Last year was an amazing year of achievement for our San Diego State community, and I am excited about our extraordinary opportunity for greater distinction in 2016-17. As we begin the new year, I hope you will take the time to learn more in my video message here.
Tag Archives: internationalization
In prior blogs, I described some of the experiences of international students at our university and more about our international partners, and here I would like to talk more about why international programs are essential to our students and to SDSU’s future.
If there were any doubts, today’s global health crises, political upheavals and interconnected economy make it clear that a quality education is one with a global focus and international opportunities.
At San Diego State, our goals and aspirations for international programs are articulated in our strategic plan, “Building on Excellence.” They build upon foundations created by President Emeritus Stephen Weber and Provost Emeritus Nancy Marlin, who recognized the strategic advantage of our location at the gateway to Latin America and the Pacific Rim, as well as the fundamental role that international efforts play in the success of our educational and research programs.
The international initiatives in “Building on Excellence” have three facets. First, reflecting our belief that we must prepare students for professional and civic responsibilities in a global future, we have set an ambitious goal that 30 percent of our graduating students have international experiences – 2,100 students studied abroad last year. We already rank in the top 25 in the nation, and reaching our ambitious goal will place us in the top 10. More important, our students grow intellectually and personally from these experiences.
Second, we are focusing our research on international challenges. A broad range of areas, including climate change, economic prosperity, national security and public health, must be addressed from a global perspective. Our researchers work with colleagues around the world to solve society’s pressing problems.
Third, we are recruiting additional international students, who now constitute 6 percent of our undergraduate population. These students bring perspectives and knowledge that broaden the education of all our students and help build the bridges of friendship that tie nations together.
These international efforts are already gathering philanthropic support. Alumni Keith Behner and Cathy Stiefel recently created a $2.5 million endowment to support our international programs with Brazil, a nation with the world’s seventh-largest economy. This funding will support student exchanges, joint faculty research and strengthened relations between our two nations — advancing all three of our international initiatives. Alumni Jack McGrory and Terry Atkinson – both members of The Campanile Foundation Board – are among those supporting study-abroad scholarships for students who need financial support. Chinyeh Hostler and her late husband, Ambassador Charles W. Hostler, have made significant contributions to our international programs and to the Charles W. Hostler Institute on World Affairs.
In our 117- year history, SDSU has continually evolved with the times. Today, carrying out our educational, research and service missions requires us to take an international perspective. This perspective, in turn, will convey benefits closer to home for our region, state and nation and further our goal to become a top-50 public research university.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, the academic year has its own unique seasons and rhythms. At the beginning of October, the admissions process begins and another notable period, the rankings season, ends – and it has been quite a rankings season for San Diego State University.
Most notably, U.S. News and World Report named us to its list of top “Up-and-Coming Schools.” We were ranked #14 nationally on the list of universities “making the most promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty and student life.” In an analysis of this year’s rankings, the Washington Post reported that we have increased our overall ranking the most of any university in the country since 2011 (31 places).
Other rankings also recognized our efforts. For example, Washington Monthly ranked us #6 nationally for the economic value of our degrees. Similarly, individual programs and colleges were also recognized in national rankings. Our International Business program was ranked #8 in the nation by U.S. News, and our College of Engineering was ranked #15 in a national survey of the economic value of engineering degrees.
This national recognition is a testament to the dedication and passion of our faculty, staff, students, alumni and community supporters. By highlighting the university’s excellence, it will attract new students and add value to the degrees of our current students and alumni. These distinctions are especially noteworthy given the significant challenges that are transforming public higher education in California, and they occasion many questions. The two I get most frequently are “Do rankings matter?” and “How did we move up?”
My answer to the question of whether rankings matter is a decided “yes.” Put directly, rankings reflect (and create) prestige – a reputation based on achievement and success – and achievement and success matter to students, their families, our alumni and prospective employers. The rankings are especially important for students and their families who are not familiar with the university. Colleges and universities are complex, hard-to-understand places, and attending a college or university requires a very significant investment of time and money. The rankings try to help students and their families understand the investment they are about to make. No ranking can fully characterize an individual university or quantify the match between the needs of an individual student and the strength of a specific university, but students and their families find the rankings to be a useful starting point.
The question of why we have moved up in various rankings has been analyzed in detail by Business Insider. Three factors were cited as critical: our campuswide efforts to support student success that improved our retention and graduation rates, the growth of our research efforts and their overall impact on our academic programs, and the success of our first comprehensive fundraising campaign which has raised over $425 million to date. Each of these factors has contributed directly to metrics used in rankings and, indirectly, to the overall reputation of our university.
There is, however, more to it. Underlying each individual factor is something more fundamental – a spirit of innovation that aspires to make our university better and always seems to find a way to do so. It is this spirit of innovation that underlies our efforts to improve student success, advance research and build our culture of philanthropy. This same spirit – this can-do attitude – motivates the ambitious initiatives proposed in our recently completed strategic plan “Building on Excellence,” and I am certain that it will propel us forward as we pursue these initiatives and advance our university.
I had the pleasure of meeting individually with three of our Deans, Ric Hovda of Education, David Hayhurst of Engineering, and Geoff Chase of Undergraduate Studies (who also has responsibility for the integration of sustainability into our academic efforts). Each Dean spoke articulately and with passion regarding the needs, challenges and opportunities before them this year.
Just as importantly, they all sounded common themes regarding their and their colleagues’ efforts. A focus on the success of all of our students, an emphasis on the role of research and creative endeavors in addressing local and national challenges, the importance of engaging with all facets of our community, the pre-eminence of diversity and internationalization, and the need to tie these themes together in a way that is environmentally and fiscally sustainable permeated all of our discussions. I left campus that night excited and energized and I look forward to hearing from students, faculty and staff regarding how we can advance these central areas in this and the coming years