Fall 2021: Working tirelessly to put students first

Dear Friends of International Affairs:

On behalf of all of us in International Affairs, we are delighted to share with you our annual report for the past academic year. On this year’s cover, you will see the Study Abroad & Global Engagement (SAGE) team, which was recognized by Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer as KU’s Team of the Year for their extraordinary efforts during the pandemic to support our Jayhawks abroad, ensure students’ safety and academic continuity, and pivot to new modalities to enable Jayhawks to continue to receive the international education so fundamental to a KU degree. From the development of virtual internships, programming, and language immersion programs, to the complete overhaul of our process for evaluating the health and safety of programs abroad, SAGE led the way in so many respects and was among the first offices in the nation to safely resume education abroad this past spring and summer. 

The work of SAGE is emblematic of an entire division and university that worked tirelessly to put students first. These efforts required continual pivoting, adaptation and innovation. 

International Short Programs, for example, supported a group of faculty members from Zhejiang Normal University (ZJNU) who were on campus for a faculty development program and became stranded in the United States for several months due to the unavailability of flights home to China. Those efforts not only led to a deepening of the long-standing relationship between KU and ZJNU, but to the recent submission of a proposal to provincial authorities to establish the first-ever education institute between the U.S. and China with five dual graduate and undergraduate degree programs planned for implementation. This will not only break new ground for KU and ZJNU, but for our nations as well. 

The Applied English Center (AEC) rose to the many challenges of the pandemic as well, developing and delivering new curricula at all five proficiency levels for students to take regardless of their ability to be present in the U.S. or not. Five years ago, we could not have imagined offering an intensive English program with such a robust and powerful online and hybrid curriculum. Nor could we have imagined being able to test students’ proficiency remotely to enable enrollment and teaching appointments, or providing comprehensive acculturative and academic advising, programming, and services in a comprehensive hybrid format. These developments have situated the AEC well as we look past the pandemic and toward empowering international students on their degree paths at KU. 

International Support Services (ISS) too has beautifully managed a maelstrom of change over the past year. The pandemic and near-complete cessation of academic mobility on a global level made international student recruitment and retention harder than it has ever been. We also had a change in presidential administrations and aligned immigration-related and COVID-related policies, which required ISS to continually shift its approach and supports for our international community. Despite those challenges and remote working conditions, the ISS team engaged and supported students through virtual programming and advising. They also developed a new online orientation program, which facilitated early enrollment for new international students so that they are now on par with their domestic students for the first time in KU history. They recruited across the world through digital venues and actively followed up. They leveraged institutional resources to ensure students in financial crisis had support, and advised the university and students alike on the continuing pandemic-related shifts in immigration policy that impacted students’ enrollment options. As new opportunities and flexibilities arose, ISS was always there to ensure our community could benefit fully and they did so by partnering broadly across the university to raise collective awareness of the unique situations our international community found itself in. 

I have never been prouder of the work of our International Affairs team, nor of the University of Kansas. I have found that my professional home is deeply committed to the world and to ensuring that the world is actively represented on this campus. We have much work to do as we move forward and look beyond the pandemic context to our institutional vision “to be an exceptional learning community that lifts each other and advances society,” but we are well on our way and we have the full support of KU as we deliberately and strategically move forward. You will read in the report that KU has joined the American Council on Education’s (ACE), Internationalization Lab, which is designed to take a deep dive into our institution’s internationalization strengths, capacities, and the opportunities that lie before us. As we shift from the self-study phase of that process, which was completed this past summer, to the action planning phase over the 2022 academic year, we are aligned with KU’s Jayhawks Rising strategic planning initiative and will be working with campus partners across the institution to ensure that KU’s international efforts are not just represented by an office, but reflected in all that we do as a learning community. The honor and privilege of being able to engage in these planning efforts today are in no small measure due to the profound efforts and successes of this past year. 

Enjoy reading our report and learning of the incredible work of our colleagues across campus, our outreach efforts across the region and world, and the ground-breaking research of our faculty and students. In these pages, I believe you will find hope and inspiration, just as I have.

Rock Chalk!

Charles A.S. Bankart
Associate Vice Provost for International Affairs

Posted Nov. 1, 2021