Building on Our Success
Kent State Internationalization Symposium 2016

Friday, April 1, 2016
Kent State Hotel and Conference Center

“Globalization is not just a vacation. It’s a purposeful effort in which we will put time and emotion into understanding the world around us.” – Dr. Julian Schuster

The Office of Global Education successfully hosted its first ever Internationalization Symposium on April 1. The daylong event was held at the Kent State Hotel and Conference Center in downtown Kent. Authorities and proponents of the academic globalization movement from around the world were on hand to share their experiences and insights, and to suggest thought-provoking reasons, recommendations and initiatives for advancing internationalization in today’s classroom, workplace and community. The goal of the symposium was to look at what Kent State University is doing in terms of globalization and what other universities are doing in contrast, as well as why internationalization has such an important place in today’s academic workplace.

The impetus for the symposium was Kent State’s rapid growth in the number of international students enrolled over the past few years, as well as the number of students studying abroad. In his opening remarks, Frank Congin, director of Academic Relations at the Office of Global Education and coordinator of the event, addressed the goals of the symposium when he said: “11.6% of all Kent Main campus students are international, almost three times the national average. So now is the time for us to step back, take a look at where we are, think about where we would like to go and how we go about getting there.” 

2016 Internationalization Symposium Web BannerThe symposium’s initial keynote speaker was Dr. Julian Schuster, provost at Webster University, which is a strategic academic partner with Kent State. Dr. Schuster explained the Webster University model of globalization and how it is unique. Webster is one of the most successful universities in the U.S. at providing its students the opportunity to travel abroad and truly experience life outside their comfort zone. Students are given the chance to move from any Webster campus in the world to complete their degree. According to Dr. Schuster, “Wise people know many things, but true knowledge is knowing and understanding the world around us.”

Joe Cimperman, newly appointed president of Global Cleveland and an extremely passionate advocate for globalization, followed Dr. Schuster. Cimperman gave Cleveland’s perspective on international people, while enlightening many attendees about the importance of being a global city and what good can come from it. He discussed the Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy, which is a public school in Cleveland that caters to students who are new to the area and learning to speak English. Cimperman said “I’m pro immigrant, pro-globalization and pro-internationalization. The more relationships we build, the more we trust each other.”

Associate provost at the Office of Global Education, Marcello Fantoni, then spoke about why Kent State University needs to be global and how we will continue to do everything we can to emphasize internationalization on campus and abroad. According to Dr. Fantoni, “We will stay successful only if we do not sacrifice quality. Helping these students succeed is the best brand for Kent State University.”  He also stressed the importance of transforming the Kent State culture because enrollment alone does not make a university international. 

KSU President Beverly Warren was scheduled to speak about her plans for internationalizing the university, but was not able to attend because of the untimely passing of KSU Board of Trustees member Richard Marsh. On very short notice, director of International Relations at the Pontifical Catholic University of Parana (PUCPR) in Brazil, Dr. Marcelo Mira, stepped in. Dr. Mira was visiting Kent State as part of a delegation finalizing a strategic partnership with Kent State and offered to provide an inside look at his university and its strategic plan to advance internationalization at the institution. PUCPR is known worldwide for its work with diseases and public health.

Two concurrent break-out sessions followed lunch. One was hosted by Dr. Jim Blank, dean of College of the Arts and Sciences, and the other by Dr. Martha Merrill, associate professor in the School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration. Dr. Blank discussed how the College of Arts and Sciences has been adapting to the influx of international students and how it will continue to strive to meet the needs of international students. Dr. Merrill informed attendees about the methods professors can take to effectively teach international students.

The remainder of the afternoon consisted of two speakers. The first was Lauren McGarity, director of special projects from the Ohio Board of Regents, who spoke about Ohio’s G.R.E.A.T. Initiative, which is about encouraging higher education institutions in Ohio to become more global. The second was Jaffer Al-Mabuk, a Saudi Arabian high school teacher and experienced lecturer on academic affairs, who traveled here to inform guests about why Saudi and Middle Eastern students choose to study in the United States. He also explained some startling facts about Middle Eastern students in the U.S. and why they are prospering.

In addition to speakers, several special international-themed activities and interludes were also planned throughout the day. During the scheduled intercessions, Tiago Delgado and the Stopper String Quartet and the Tierradentro String Quartet provided musical interludes. All of the performers are international students who attend the Kent State School of Music. In addition to the short musical performances, international students Majan Ghourchian of Iran and Asim Al Ma'mari of Oman, along with faculty member Dr. Ashutosh Rastogi from India shared poems in their native language with the audience. The poetry readings were presented with cooperation of Kent State’s Wick Poetry Center.

Symposium attendees were also given the opportunity to meet representatives from several of Kent State’s international student organizations to discuss topics of interest. Attendees found the opportunity both rewarding and enlightening as they were able to talk directly with international students to learn why they chose to attend Kent and what they love about their experience.

“Overall, we were extremely proud of this event and the discussions initiated by each of the speakers,” explained Congin afterwards. “It makes us realize that Kent State is doing a lot for international students, but that more can still be done.”

Achieving an international perspective through the various presentations was also essential to the success of the Internationalization Symposium. According to Marcello Fantoni, “Internationalization is irreversible so we need to do it right. It’s not an option, it’s a necessity.”