University finalizes Plan for Internationalization, focusing on undergraduate experience

One of the goals of the Plan for Internationalization was to create a home for the Center for International Affairs; the new location opened last fall. Photo by Susan Griffith.

After nearly two years of planning, developing and getting input and insight from hundreds of people across campus, Case Western Reserve University’s Plan for Internationalization—the first phase of the university’s international strategy—is now official.

More than 100 faculty, staff and students were directly involved in the international planning process, and Faculty Senate and the Office of the Provost endorsed the plan.

“The Plan for Internationalization is the culmination of more than two years of work from so many people in the Case Western Reserve University community,” said Provost W.A. “Bud” Baeslack III. “We are excited to move forward with a plan that will greatly enhance global opportunities for our students and faculty, and that will enable us to become an even more international—and internationally recognized—university.”

A main outcome of the university’s strategic plan, Forward Thinking, the Plan for Internationalization is divided into six major areas: undergraduate education abroad and international experiences; undergraduate international student recruitment and retention; technology; funding and resources; infrastructure; and global strategy.

Each of the six areas is further detailed with specific goals, and though the plan’s goals focus specifically on undergraduate students, a process is in the works to focus on graduate and professional students and research, explained David Fleshler, associate provost for international affairs.

Fleshler was one of the three chairs of the International Planning Committee; the others were Janet McGrath, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology, and James Kazura, professor of international health, medicine and pathology in the School of Medicine.

“One of the tangible goals of the Plan for Internationalization is to improve undergraduate education abroad and the international experience by ensuring study abroad is academically compelling, encouraging students to immerse themselves in other cultures, languages and history, and making the study abroad process user friendly and affordable,” Fleshler said.

To this end, the newly created Office of Education Abroad recently hired two staff members—as well as student workers with study-abroad experience—to improve the university’s study abroad program and assist students and faculty members.

In addition, the Office of Education Abroad now uses a state-of-the-art computer system that allows students to view all study abroad programs in one place as well as—for the first time—apply online to study abroad. The system also includes a communication and risk management component so faculty members and administrators can be sure students have the proper protection and can be reached at all times while overseas.

But above all, improving the study abroad experience begins with growing the number of students who actually spend time overseas. Last year, about 24 percent of undergraduate students studied abroad, but only 8 percent of those took part in long-term programs. The goal is to double that number within five years, particularly focusing on long-term experiences, McGrath said.

“While all time spent abroad can enrich their lives, students gain the most from an immersion experience,” she said. “In their careers, our graduates will interact with people of diverse backgrounds and understanding, all over the world. They need to leave Case Western Reserve equipped to handle these challenges.”

This need for global understanding is a main reason for a focus on undergraduate international student recruitment and retention. International students “add a perspective that the university community couldn’t get if students from other countries weren’t here,” Kazura noted.

To ensure these incoming international students are prepared for the rigors of Case Western Reserve, the university has increased its minimum requirements for the TOEFL (English language test) and now requires SAT scores for all international undergraduate students.

Showing its commitment to its international students and to internationalization overall, the university opened a home for the new Center for International Affairs last fall. The center comprises the Office of International Student Services, the Office of International Affairs and the Office of Education Abroad.

“To have all three offices under one roof in a beautifully renovated space in the center of campus is a tangible indication to both our students and our partners outside of campus that internationalization is a priority to the university and that we are devoting the resources to growing our international programs and activities,” Fleshler said.

The Center for International Affairs has established a website and is constantly improving users’ online international experiences. In addition, the center is working with Information Technology Services (ITS) to create an easily accessible database of all international activity across campus—an idea that was called for in the plan.

“We have a remarkable amount of international activity going on in every corner of the university,” McGrath said. “Creating an easily searchable database will allow the university community—and the outside world—to better understand and take advantage of the rich international offerings of our institution.”

Finally, for any new initiative, funding is always an issue. The plan outlines that, in order for the Center for International Affairs to grow, it must find new, innovative funding sources. These include individuals, foundations, corporations and government entities within and outside the United States, Fleshler said.

“While there are challenges ahead,” Fleshler said, “I believe every person who took part in the international planning process recognizes that this is a dynamic and exciting time for internationalization in higher education and, with continued attention and thought, Case Western Reserve has the opportunity to set our own course for global higher education leadership.”

For more information, visit, or download the plan.