St. Kate’s recognized as internationalization model

Photo courtesy of Catherine Spaeth

St. Kate's faculty in Port au Prince, Haiti: (left to right) Mary Hearst, Catherine Spaeth and Kate Barrett, with Wynn Walent of St. Luke's Foundation. Photo courtesy of Catherine Spaeth.

Work of the St. Kate’s Internationalization Council

St. Catherine University’s efforts to internationalize its curriculum are gaining momentum — and national attention.

The University is featured in the American Council on Education’s first edition of “Internationalization in Action,” a new online series of articles devoted to institutional strategies and good practices. St. Kate’s was recognized in the article, titled “The Internationalization Committee: Strategies for Success,” under two categories:

  • Committee reports and internationalization strategic plans
  • Internationalization committee charges (long-term)

“This is good news,” says Catherine Spaeth, chair of St. Kate’s Internationalization Council and director of the Office of Global Studies. “It means we’re on the right track and are being recognized as a model other institutions can look to. We also have the opportunity to share the work we’ve been able to accomplish with other universities and colleges who have similar goals.”

The Internationalization Council was established by Alan Silva, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences in fall 2008 — after St. Kate’s made internationalization a priority in its 2020 Vision Strategic Plan. The council’s charge: Develop a university- wide plan to integrate global learning across the curriculum and co-curriculum.

The 15-member faculty and staff group shaped St. Kate’s internationalization plan in two years. It also established the University’s Learning Goals for Cultural Competence and Global Perspectives as part of the plan:

  • Knowledge of critical world issues and the ability to analyze and incorporate multiple perspectives;
  • Awareness of one’s own cultural values and traditions and understanding that one exists in a complex and interdependent web of cultures and countries;
  • Effective communication across languages and cultures;
  • Preparation for global leadership grounded in an understanding of social responsibility.

According to the final document, “the aim of this plan is to strengthen our academic programs, co-curricular programming, and the abilities of our faculty and staff as we develop the awareness, knowledge and skills of globally competent graduates.”

Moving forward

St. Kate’s Internationalization Council was then restructured to shift its work from planning and drafting to implementing the plan it created in 2010. Today, the council meets at least six times a year and membership is limited to 12, with each member holding three-year terms.

Current committee members include Joann Bangs, interim dean of the School of Business and Professional Studies; Kristina Bonsager, chair of the Spanish department; Raine De Campeau, assistant director of global studies; Kelly Gage, assistant professor of fashion and apparel; Martha Hardesty, associate professor of organizational leadership; Nancy Heitzeg, professor of sociology and critical studies of race and ethnicity; Nicki Hines, director of corporate and foundation relations, D'Ann Urbaniak Lesch, Center for Community Work and Learning; Anupama Pasricha, chair of the apparel, merchandising, and design department; Aimee Thostenson, associate director of international admission; and Maria Tzintzarova, assistant professor of political science.

In addition to providing input on proposed institution-wide policy changes and initiatives, such as the University’s foreign language requirement, the council members spearhead or help coordinate system-wide international activities. Among them partnering with academic departments to make international connections and sponsoring faculty development workshops on global learning.

For example, Spaeth traveled with Kate Barrett, assistant professor of occupational science and occupational therapy, and Mary Hearst (public health) to Haiti in January to iron out details for a new healthcare course that will take St. Kate’s students to the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba.

Additionally, council members learning from colleagues across the nation and share their own knowledge from St. Kate’s in return.

For example, Hines and Hardesty are headed to New York City March 21–22 to attend the Institute of International Education’s annual conference on “Best Practices in Internationalizing the Campus.” Hardesty, Spaeth and Barrett will attend the Council on International Educational Exchange national conference in Minneapolis November 20-23.

The trio has proposed a session to discuss how the University is incorporating study abroad into graduate programs. St. Kate’s nationally ranked Masters of Art in Occupational Therapy program offers programs in Peru and Ecuador for fieldwork credit. The Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program recently taught a January course in Japan on “Cultural Contexts of Leadership” and is planning a similar course to South Africa.

“As our society becomes more diverse, cultural knowledge, second language proficiency and the understanding of multiple perspectives will be required of all of us — not just immigrants,” says Spaeth. “The need to understand other cultures, and to speak multiple languages also increases as barriers between nations diminish. Employers understand that the keys to future success must include the integration of knowledge and its application to the complex global environment."

In short, the more globalized and interconnected the world becomes, the bigger the role of higher education. "Society will look to universities to provide internationalized education to address this complexity head on,” she adds.

By Pauline Oo