Global focus enhances learning

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

An Illinois college’s Global Region of Focus Initiative is an integrated and strategic approach to internationalization.

A focus on global education has enhanced student learning at Harper College in Illinois. It’s also landed the college the Institute of International Education (IIE) Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education.

Harper received the award for the Community College category for its Global Region of Focus (GRF) Initiative. The Heiskell Award honors colleges that are “at the frontier of developing new models to build international partnerships, internationalize campuses, and promote study abroad,” according to an IIE release.

“Winning the award represents a powerful affirmation that our approach to global education is not only noteworthy, but that it is innovative and impactful,” said Richard Johnson, director of international education at Harper. “The fact that the Heiskell award is the second award the Office of International Education has won in the last three years suggests that we’re doing something right and we’re making a difference.”

The GRF initiative launched in 2014. Under this program, the college selects a region of focus for three-year cycles. Faculty immerse themselves in the region, participating in an international field seminar including coursework and travel to the region. They infuse these topics and information into their classes. The college hosts visiting lecturers in the second year and offers student study abroad experiences to the region in both the second and third years. On-campus programming also focuses on the selected region.

East Africa was the focus of the first cycle. During the second cycle, the college explored Latin America. The next cycle will focus on South Asia.

Since the program began, nearly 90 students have traveled to six countries in the regions of focus. Thousands have been affected by specialized coursework and programming.

Of the GRF initiative, IIE President Allan Goodman wrote, “GRF embodies an integrated, intentional, and strategic approach to the internationalization of the students, faculty, curricula, and programs of the college. While building faculty capacity to teach from a global perspective, these programs provide students with the cultural, economic, political, and historical foundations for understanding global issues. GRF shapes tomorrow’s leaders with values-centered global perspectives through its curricular and programmatic innovations.”

The college’s initiative was previously recognized by NAFSA: Association of International Educators with the 2018 Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award for Campus Internationalization.

Learn more about the program here.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.