Grace DeSanti | Flags hang in the Atrium of the Memorial Union that represents every nation which students are from.
Over the past year, the University of Rhode Island has increased its international representation on campus from 68 countries to 76 countries through global outreach strategies and an academic strategic plan.
The University’s academic strategic plan is a five year mission statement for URI created by the Office of the Provost. The plan spans from 2016 to 2021 and contains six goals for the University to strive for. One of these main goals is to “Grow a global presence.”
Dr. Gifty Ako-Adounvo, the inaugural Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at URI, was brought to the Kingston campus to develop URI’s international advancements after an international search for the position. She cited the academic plan as her reasoning for committing to URI after a long tenure at Ohio State University.
“My role here is to facilitate, lead, guide the university’s thousand points of light for everything URI has been doing global for these many decades,” Ako-Adounvo said. “I’m here to take us to the next level.”
The University’s goal to “Grow a global presence” in the academic strategic plan is outlined by six additional strategies and numerous actions to facilitate this initiative.
One of these strategies is to “Articulate and prioritize internationalization of institution-wide strategic plans and faculty hires.” In doing this, URI will strive to ensure global outreach is valued, foster a campus community that reflects that of the global community, provide professional development for faculty to increase their globalization, and more.
“We have sort of sub-guiding principles and a strategy for how we are going to go forward and everything we’re going to be doing aligns with that,” Ako-Adounvo said of the academic strategic plan. “Like any type of strategic document or plan, it is not cast in stones because, as you know, the world we live in is very mutable. As we go along, we might course correct, we might add things, but as a document it’s really powerful, and it really helps us on our path.”
The University is steering towards internationalization in all departments, and their global strategy spans the University. It is emphasized by President David M. Dooley’s initiatives, in the development of the new General Education program and from the Global Steering Committee, chaired by Ako-Adounvo.
“That committee has been the guiding body to help us track our progress towards those goals,” she said. “Really at the core of it is how we’re preparing our students to thrive, to be competitive, to really do well in this very interconnected and interdependent world.”
The Global Steering Committee is comprised of faculty and staff all across campus to help make communication regarding internationalization more effective throughout all colleges and programs.
Additionally, URI faculty has completed research across the world and established powerful connections to two specific countries: Indonesia and the Philippines.
Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Dean Libutti commented on these connections saying, “The University has some powerful strategic linkages with some global communities that have helped in research and student enrollment. The University actually has a grant to work with the Philippines and government. And in Indonesia it’s just tremendous, too. Often times our faculty lead the way in these global connections and partnerships that help then attract students.”
The plan has paved the way for URI to develop as an internationally represented University, through both outreach programs and opportunities abroad.
“It’s so much more than just the number of [students],” Libutti said. “It’s the strategic partnerships. It’s creating the units. It’s providing the students with the experience. It’s creating international policies and support mechanisms. It’s nice in two pages to get an idea of the intentionality of [internationalizing the University].”
As URI continues to make an effort to bring international perspectives to Kingston, the Office of the Provost encourages all students to attend events that represent other cultures and traditions.
“We have so many events, festivals, speakers, series and stuff and I would really like to encourage our students that when they see something being offered, it’s here for everyone,” Libutti said. “What a great way to understand and learn about another culture.”
URI’s next international event is the Chinese Spring Festival on Feb. 16 at 6 p.m. in the Memorial Union.