Taking Advantage of Technology

Advancing technology brings new and accessible opportunities such as virtual exchange and collaboration. Our newly launched Curriculum Enhancement Through Global Learning program, which supports course (re)design to incorporate global learning, recently sparked just that. After a program workshop on interactive online learning, a faculty member was inspired to connect his technology management students with engineering students 4,000 miles away at Tecnológico de Costa Rica. UC Davis students developed business plans for engineering products, learning about international business markets and intercultural and interdisciplinary teamwork along the way.

Engaging Campus and Community, Connecting the Dots

In trying to shift the paradigm of global engagement on campus, SIOs need to involve students, faculty, staff, leadership, alumni, parents, partners, supporters, policymakers, legislative representatives, and community members more than ever. As SIOs, we must inspire and engage, support and solicit feedback, welcome new ideas, facilitate collaboration, and connect the dots to create innovative programs.

For example, most recently, Global Affairs teamed up with UC Davis’ Graduate School of Management to develop a strategy for our emerging Global Centers initiative. The partnership provided us with cost-effective expertise for our strategy in Latin America and the Caribbean, while providing MBA students with a hands-on, international consulting experience—that was enhanced by language and cultural knowledge of a Latinx team member.

UC Davis Graduate School of Management MBA students working on the Global Centers strategy project in Santiago, Chile
UC Davis Graduate School of Management MBA students working on the Global Centers strategy project in Santiago, Chile.

As the world changes so do the roles of SIOs. We have a responsibility to renew our strategies, approaches, and collaborations to meet the needs of our university missions, prepare our students for success, and tackle some of today’s greatest challenges and opportunities.

Read the piece, which originally appeared in the IIE Networker - Fall 2019 Magazine.

About Global Affairs at UC Davis

Global Affairs brings the world to UC Davis, welcoming more than 10,000 international students, scholars and leaders, and hosting programs that inspire global curiosity, understanding and engagement. Compelled by the valuable outcomes of thinking globally, we make transformative opportunities a reality by supporting the thousands of students and faculty studying and researching internationally—and by facilitating collaborations that tackle the world’s most pressing problems through more than 150 international partnerships.

Putting our vision of a UC Davis community that engages, thrives, and leads in this interconnected world into action, Global Affairs is now in pursuit of an ambitious goal: Global Education for All.