SIO Perspectives: The Missing Link to Global Engagement Growth with Grant Chapman


[00:00:00] Steve MacDonald: Welcome everyone to the Global Engagement Insights Podcast. I'm Steve MacDonald, your host, and today we've got a very special guest. We've got Grant Chapman from KSU, Kansas State University. You've been in this game of global engagement for over 30 years. You've been an SIO at public and private institutions, with a background in law. You're well-rounded. You love soccer, which I think you call football, and because you grew up in London, you love the theater. But we're here today, and we're going to talk about what we think, from an SIO perspective, is the missing link in global education growth. Specifically, what do we need to do to have an internal plan that benefits the university, allows us to advocate, and allows us to create that story? But if you wouldn't mind, tell us a little about yourself before we start.

[00:00:56] Grant Chapman: I spent six formative years in London, England. My father was in the oil business, and we were there in the 1970s. I'm your typical third-culture kid, adopting the local culture, your parents' culture, and making your own culture. With that, I've had the privilege of working at two different institutions at Webster University, a private institution with a campus in Saint Louis. It focused on and had a mission of global citizenship. They aim to ensure that students transform for global citizenship and individual excellence. Part of its DNA was the branch campuses. In the nomenclature, many people call it transnational education. We had branch campuses on multiple continents where it was one university, students and faculty, one going to and from a lot of mobility and excitement. Now I have the privilege of working at the first operational Land Grant University. They say in the U.S.; I can say in the world because the Land Grant is a U.S. entity at Kansas State University. Here is a relatively new president. He's starting his 3rd year, president Richard Linton. We had a strategic plan, the next-gen K state, and it's talking about the next-generation land grant university. Land Grant University is in our DNA and the engagement part of the strategic plan talks about how the university impacts society in Kansas and the world. That's the statement. So, I am privileged to work at these two institutions that have front and center put global and international on there. With 30 years, I've got to see a little more entrepreneurial private university and a more traditional public Land Grant University and how both universities try to impact and teach students about the world.

[00:02:47] Steve MacDonald: One of the things you said in there is that the focus on global engagement and international education is important because not all institutions from the president's level down have as much a focus as we'd like. What we're going to be talking about today is putting together the plan for growth. It is important to have that context of support. It doesn't mean that you stop advocating.

[00:03:14] Grant Chapman: No, and it doesn't mean that sometimes everybody looks at those words and pays attention to global and the world as much as people in international education and programs.

[00:03:28] Steve MacDonald: In other words, because you have that focus doesn't mean that you're doing the same thing that everybody has to do as an international education leader. You have to be an advocate on a regular basis. What are the components of a plan to do that, and what are you doing? Specifically, you're creating a database, an inventory of knowledge, and what's important in this data and data of digital is that you're bridging silos, gaps of information that are over here or over here, or just aren't there at all. In order to be able to lay the foundation, if we are going to be advocates, if we're going to grow, we're going to make an impact. We're going to tell those stories. We can't just rely on the stories; here's a student story of how much this impacted their lives, which is very important. But you need the data. You've got a very big initiative underway. What is the initiative to gather this data and collect this digital database?

[00:04:28] Grant Chapman: A leader may have asked most senior international officers this question to set the context. Ask me what our university does internationally. Give me the flavor. I had this question asked of me, and I said, I know what's in my mind, but I don't know. I don't know everything that Kansas State University is doing, but all of our units are doing wonderful things. Many engage in collaborative initiatives with entities outside the U.S., invite faculty, etc. So, from that conversation came the notion that before we do much more, where do we want to go? How do we want to position the university within the global context? We need to know what we're currently doing. You said exactly how to add a relatively decentralized complex entity, a university. How do you gather the data you need and measure the things that are important to you and your university holistically? Does the university justice and does justice to all of the good work that your faculty, students, and staff community are doing? So, as part of our NextGen strategic plan, the university provided funding. One of the big funding initiatives for the engagement and partnership pieces is what we are starting to call creating an international inventory for Kansas State University. It's a digital database. As you say, it might morph into a global engagement hub or directory. Still, this digital database would then provide data about the whole university's initiatives within this realm of comprehensive internationalization and global engagement. It's daunting because all universities are complex, but it's needed. Most universities try to have a partnership or agreement database. We're trying to take that as just one component and talk about what we should measure, why we should measure it, and how this supports our impactful engagement stories.

