Best Practices for Funding and Growing Global Engagement
February 10, 2024
From a podcast interview with Jill Blondin, Ph.D., Associate Vice Provost at Virginia Commonwealth University and SIO of the Year.
“It’s our job to provide opportunities for all students that can translate into their success. And when we lead with that, we present those opportunities. I think more students are interested in studying in our institutions.”
In this interview on the Global Engagement Insights podcast from Terra Dotta, we have a blockbuster of a guest. Jill Blondin, Ph.D., the associate vice provost at Virginia Commonwealth University. Jill has received numerous awards and accolades, including being recognized as one of the top 50 voices in 2023 and being awarded SIO of the Year. In this interview, Jill shares her insights on the importance of global engagement in higher education and provides valuable advice on strategic budgeting and resource allocation.
“The greatest export the United States has ever had is our higher education system.”
When asked to rate the importance of global engagement in higher education on a scale of 1 to 10, Jill confidently responds with an “11.” She emphasizes that every institution in today’s interconnected world is a global institution, whether they like it or not. The choice lies in how institutions choose to engage globally and the opportunities they provide for their students, faculty, and staff.
Jill believes that global engagement is vital for students' success, as it develops essential soft skills such as flexibility, adaptability, cultural agility, and collaboration. It also benefits faculty and staff by providing different perspectives and fostering research collaborations. Furthermore, global engagement plays a crucial role in addressing the enrollment cliff by attracting international students and contributing to the overall growth and success of the institution.
“International education is vital to the importance of the institution because every institution going forward is a global institution, whether they like it or not.”
Jill introduces the strategic program at Virginia Commonwealth University called “D.A.R.E. to Be Global.” This program guides campus-wide internationalization and is based on four pillars: data-informed decision-making, accessibility, recruitment, and engagement.
The data-informed aspect ensures that internationalization efforts are aligned with the institution’s objectives and are based on evidence and analysis. Accessibility removes barriers and increases access to global learning opportunities for all students, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds. Recruitment aims to attract diverse international students who can contribute to the institution’s mission and innovation. Finally, engagement emphasizes collaboration with faculty and developing partnerships to enhance research and teaching.
Jill highlights the importance of strategic budgeting in supporting global engagement initiatives. She acknowledges that budgeting can be challenging, especially for those who may not have a strong background in finance.
However, she emphasizes aligning budgeting decisions with the institution’s mission and strategic plan. International education offices can demonstrate their impact and secure the necessary resources by focusing on priorities and measuring outcomes. Jill also advises seeking collaborations and partnerships within and outside the institution to maximize resources and expertise. She encourages senior international officers to be proactive advocates for internationalization and to continuously communicate the value and impact of their initiatives.
“My role at the institution as the Senior International Officer is as an advocate; it is the hat I never take off. Without question, the most important part of my job is advocacy.”
As a senior international officer, Jill acknowledges the challenge of balancing proactive initiatives with reactive responses to global events. She emphasizes the need to stay informed and be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances. However, she also highlights the importance of being proactive in advancing comprehensive internationalization. Jill suggests being intentional about moments that present opportunities for collaboration and development, both within the institution and with external partners. She emphasizes the importance of collaboration, generosity of spirit, and a “we can all win” approach to achieving success in international education.
Jill believes collaboration and advocacy are key to the success of international education. She encourages senior international officers to be champions for the institution’s mission and advocate for the value of global engagement. By telling the stories of students, faculty, and staff who have benefited from internationalization initiatives, senior international officers can make a compelling case for resources and support. Jill also emphasizes the importance of asking for help and contacting colleagues within and outside the institution. She believes that by working together and sharing knowledge and experiences, the field of international education can overcome challenges and achieve greater impact.
Global engagement is not just important but vital for the growth and success of higher education institutions. By aligning internationalization efforts with the institution’s mission, being data-informed, and fostering collaboration and advocacy, senior international officers can secure the necessary resources and support for their initiatives. Strategic budgeting, proactive planning, and focusing on student success are essential in achieving comprehensive internationalization.
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the role of global engagement in higher education will continue to evolve and expand. By embracing collaboration, advocating for opportunities, and prioritizing student success, institutions can prepare their students for a globalized world and contribute to advancing knowledge and understanding across borders.