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Northwestern recognized for internationalization amid high demand for global education

One of four institutions to receive the 2023 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization
Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization
Northwestern Buffett’s Disproportionate Impacts of Environmental Challenges global working group members collaborated with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, which represents 11 Ojibwe tribes, to survey wetlands and identify threatened plant species.

From the establishment of a Global Council created to drive internationalization, forming and funding interdisciplinary research teams to tackle complex challenges that can only be addressed from a global lens, and an ever-expanding list of global learning programs, Northwestern University strives to be a school of the world for the world.

In recognition of these and many other innovations that have made research and study abroad more accessible, Northwestern is one of just four institutions receiving the 2023 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization. Given by NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, the award recognizes “overall excellence in integrating international education throughout all facets of university and college campuses.”

“With internationalization efforts taking root across Northwestern, we look forward to building on these interdisciplinary efforts as leaders in the world’s critical dialogues about pressing global challenges,” President Michael Schill said.

Named after the late Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois, the awards celebrate outstanding innovation and accomplishment in campus internationalization.

“I am thrilled that Northwestern’s dedication to preparing students to serve as active global citizens and leaders, and to building an institutional culture that incentivizes interdisciplinary efforts to address global challenges, has been recognized by NAFSA,” said Annelise Riles, executive director of the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern University. “This award is a direct result of the collaboration and input of more than 200 faculty, staff, students and alumni who helped shape and execute the university’s global strategic plan to pursue the highest degree of research and teaching excellence by bringing together the world’s brightest minds to address critical global issues.”

Interdisciplinary connection for global collaboration

Northwestern’s internationalization efforts are driven by a broad range of faculty, students, scholars and staff that serve as the connective tissue of the University’s internationalization, Riles said.

The Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs led the University’s global strategic planning process, establishing the new Global Council. Serving as Northwestern’s global governance structure, the council is a group of senior leaders from each of Northwestern’s schools.  

Coordinating efforts across schools has strengthened faculty’s transnational research, yielded new Global Working Groups and made available sources of funding for global research. Incentivized by Northwestern Buffett’s annual Idea Incubation Process, Global Working Groups aim to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, taking on global issues that range from antibiotic resistance to the disproportionate impacts of environmental challenges. 

Northwestern is now recognized as an official United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change observer organization and supports delegations of faculty and graduate students in attending the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties to engage with the international climate negotiation process, share research and innovative practices, and develop new connections and partnerships.

Within the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, comprising undergraduate major and minor programs and an ensemble of faculty-led research groups, the Weinberg College Center for International and Area Studies is a hub for interdisciplinary, international scholarship and teaching.

The undergraduate programs include International Studies, Middle East and North African Studies and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. These programs offer interdisciplinary curricula as well as research, programming, visiting scholars, graduate mentors and professional development.

The research groups pursue cutting-edge research at the seams of academic departments. Led by Weinberg faculty, they reflect the distinctive strengths of Northwestern faculty and produce scholarly publications and workshops, public outreach, training and media features.

Engaging sustained partnerships in internationalization

Northwestern’s Global Learning Office (GLO) has established a deep and broad range of partnerships – 134 global learning programs across 54 countries, many of which have expanded over time to offer undergraduate and graduate student exchanges, faculty exchanges and new programs of study.

The University also encourages partnerships with communities and sovereign tribal nations to support internationalization efforts. For example, Northwestern Buffett’s Disproportionate Impacts of Environmental Challenges Global Working Group is working alongside 10 Ojibwe tribes to monitor climate change indicators and collect data that can support efforts to defend Indigenous communities’ land rights.

Additionally, GLO has established robust partnerships with nongovernmental organizations, which have sustained its award-winning Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI) program. GESI offers students opportunities to earn credit for engaging in experiential, service-learning programs designed to foster global leadership skills and contribute to the sustainable development of local communities worldwide.

Empowering Northwestern’s international community on campus

International students now account for just over one-fifth of Northwestern’s student population and, before ever arriving to campus, Northwestern Buffett’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services equips international students with resources to remove barriers to their success.

Once on campus, international students have access to a broad range of services and supports, from assistance with filing their taxes to community events that encourage students’ sense of belonging.

Northwestern staff work to make Northwestern’s campuses accessible and inclusive for international and domestic students and scholars.

Driving global learning into the future

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Learning Office launched a virtual iteration of its award-winning Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI) to maintain opportunities for a diverse spectrum of Northwestern students to engage in global learning.

Additionally, Northwestern Buffett and the Office of the Vice President of International Relations offers International Classroom Partnering grants designed to provide cross-cultural, global opportunities for student learning and engagement using online tools. These grants deepen relationships with Northwestern’s international partners, provide Northwestern undergraduate and graduate students with cross-cultural, curriculum-based experiences with their peers abroad, and recognize faculty members’ commitment to providing Northwestern students with opportunities to gain the competencies necessary to become engaged global citizens.

East Carolina University; Georgia State University; and University of Kentucky also received the Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization.

“For more than 20 years, the Senator Paul Simon Award has recognized the true standard-bearers in campus internationalization, and this year’s cohort is no exception,” said Daniel C. Stoll, NAFSA interim executive director and CEO. “As NAFSA marks its 75th anniversary, we salute this year’s recipients for their creative approaches to making a globally enriched education accessible to all students.”