[00:06:51] Steve MacDonald: You realize you just added a big portion to the role of the job of an SIO. You're already a senior national officer, but now you're like a chief information officer and a CIO simultaneously.

[00:07:03] Grant Chapman: I'm hoping the digital world and the new world with AI and others can streamline and automate much of the knowledge so that the SIO can use this tool to be informed when I'm asked about Kansas State University. What are the trends? Where have we done most of our current or past research? Where are our strategic partners? Where do we get students? How do we put this into a usable digital database or inventory? These are all questions that we ask ourselves on a daily basis.

[00:07:39] Steve MacDonald: We hear a lot these days about data and digital and similar topics. But if you were to say that when we have this digital database and this infrastructure in place, what does that do to the superpowers of an SIO compared to where you're at right now? How does it empower you to do things you cannot do today?

[00:08:07] Grant Chapman: Great question. SIOs, to be successful, should be wonderful relationship builders. That's international global engagement. We know roughly what's happening at our university. Then, each day we talk to somebody, we find something else. This idea of this international inventory is a game changer for me. It will help me develop a real-time tool. What are we doing now? It will help me work with others around the university or the community in advocating or going after new grant proposals. The ultimate would be sharing the impact of what we do globally with our communities here in Kansas and how we've done and are doing globally to benefit the world and Kansas. The old-age global problems demand global solutions. Understanding one's place within the world will help me and Kansas State understand our place within Kansas in the world.

[00:09:25] Steve MacDonald: If you could give us just a couple of stories or examples. You mentioned something lightly there that isn't a late subject in terms of helping to get more grants for faculty. Please explain that as an example.

[00:09:36] Grant Chapman: Some of the internal benefits of a well-designed digital database would be a faculty member who's having a new collaboration. We'll use an example in Brazil. They want to understand if the university has had successful programs between Kansas State and Brazil to make their grant proposal more impactful and share some of the data already happening to the granting agency so that the agency knows that we have the expertise. We have had a history of doing these types of programs. This is the first year of a 3-year process. Go into this database and look at things that may impact their discipline and ability to get grants. The other thing it does for faculty is I have most weeks a faculty or staff asked me, what are we doing in Senegal? I'm using that as an example, and I will know in my head. If I had this database, not only would we know some things, but we would know the things we've done or are doing in Senegal and the people who are doing it. You can connect faculty across disciplines. Another theme of our strategic plan is this whole interdisciplinary approach, which could help faculty formulate these new partnerships or strengthen current partnerships.

[00:11:03] Steve MacDonald: The area you're getting into here, which is fascinating, is the typical advocacy efforts that talk about how we're not just a program; we're actually something that has a far-reaching impact on not only students' lives or the entire student body, but the faculty, the deans, and the actual sustainability and growth of the institution itself. You just mentioned using international education or global engagement data to help add value to others. One of the best ways to advocate is to say, Here's what we can do for you. Then, you're bolstering your importance because they need you to help. I call that proactive advocacy. And, in the same way, that information, that database how else can you use that information to help others, whether it's deans, the president, or anyone else?

