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Future Shock

East Coast Exporters Going Global

University Business, June 2011

Just back from campus info visits, with children having us in tow, we gained a fresh perspective on what today's aspiring college students like best to learn, where they want to live, and how they want to engage in the global higher learning experience. What we learned from the campus tours during spring break is that the fastest growing student co-curricular interests include Model UN debates, semester and summer study abroad programs, and international field practicums in the rain forest and the arctic, and exposure -- indeed, immersion in foreign languages and cultures.

During the helicopter parent admissions sessions, we also learned other nations' parents and students want it all as well: American style university campuses in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. And why not, the American system of regional accreditation empowers students to take their credits with them when they move on to new learning experiences around the world. These several student preference trend-lines are now accelerated by the demographic tsunami reaching China, the Middle East and Africa. No longer is learning bordered by the four corners of the traditional classroom. Online and cellular colleges now provide a blended high-tech, high-touch learning experience for a new, more mobile generation of student travelers.

For most of the history of this nation, there has been a strong nexus between academics in Boston and international policy makers in Washington. Beyond the usual suspects like Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and Boston College -- a new breed of American global university is emerging.

Located just steps away from the historic Statehouse on Beacon Hill, our first stop takes us to Suffolk University, founded in 1906. Suffolk has evolved over the past century from a regional commuter school to an internationally recognized institution of higher learning, with the lion's share of global growth occurring over the past 20 years. Driven by a shared vision for international development, Suffolk successfully recruits students from 103 different countries, including France, Switzerland, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Germany, China, the Middle East, Canada, and the UK. With programs and courses in International Economics and Global Business Entrepreneurship and Leadership, Suffolk is positioning itself as a foreign-student friendly institution of choice -- ranked 7th by U.S. News for the Best College for International Students Attending Master's Programs in the Northeast.

Suffolk University Vice President of Enrollment and International Programs, Marguerite Dennis put it this way: "After all, international higher education is a big business -- a $400 billion industry with the number of students studying outside of their home country in 2025 estimated to be 8 million -- a global marketplace where no single nation will dominate."

Uniquely, Suffolk's commitment to international families begins long before prospective students arrive on campus. What Suffolk does differently is offer full-time, personalized assistance, support, and participation through its series of international student orientations, extended family conversations, and importantly, establishing direct family-to-family networking. Having ratcheted up international student enrollment from less than 200 to over 1,100 students, Suffolk has established a network of overseas programs in Madrid, Spain, Dakar, and Senegal -- and new collaborations in Shanghai, China; Kyoto, Japan; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Tbilisi, Georgia; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Through semesters and summers abroad, international field practicums, and language immersion travel programs, Suffolk students are exposed to countless natural, scientific, cultural and artistic wonders on several continents of the world. At the end of the day, Suffolk's Dennis reflected: "We consider it our responsibility to train students to be citizens of the world. That is our mission and our students' destiny."

Our next visit is Tufts University where the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy stands out as one of the premier graduate schools of international affairs in the world. Students from over 70 nations choose from concentrations in Diplomacy, Economics and International Business, History and Politics, and International Law and Organizations. Fletcher's unique curriculum encourages collaboration between students, faculty and staff resulting in a cross-pollination of ideas, discussions and solutions to many of the world's leading political issues. With an international student count of over 700, Tufts has four campuses in Massachusetts as well as a campus located in Talloires, France, and study abroad programs in Chile, China, Ghana, Hong Kong, Japan, London, Madrid, Oxford, Paris, and Germany.

Our last stop in Beantown is Northeastern University, where the International Student and Scholar Institute coordinates programs and provides services for thousands of international students and faculty representing 125 different countries. Beyond its well recognized International Institute, Northeastern sponsors a Global Connections program that links international students with alumni in over 100 other nations. Northeastern's approach to education integrates rigorous academic programs with experiential learning opportunities -- and students can participate in the University's signature co-op program.

Fresh off the Beltway shuttle from Boston to Ronald Reagan National Airport, we head out to visit the campuses of two venerable schools of international affairs -- first, Georgetown University, which provides a broad variety of international and intercultural education opportunities in more than 25 nations. Through its Office of International Programs, Georgetown boasts over 2,000 students and faculty from more than 130 countries. Among the most venerable global institutions of its kind, Georgetown offers graduate programs in International Affairs through the Walsh School of Foreign Service. Georgetown students can choose from programs in Foreign Service, Security Studies, International Business Diplomacy, and International Migration. Beyond these specialties, the Georgetown Law School offers a specialization in International Law -- a fitting program based on its location within walking distance of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Department of Justice.

Our last stop is The George Washington University. With competitive programs in International Affairs, Global Communication, International Law, Business and Policy, and Medicine, the University is a major player in the international student marketplace. By way of illustrative example, GW's Elliot School of International Affairs encourages graduate students to choose a regional specialty -- Asia, Europe, Latin America, or the Middle East -- in preparation for careers requiring in-depth knowledge and understanding of these areas.

What these several contemporary global institutions have in common is that they get it -- the future of higher learning is in the diversity of international learning experiences, venues, languages, and cultures which students will be exposed to during their undergraduate and graduate learning experiences. In the process, students learn the language of international business, economics, environment, public policy, and importantly, acquire 21st century global leadership, international peace resolution, diplomatic relations and teamwork skills.

James Martin and James E. Samels, Future Shock columnists, are authors of Turnaround: Leading Stressed Colleges and Universities to Excellence (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). Martin is a professor at Mount Ida College (Mass.) and Samels is president and CEO of The Education Alliance.