The PIE: Can you tell me about your journey to where you are now?
Joanna Regulska: I’m a geographer by training. I have a PhD in geography from Boulder in Colorado, but I’m originally from Poland. My research dissertation was about women’s migration. I lived in the UK in 1974/75, and when I went [back] to Poland I couldn’t find a spot for myself; my perspective had changed.
The fact that I lived in the UK was important for opening up my mind I think. I didn’t study abroad, and yet I have, in a way, studied abroad by having a professional experience that really changed my outlook. So I am a geographer and an international student, who is now working in international education.
“It’s more important than ever that students gain knowledge, skills and experience”
The PIE: I am very interested to know about your 100% internationalisation objectives. When was this strategy embedded, and what does it mean for the institution?
JR: The idea is relatively simple: we want 100% of our students by the time they graduate – undergraduate, graduate or professional, so all students, and we have 37,000 of them – to have some form of global and intercultural engagement. That can take numerous forms.
And because we have six different pathways we can do it in different ways; through research, study abroad or away in the US. It could also be through international internships or service learning, which again could be home or abroad. It could be also through leadership. Many of our campus students are engaged in leading Asian-American, human rights, climate change or Filipino groups, for example, so we can support these students and maybe give them a certificate in intercultural leadership.
Also, living and learning communities. Almost at every university and college, for the first year students live on the campus. By creating a living and learning community, we will provide the initial engagement in maybe climate change activities or the sustainability of food or language and culture – it will have some kind of international component. As the students move forward, they already have that extracurricular engagement, which helps them in so many different ways.
We just had a fabulous program in Nepal when two classes were offered: one in UC Davis and one in Nepal. Our faculty went in and initiated the class, then UC Davis students then joined the Nepalese students and spent two weeks working on a project with them.
“I think the big issue is that we – the field – are not always good at articulating that these kinds of programs are intentional and they have an impact”
The PIE: When did you actually start the roll out?
JR: We have defined our objectives and learning goals. We’ve begun to do a mapping exercise about inventory; what do we do, what kind of classes, in which department and which majors, for example, because eventually, we will need to count [the students].
And then the outreach, which is also very important. One of the interesting things we did is ask people on campus to go online and tell us what they think we should be doing. We got about 1,500 responses, with lots of good ideas. Then they have ownership of it because they actually gave us the ideas.
The PIE: Is it already being articulated across the campus, does everyone understand the concept of 100% internationalisation?
JR: I don’t know if I would call internationalisation because it’s a hundred percent of students who will engage. We call it ‘global education for all‘. It has begun to gain momentum now, we have students emailing us and asking ‘how can I get involved?’
We have a steering committee that basically involves every college, student affairs, housing, library – it’s going to take everybody to do it. If we want to have the living and learning communities, they are going to be set up in the dorms in the student section. And if you do have internships, then career services are involved.
We also created a student advisory group because we want to know what they think, what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. So they’re going to be our champions and ambassadors.
“So far we have a lot of faculty members supporting us, and willing to work with and to engage with us”
The PIE: Are you hopeful that it will augment the appeal of UC Davis for international students if they are coming to a very globalised campus and outlook?
JR: In California, we have a limit as to how many out-of-state students we can have. For UC Davis it is 18% percent of domestic and international students. So in this particular case, it will not be so much about the number but about the quality of students, and about the mix of the international and domestic students.
These are the important factors that will shape the campus. But we do think about the challenges ahead – for example, how we can engage with students differently.
The PIE: How difficult has it been in terms of faculties that have approached this program?
JR: This is an important question. On the steering committee, we have faculty, because every dean from college was asked to nominate a representing faculty member, and we also have staff members.
I think the buy-in on the part of faculty is very important. Of course, we want the support of the university. But ultimately who is going to be implementing the programs? The faculty.
I’m sure there are some naysayers, as there are always people who have a different perspective. But so far we have a lot of faculty members supporting us, and willing to work with and to engage with us. So I’m very optimistic. I think it’s going to be good but I’m sure we’re going to have challenges at different points.
The PIE: Why do you think this program is important?
JR: The political, environmental, economic and cultural contexts are changing. So it’s more important than ever that students gain knowledge, skills and experience. All of this allows them to better understand other cultures, other nations and have crucial employability skills. We know that students who have had an international experience are more likely to be employed.
I think the big issue is that we – the field – are not always good at articulating that these kinds of programs are intentional and they have an impact. We tend to still talk about how we want students to travel and see the world. I don’t think this is the best argument. We need to talk more about the impact these programs have on a student’s major, the skills they gain, the better understanding they will have.