[00:12:05] Grant Chapman: We anticipate, and we have a working group that is assisting with this process and looking at the benefits. Why have a database, and what do we want in the database and the measure? There are many benefits from a simple but very important: compliance, accreditation, safety, and security. Make sure you know where all your students and employees are at any given time to a maybe longer-term view of the benefits, such as we have finite resources to recruit international students. What are we doing in certain areas? Maybe Kansas State University's name is because of research or because some other engagement is stronger in one region or country. This database is designed to inform decision makers at the university at all levels. We talked about faculty and leadership levels. We all have finite resources. Where should we go to get quality international students? Where should we go to get quality international talent? So, I think that itself is something a lot of universities are trying to do: understand their agreements and strengths. The one really powerful purpose for this database that I alluded to earlier is that a lot of times at universities, global is other. It's us and them. It's not meant to be us and them, but sometimes, in society, it's where Kansas is. Then, there's our region, the US, and the world. Sometimes, we separate that well, for a couple of reasons. Again, we want students and the entity at Kansas State University to understand themselves within their environment and the world. This database can be useful for that. But really, we want to talk to society. We want to talk to our local communities in Kansas and share with them that what we are doing in engaging both in Kansas and the world is not mutually exclusive. It is for the benefit of all. We can leverage what we do if we can find solutions to Kansas's problems, such as water resources, broadband, and rural areas. Then, learn with partners outside the U.S. to help bring this knowledge to the people. That is the Land Grant. That's the next-generation Land Grant. This tool and understanding of what we do in Kansas can be used to tell powerful impact stories of what Kansas State is doing. I know we're doing this already. We have anecdotal stories. This database, this international inventory, is the substance behind those stories and could also provide us with more. I know they're out there. This will be the foundation for some of the future stories.

[00:15:05] Steve MacDonald: Stories have qualitative and quantitative science to them. We tend to have a lot of qualitative stories. This is going to give some of the hard facts. As advocates, we have to do that. We have to be the number one salesperson for international education. This can also benefit the actual students. This database of partnerships and programs is how you can simplify the processes of working with students and giving them access. Tell a little about how you see the benefits of this digital database and how it impacts the student.

[00:15:41] Grant Chapman: As higher education leaders, we always seek the best for our students and this will give us information about student trends. Where are students going? Why? Everybody knows one of the most powerful, persistent graduations, and any GPA, if you slice anything. Education or study abroad experience is among the more powerful, impactful statements. This will provide information about student and faculty mobility and what students are taking abroad or learning in one of their environments. So, if they're going to London, let's hope they're using London as a laboratory. Most of our faculty-led programs and our providers do that. Data alone will help us understand what our students are getting regarding their mobility. It will also help with language acquisition. Our students are now tending to go to countries that may not speak French, Spanish, or German. Would that then impact curriculum decisions? I also think Kansas is about as far from a national border as you can get in the U.S., so for Kansans, understanding their position within the world is all the more important. The Kansas economy relies on exports of agriculture exports of aerospace. As our students come from families in those industries and other industries, learning about this whole world and getting into business, maybe supply chain things to get into music, maybe the music that crosses boundaries or other kinds of topics. It's really important for our first-generation students. We have many students who don't have passports before they even come to our education abroad office. The impact we have on a purposeful first-gen education abroad program on individual student lives is amazing as we assess the groups and the students going on these programs.

[00:18:01] Steve MacDonald: I'd appreciate it if you could sum up a bit of what we're talking about here. I will ask you to rate the importance of this digital database, this collection of knowledge and information. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much impact does it have on the university, and how do you serve your population? One, it's not important at all. Ten, it's critical to support the entire mission of the university and what you're trying to do.

[00:18:29] Grant Chapman: Yeah, it's nine plus or ten. I could be cliche and say 11, but I would say nine plus, just because maybe I'm a harder grader. If designed and used correctly, we take three years to do this, and the university has bought in. This is also a game changer. It could be a game changer because funding the process is foundational to what Kansas State University is as a Land Grant University. We have learning, teaching, research, scholarly activities, performance and discovery, and service engagement and outreach. The world fits within that, and how comprehensive internationalization and global engagement fit within that. We've got to understand ourselves. We've got to understand our totality. We know ourselves in units. In departments, colleges, and others, we value what we do outside the U.S. This puts it together, and for an SIO, you want to advocate for everybody. I'm advocating for more than just our great College of Agriculture or Veterinary Science. I want to advocate for our Aerospace and our Humanities. This gives me the tools necessary to say, We're already doing wonderful things in this area, and with this university abroad, we can expand it because we know what we're doing and can put people together. We can put topics together and move forward, starting to tell our stories more deeply about how global work is connected to the work in Kansas we value here at Kansas State.

