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Jane Kucko, Texas Christian University, USA

TCU’s Discovering Global Citizenship programme won the IIE’s Heiskell Award for Internationalizing the Campus this year. Jane Kucko, director of the centre of international studies, shares some of the university’s secrets with The PIE News including using virtual reality to bring the world to Fort Worth.

The PIE: Tell me what motivated you to develop the Global Initiative a TCU.

"Through virtual reality we can sustain that collaboration by using technology"

JK: We wanted to look at who we were not reaching, those 70% of students who weren’t going abroad. And surely of the 70% some do community service work or they might have some global course work on campus but we didn’t really have an understanding of that.

In this initiative of discovering global citizenship, we wanted to concentrate on bringing the world to TCU and so that’s how everything has been framed. But my particular initiative is the TCU Global Academy which is this interdisciplinary approach to study abroad. That’s one of the pieces- visiting scholars, bringing scholars in, using virtual reality.

“What we’re really trying to get away from is that it isn’t just about going away, it’s authentic collaboration”

The PIE: How do you include virtual reality?

JK: TCU’s policy does not allow students or faculty to travel to countries that have state department warnings or alerts. And yet many of these countries present some of the most international global realities. So virtual reality allows us to interact with Haiti or the Middle East when we otherwise can’t go there. Through virtual reality we can sustain that collaboration by using technology. And the cool thing I think about our funding is that if somewhere in the world isn’t set up for that, we have the funds to go help with that. That’s where I think it’s a little bit different. We all know Skype and all those kinds of things that are free, but not everyone is set up for it with the hardware and infrastructure.

What we’re really trying to get away from is that it isn’t just about going away, it’s authentic collaboration. Making sure it’s two ways. So when we partner in Panama and looking at sustainability in that country, looking at what they do well, where they need some assistance or expertise. Then let’s ask them the same thing back in Fort Worth- here are our communities, what ideas do you have for us?

The PIE: It seems like TCU is in an enviable position in the grand scheme of the internationalisation of higher education. How did you get around the common the barriers of funding and leadership support?

JK: Well we were fortunate in using our accreditation to help us get the funding. Our university-wide accreditation said you must designate a special area that you want to improve upon, put money towards it, you must do this in five years. So we applied for it and we got it. Our university’s own mission statement, “to educate the individual, to think and act as a responsible citizen in the global community” and when you start breaking that down and associating any of your initiatives to that then you can look at your administration and faculty and say, this is what we’re saying we’re doing, this is how we’re going to do it.

“Students at TCU are paying $52,000 a year to go here so we can’t just give lip service to this”

We get that question all the time- students at TCU are paying $52,000 a year to go here so we can’t just give lip service to this. Fortunately our administration is very much aware of this so they’re always spending time demonstrating how we are being fiscally responsible, and then also how we’re meeting the mission. And I think “to educate individuals” is such a key phrase because it isn’t just students then. It’s our community, it is our faculty and staff who work so much with our students and that’s what comprehensive internationalisation is. It doesn’t discriminate by class or by group. It asks how do we effectively do this as a community.

The PIE: Are there advantages for private universities to internationalise over public institutions then?

JK: I would say the big difference is that we’re more nimble. In order to get curricular changes through, or to say ok let’s try this structure, it’s not as difficult as working with a state system. That’s not to say state schools aren’t doing some things really well, but in a year and half we’ve really been able to move forward with this. That to me feels like a strong advantage.

The PIE: How are you measuring the project’s success?

JK: All of our entering freshman take a well-known global intercultural perspective survey, called the IES, and then they take it again once they’re seniors. We’re just beginning that process, but any time they attend one of our global citizenship events, they are sent talking points and a survey to tell us what they learned and what they think. And then each specific initiative will drill down even more with specific projects to see how it’s working and how it’s impacting their lives.

The PIE: What is your project’s budget?

JK: $2.8 million over five years. So you can do something with that. And because we’re almost finishing up year two, we are now beginning to look at how do we get external funding to sustain this for another five years. What we’re excited about though is through the IIE Heiskell Award the university will see it’s importance and it’s just becoming a way of how we operate.

“We really want to move to where our students feel an obligation to take action”

We really want to move to where our students feel an obligation to take action. It’s no longer good enough just to be aware. And that’s what global citizenship means, being able to speak up for justice, being willing to fight, being able to support those who can’t. So that’s the piece that we’re focussing on now.

The PIE: How do you think international students who come to your campus could benefit from these efforts?

JK: Through these other initiatives, we’re bringing international students to us, and so our existing international study abroad- that’s going to be a more natural integration. I think it’s difficult to get them to communicate and work together unless it’s a meaningful, collaborative project. They don’t just want to go to banquets together or any of those superficial things. They really want to have meaning, so for instance, our work in Panama- we’ll have 6 to 7 Panamanians and we have 400 graduates in Panama. Now all of a sudden you have a reason for our students to interact with those students, they can actually help us bridge the gap and work together collectively on projects and issues.

The PIE: What are the benefits of sending faculty abroad?

JK: Faculty become internationalised themselves- in their own worldviews and expertise and their topics of discussion that they can bring back are more meaningful.

“To have every piece of our community with a global perspective at some level is comprehensive and is an important piece”

I think with the staff- that’s the piece I love the most I have to admit because 70% of our population- they’re working with our students 24/7 and to have them understand the global perspective, a good proportion of our students anyway are from other places, is huge.

And it also shows that we value you, we value your perspective. So to have every piece of our community with a global perspective at some level is comprehensive and is an important piece- whether they’re in food services or health care or residential.

The PIE: So you send food services people abroad?

JK: We have not done that yet but we will go there. We have sent registrar, campus life, residence hall directors. And for most of them it’s their first time overseas. Then they get it. They understand why it’s important and you’re trying to work with an international student or you’re trying to work with registrar to do something unique they understand the importance of that and they’re happy to work with you.

The PIE: What’s been your biggest challenge in your first year and half?

JK: I think it’s articulating the story that we’re doing some unique things and we’re just now starting to get enough done that we can show the story, that it isn’t just about study abroad or gong away. It’s internationalisation in a different way. I think the challenge has been being able to tell our story and make sure everyone understands they’re all invited to the table.

The PIE: What gets you out of bed?

JK: To know that we’re doing something special for these students, and to see their lives change and for them to express that is really significant momentum. To know that I, among a team of many, am changing the culture of our university is so rewarding. And in 10 years when I’m not there, to know that in some way I had a piece in that, some piece of the legacy.

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