International educators enjoy
‘Global Learning through the
Co-Curriculum’ conference at VCU
By: V. Renee Russell
VCU Global Education Office
Phone: (804) 828-3636
RICHMOND, Va. (Mar. 25, 2016) — “How does a university equip students with knowledge that expands their global competence?” is a question asked on college campuses across the nation. Many international educators agree that the answers don’t only exist in the classroom, but also in the places where students live, work, volunteer and play. For two days last week, international educators from around the country delved into this discussion to uncover the role that co-curricular activities play in helping students increase their global competence.
Nearly fifty university administrators involved in international programming attended the “Global Learning through the Co-Curriculum” forum at Virginia Commonwealth University. Organized by the VCU Global Education Office and sponsored by the Association of International Education Administrators, this interactive forum provided a venue for participants to immerse themselves in conversations about how activities like student leadership, service, community engagement, living-learning communities and residence hall programming can offer opportunities for global learning.
"Preparing students, both domestic and international, for success in our globalized world requires effective collaborations between multiple university units, including academic affairs, student affairs and community engagement,” said Amber Bennett Hill, Ph.D., director of international student and scholar programs and English language program, who organized the conference. “This forum brought together leaders in these fields to share ideas and programs to engage students and faculty in global learning.”
Heather Ward, who helps universities internationalize their campuses through her role as senior program specialist at the American Council on Education, sees universities grapple with this challenge regularly. “This forum focused squarely on co-curriculum because it is an important piece of helping to fully integrate international students into campus life, as well as an avenue for global learning.
“When we think about global learning, we consider the curriculum and how to expand content to make student learning in the classroom more global. But there are so many other opportunities in the co-curriculum that often go unrecognized and uncaptured in strategic planning or learning outcomes. This forum brought attention to the potential of the co-curriculum, and provided the space, time and structure for all of us to think about it more strategically.”
The forum not only served as a think tank for international educators, but also as an impetus for interdisciplinary collaborations.
“I intentionally invited people who were not from my team,” said Mimi Barnard, Ph.D., associate provost for interdisciplinary studies and global education at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. “The idea was to build a cross-functional team, so I brought a law professor and our director of institutional outreach. We didn’t know each other well before coming to this conference and spent much of our time thinking and dreaming about the possibilities of what can be. Now we have a shared vision that we can take back to our university and work together to accomplish. This is a very inspirational setting.”
“Participants learned from session leaders and from each other, and everyone left with clearer ideas and goals for advancing global learning on their home campuses. They also now have a new set of colleagues with whom to work to accomplish these goals,” said Hill.
The forum opened with words of welcome from Michael Rao, Ph.D., VCU president and R. McKenna Brown, Ph.D., senior international officer and executive director of the Global Education Office. Sessions throughout the two-day conference focused on student-centered internationalization, global learning, global engagement and global living, as well as a student panel and an interactive workshop.