[00:20:18] Steve MacDonald: Your background is at Land Grant University. You've been public-private. Is the importance you just gave here limited to a Land Grant University?

[00:20:26] Grant Chapman: No, it's not. I'm particularly excited. I'm a product of Land Grant. I'm particularly excited about the engagement piece that land grants put. Still, all universities are within their local communities and societies. All universities are responsible for educating the population and ensuring they understand their university; they know their role within their environment, including the world, and their students and researchers' roles. I would caution others that you should do something like this with your own, based on your mission and your measures of what you value. Moving your mission forward within higher education is not limited at all to public or land grants. Some of the probably more entrepreneurial notions of trying to create digital data could come from conservatories or others. You could have all different types of institutions. They need to understand themselves and what they do to improve and move forward with advocacy. The best thing that I can see that makes my heart warm, at least here at Kansas State. I was at Webster when another leader, staff member, or faculty brought up the value of international education within the meeting or the group and said that it's not just you; it's permeating. Most SIOs feel the same as I do when you are constantly advocating. That's your job; we love it, and we will continue. But when you have others who see the connection, you've helped them see it. They start talking about the values of international education within higher education, especially at the leadership level. You can feel isolated. You keep advocating, and occasionally, you'll have these breakthroughs where you'll see more and more people talk about it. It's not us and them. It's us. It's Kansas State University. We're helping this group, and we're using this kind of theory or data, which happens to cross from Kansas to Singapore or Kansas to India or whatever.

[00:22:51] Steve MacDonald: I've got one last question. For all the leaders who are watching this or will be watching this, if there was one crucial takeaway that you wanted them to have from listening, what would that be?

[00:23:03] Grant Chapman: Find or develop the tool to help you do your job. This is a powerful tool at an important time at Kansas State University, and it will be very powerful. If there's a tool like this or some other data or thing, find it. Find something that helps you do your job better. We are going to lean heavily on technology with this and try to make this tool as intuitive and automatic as possible. This means we are looking for data that's already around in our units and how to coalesce it. We're not looking to control the data; we're looking to combine the data instead of having faculty and staff do extra reports. In this way, a lot of the data is already somewhere, we want to pull it together and ensure it keeps pulling accurately and you have data integrity. That's the beauty of our vision of this tool, but there may be something else out there that you think. If I had this bit of knowledge or this bit of thing, I could advocate more or I could deliver better for students and faculty. We all are in a service area in international education. I have to collaborate to be effective here, so if I can do that better, I can lead the collaboration and do it better. I will be more successful with this tool, this international inventory, which we're calling a digital database. We may call it something else, but as the working group works these next year or two, we'll help. We'll do this.

[00:24:49] Steve MacDonald: You are in the right direction. The Deloitte's, the McKinsey's of the world, talk about digital transformation and the difference between today's and tomorrow's business, which applies directly to higher education. This is the forefront of the difference between the higher education of today and tomorrow. I love that you've been sharing this, the focus, and how you're doing it. We will definitely want to check back in and see how it's progressing along the way.

[00:25:18] Grant Chapman: Thank you very much for this conversation. I'd be happy to tell you about our progress; as I said, the final outcome will be very important to Kansas State University.

[00:25:30] Steve MacDonald: If people who have been watching this have questions and want to contact you, what's the best way to do so?

[00:25:36] Grant Chapman: Yeah, it's, which is an email. You can also go on to our website. We will be putting up a website about this global engagement. Right now, you can go to the Our office is the office of international programs, and we see this, but this is a work in progress so you're getting us at the start of our work. We've had two working group meetings this semester. We're going to start having monthly discussions about this topic, what we want to measure, why we want to measure, and how it will be important. How are we going to use it? Who's the audience? That is exactly what I've been talking to you all about. We're going to continue the conversation at Kansas State University.

[00:26:24] Steve MacDonald: Thank you for sharing your insights and knowledge. Obviously, I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor and am excited to see how it comes out. Thanks for coming on today.

[00:26:33] Grant Chapman: Thank you very much for having me!