It’s time to make internationalization a priority

Four tips to strengthen internationalization efforts on community college campuses. 

Community colleges nationwide were built on the philosophy of offering an open door to anyone seeking a higher education experience.

While this has typically translated in attracting students from local areas, there is a real opportunity for community colleges to broaden their global horizons by embracing internationalization efforts on campus. We’ve seen the benefits of creating a globalized learning environment first-hand at Kirkwood Community College.

Based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, our college hosts more than 400 international students annually – hailing from more than 60 countries, ranging from China and Vietnam to Sudan. Our international programs department has been going strong for more than 40 years. And complementing our international student efforts, more than 160 students participate in our wide-ranging study abroad programs each year.

In an increasingly global marketplace, it is more important than ever to foster global views and perspectives on campus. This will help equip all students with the ability to thrive in global work environments, as well as instill the value of diversity and collaboration in career environments and beyond.

Four tips to strengthen efforts

To accomplish a successful internationalization effort – including recruiting international students, helping them satisfy visa and immigration requirements, delivering programs for a successful on-campus experience, as well as providing tailored study abroad opportunities – here are four tips for strengthening internationalization efforts on community college campuses.

  • Make internationalization a priority. Establishing a robust international student recruitment and retention program, as well as a successful study abroad program that caters to the community college student population, requires the full backing of institution leadership. Our board and president are champions of our global learning and education efforts, and they are vocal about serving as proponents of preparing a global workforce.
  • Partner with four-year institutions. Similar to U.S.-based students, most international students attend community colleges for the first two years and then transfer to a four-year institution to pursue a bachelor’s degree. We’ve established partnerships with both Iowa State University and the University of Iowa to give all students opportunities to connect their degree programs with these institutions for their next phase of education. We also join these institutions on visits to international high schools that may have strong candidates for attending community college followed by transferring to a four-year university.
  • Globalize your curriculum. Integrating a globalized worldview into coursework goes a long way in extending a community college’s efforts to broaden student perspectives and prepare them for the global workforce experience. An example on our campus is our Kirkwood academic cultural exchange program, where faculty from an academic program partner with an “English language acquisition” (ELA) faculty to engage in a joint lesson related to their subject matter, such as global business skills or any other academic course.
  • Establish on-campus international support programs. Getting through the application process and completing pre-arrival steps may seem like the most significant steps of the international student onboarding process, but it is also critical to have on-campus international programs in place to ensure students are successful once they arrive.

Ultimately, internationalization efforts at community colleges can play a significant role in making our communities more inclusive as well as preparing a global workforce. By applying these tips to engage the international community of students and offer globalized learning environments through study abroad programs, community colleges have the opportunity to extend valuable internationalization efforts on their campuses and beyond.

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