Spring 2021: Beginning the new year poised for success

Dear Friends of International Affairs:

Welcome to International Affairs at the University of Kansas (KU). Our mission is to support KU’s continuing leadership in international higher education. We do this through institutional capacity building, broad and deep partnership development, and by ensuring that our students, faculty and staff are representative of the world’s talent, cognizant of global challenges and international opportunities that we face, and well-positioned to serve the state, nation and world.

We have so much to be thankful for, just as we know that we have a great deal of work before us. We have persevered in the face of a global pandemic, transforming how we teach and support our students, how we care for one another, and how we promote the cause of international education. Through our virtual engagement, we have come to more fully understand what KU represents and embodies. We are much more than a physical space, but a collection of people, ideas, passions, visions, and commitments that continue to transform the world and derive meaning from that same world. The dedication and resilience of KU’s International Affairs team, as well as that of the students, faculty and staff members we serve, has shone brightly over the past year and we begin a new year well poised for success and resolved to build upon our strong international legacy.

Even with student, faculty and staff mobility hindered to an unprecedented degree, COVID-19 has shown us just how deeply interconnected our lives are and how essential collaborative engagement is if we are to transcend today’s challenges to achieve a better tomorrow. We must not lose sight of the insights we have gained these past many months. They call upon us to work together toward a more diverse, inclusive and equitable university community in which everyone knows and feels they belong, whether they hail from regions across the United States or beyond our borders. Today’s challenges increasingly transcend borders and so too must the population that comprises our community and the impact of our individual and collective work. Success at KU translates into broader success as we endeavor to fulfill KU’s mission of lifting “students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world.” KU’s mission is inherently global and it demands international facility if we are to be successful in our goals.

As we look toward a new year, I call upon us all to remember KU’s educational legacy in the context of one of the world’s finest education systems. We have been among those at the forefront, demonstrating ingenuity, depth of knowledge and capacity, and a commitment to the world around us that is evidenced by engagement and action. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, recently reminded us that the U.S. has been the leading destination across the globe for international students. While we have seen some of that interest diminish in recent years, we can work together to reassert our centrality and commitment vis-à-vis the global knowledge economy. The extent to which the KU community attracts and retains the world’s talent is the extent to which we are able to push the boundaries of discovery and transform ourselves and the world. International mobility brings opportunity, collaborative partnerships, insights, and awareness that define and empower our work and generate, in the words of Ambassador Power, “lasting goodwill.” She goes on to state, “The United States’ competitive advantage has always flowed from its diversity and ability to provide opportunities.” Indeed, one of our greatest accomplishments has been the opportunity to educate over 300 world leaders around the globe, including the current heads of state of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

As part of KU’s efforts in this arena, it gives me great pleasure to announce that KU is one of 10 colleges and universities from around that world selected by the American Council on Education (ACE) to participate in its prestigious Internationalization Lab.  ACE is widely known as the preeminent voice of internationalization in higher education and as members of the first lab cohort since COVID-19 began, we will have their considerable expertise to guide us as we define KU’s future in the global education context.  

 At the intersection of COVID, strategic internationalization represents an opportunity to sharpen and continually enhance our response to the global challenges of today and tomorrow through the creation of community connections. As the flagship institution of the State of Kansas, the successful pursuit of our priorities in the areas of student success, research discovery, and the creation of healthy and vibrant communities demands international expertise, as well as our global engagement. The pandemic has underscored the importance of institutional internationalization as we engage in cross-border enterprises, just as it calls for us to fully realize the obligations and opportunities of our membership in today’s global society.   

Over the next 20 months, KU will review the university’s internationalization capacities, assess the opportunities that lie before us, and strategically advance our institutional priorities through the development of a comprehensive plan of strategic action. The priorities areas for this work include:

  • Curriculum, Co-Curriculum and Learning Outcomes 
  • Mobility (Student, Faculty and Staff) 
  • Research/Teaching Collaborations and Partnerships Abroad  
  • Faculty and Staff Policies and Practices 
  • Administrative Leadership, Structure and Staffing  

While the work of the Internationalization Lab comes at a challenging time for all of us in higher education, I believe this will be time well spent as we look to reaffirm our long-standing commitment and contributions to international education and explore how we can align ourselves as global leaders in this space in the years and decades ahead.  Over the coming months, I invite you to become engaged with us in the work of the lab, to challenge us, and to task us with the important work of ensuring that your work is fully incorporated into our vision for international education at KU.

I am so proud of the work of our division and of the increasing international footprint of the University of Kansas. We continue to work at the forefront among those universities fully engaged in campus internationalization and the lab will undoubtedly set us up for success in our ever-changing world. We are a local, regional and national resource as a university to be sure, but we are rapidly becoming a global resource. I look forward to another year of collaboration. With your partnership, we will continue to transform KU and the world.

Warm Regards,

Charles A. S. Bankart

Associate Vice Provost for International Programs