31/05/2017 Interview

John Hudzik, Professor at Michigan State University

“Comprehensive internationalisation requires long-term commitment and continuous progress”

The American professor, during the interview.

John Hudzik is a professor at Michigan State University (USA) and an expert in internationalisation who coined the term comprehensive internationalisation. On 11 May he visited the URV to give a presentation on the subject, “Comprehensive internationalization for all: critical steps forward” in the Auditorium, as part of the URV’s International Staff Week 2017 and the events to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the URV and the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus programme.

What are the main differences between the classical concept of Internationalisation and comprehensive Internationalisation?

In my opinion, the traditional concept of Internationalisation tends to be programmatically narrow such as equating  internationalization with only study abroad and or getting more international students on campus, but it does not focus on how to integrate these students into wider learning, nor on internationalizing other university missions such as research and . The traditional approach focuses on a piece of the teaching and the learning and forgets that bringing international students does nothing to internationalize the on-campus curriculum if they are not integrated into the living and learning environment.

You can always make a big effort and send 500 students abroad, but what about the 5000 who do not go abroad? In this example one can see clearly that the traditional approach is programmatically narrow. But it is also mission-narrow as it has little to do with faculty, what they teach and how they teach it; it has little to do with internationalizing research or with seriously developing cross-institutional partnerships (with the exception of maybe exchanges). Therefore the traditional approach only targets a very small percentage of students, who end up with barely some exposure to internationalization.

Comprehensive internationalisation should be everybody’s priority

From the comprehensive internationalization point of view, there is integration. Comprehensive internationalization could be defined as commitment and action to infuse and integrate international, global and comparative content and perspective throughout the teaching, research and service missions of higher education. It does not mean adding a fourth mission, but integrating into the existing ones. It is paramount to keep in mind that institutions differ greatly and so their internationalization strategies will also be very diverse. There is no “best” way, just different ways. And finally, you develop everyone in the institution. If you only focus on students, without developing faculty and services, you have a problem. And if you think that this is the role of the international office, you have a problem as well. It should be everyone’s priority: deans, professors, services, housing, the rector, vice-rectors, management… everyone.

At what Internationalisation level are Universities nowadays? Are we advancing adequately in general terms?

It is extremely mixed. The majority of Universities are still not effectively engaging in internationalization comprehensively. It sounds bad but at least we can talk about wider recognition of what it means, and there has been programmatic progress over the last decade. The awareness has been growing, which is an important first step in the right direction. People need to understand it first, and then start moving. Comprehensive internationalization is not something achieved in the short run, but really only through a long run commitment and continuous progress. We are already talking about things that we had never talked before, and starting to do things that we have never done before. So we are slowly but surely moving towards comprehensive internationalization.Trying to change huge complex organizations, which are traditionally and fundamentally reluctant to change, such as universities is no easy task. So having some change at all is already a very positive indicator. Moreover, the drive is in the right direction.

There are signs that little by little universities are getting a more holistic approach. But we are taking baby steps. If there was no movement, we should be concerned. But there is movement, and it is in the right direction, it is just not fast; but we cannot expect fast movement with the latest world developments such as Brexit or Trump.  Brexit and Trump, for instance, are examples of reactions to globalization.  Higher education has largely ignored how globalization can negatively impact peoples and societies and it is higher education’s responsibility through its community engagement missions to help all members of society cope with the impacts of globalization… there is an obvious disconnect between higher education and the society when it comes to globalization and internationalization which has produced reactions such as Brexit or Trump.  This is something that much closer attention needs to be given.

Personally how did your interest in this area start?

I was appointed Dean of International Programs and I was very surprised. I had led a few study abroad programs before and my PhD was in comparative politics in political sciences. So when I was offered the position, I decided to “try it out.” And that was obviously a major stepping stone to where I have ended up. But in order to be successful, I had a huge learning curve. At the beginning I did not know 90% of what I needed to know and understand.  It has been constant learning since!

Isn’t it the case that this learning curve always applies in the field of higher education internationalisation?

To be relevant in the field requires continuous learning. In my case, I think the fundamentals remain largely in place but you always learn new things, find more nuances, you identify different approaches… The concept of comprehensive internationalization mainly comes from my experience at Michigan State University. In the late fall there will be a publication of the nuances that I have been discovering since my first publication on comprehensive internationalization in 2011.

What do you think of the level of internationalisation of URV?

It is difficult for me to judge that as I do not have all the information or details, but the publication that was just presented “Comprehensive Internationalization at the URV” signals a very good level and interest of commitment. One thing that is clear is that the theory is there now and I would also like to highlight the presence of the Rector for the whole event on May 11th, which shows a definite commitment, and that is key.

Generally between the rhetoric and the action there is a wide gap at most institutions. But URV seems to be headed in the right direction. The fact that you published this book is extremely important, and it is a big indicator… it is more than just a book.

How was your experience at the URV?

The city was fantastic and the institution is very good. I could see that there has been a lot of coming uphill, and there seems to be a drive to continue going upwards, which is excellent.  I had a very good and stimulating experience these couple of days. We had good conversations and I can see that people are thinking. It is definitely a University I would be glad to visit again.


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