Internationalizing the Curriculum
Joyce Kaufman, Ph.D.
As the Southern California Consortium for International Studies, SOCCIS has at its core a commitment to internationalizing across the curriculum. Unlike may other SOCCIS committees, which deal primarily with area studies (e.g., Latin American Studies, South Asia, China, etc.), the Internationalizing the Curriculum Committee deals specifically with ways in which an international perspective can be infused across the curriculum. From the time that SOCCIS was created in 1973, this component was central to the mission of the organization. The Proceedings of the Second Annual Meeting SOCCIS, in January 1973, cites as among the recommendations the need to focus on "the undergraduate dimension of international studies," including using SOCCIS as a "clearinghouse" for information pertaining to the implementation of various aspects of international programs in the member institutions. Included among these were ways in which to expand the international focus, including even finding ways to introduce an international perspective into "non-traditional" areas, such as the sciences. (P. 2) It was from that thinking that the Internationalizing the Curriculum Committee evolved.
By 1975, SOCCIS programs included "International Dimensions of Undergraduate Education, International Business Studies, and International Dimensions of the Schools of Education," in addition to area studies. A special task force was created to identify "the resources necessary to bring about significant improvement in the internationalization of undergraduate studies...." (Emphasis added) (SOCCIS Newsletter, Vol. 11, No. 2, October 1, 1975, p.3) According to the archives, the emphasis then was on three primary areas: 1) "the internationalization of breadth requirements"; 2) "the role of international, foreign and comparative studies in the extended university"; and 3) "international studies in pre-career or pre-professional training." (Ibid)
At that time, many colleges and universities were rethinking their curricular offerings, including ways to broaden students' exposure to the world around them. What is striking about the approach taken here was the ways in which SOCCIS focused not only on the traditional components of the curriculum, that is, those areas in which international perspectives would be apparent, but its desire to move into the non-traditional areas, such as the extended university, pre-professional training and the sciences.
In the period since that beginning point, those of us who have been associated with the Internationalizing the Curriculum Committee have taken these perspectives as a given. As the world and education have continued to evolve, we have tried to do so as well by incorporating broader perspectives into our work. Hence, the increasing use of technology across the curriculum became the focus of a series of workshops on ways to use technology to internationalize the curriculum. Consistent with the desire to infuse an international perspective across disciplines and into pre-professional programs and careers, the Committee participated in workshops for secondary school teachers, and highlighted institutions in which an international focus was a part of such programs. And the Committee took seriously its charge to become a "clearinghouse" for information from member institutions by holding an ongoing series of workshops that allowed SOCCIS member institutions to highlight and share what they were doing.
In short, the Internationalizing the Curriculum Committee has become central to the mission of SOCCIS and has helped disseminate information about the importance of international studies (broadly defined) across the area.
Internationalizing the Curriculum: History and Sample Programs
In many ways, the work of this Committee reflected both the emphasis of the people who were on it, as well as changing trends in education. This becomes especially clear when charting the course of the Committee and the programs in which it was involved.
By 1978-1979, the Interdisciplinary International Theory Group emerged as one of the central SOCCIS programs. At that time, the group held informal seminars to bring together scholars from various colleges and university specifically for discussion about interdisciplinary approaches to and questions about some of the basic paradigms in the humanities and social sciences. The records indicated that this group continued to meet for these discussions for a number of years. Concomitant with that, the membership of SOCCIS continued to grow, bringing with it new participants and ideas.
By 1984, SOCCIS established a standing committee "to promote the internationalization of the curriculum with particular emphasis on the postsecondary level." (SOCCIS Annual Report, July 1,1983 to June 30, 1984, p. 22) Under the energetic and able leadership of Maurice Harari, Dean of the Center for International Education at California State University, Long Beach, the Committee grew and became more active in its task. In its first year, the Committee sponsored programs and guest lectures, including co-sponsoring a conference with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), which was held April 5-7, 1984. The list of speakers is impressive, and included Ann Reynolds, then-Chancellor of the California State University System, Congressman Stephen Horn (R-Long Beach), and various college presidents, provosts and deans. The topics were timely and relevant, including panels on "International Content and Experience: The Student View," "The U.S. Must Compete in the World Market," and "Preparing the Professional," all of which would be as timely today as they were then.
Over the next few years, while building on the work of that initial conference, the committee moved to holding smaller workshops and forums to continue the discussion of the issues raised earlier. Continuing themes were the role of higher education in preparing students for a changing world, the role of international and interdisciplinary studies, and ways to infuse international perspectives across the curriculum. At the same time, the Committee continued its earlier commitment to working with and educating high school teachers by participating actively in institutes that would contribute to "a heightened awareness and understanding of the international setting...." (SOCCIS Annual Report, July 1,1984 to June 30, 1985, p. 18) The Committee also continued its policy of beginning each meeting with a discussion of what was going on at each member campus as a way of disseminating information. In addition to continuing these activities, by 1986-1987, the Committee had also started to compile an International Studies Data Base for the Southern California area. These activities continued into the early 1990's.
In April 1991, the Internationalizing the Curriculum Committee again held a major workshop at entitled "On Ethnic and International Studies: A Dialogue of Agendas." This workshop brought together more than 25 speakers from ten institutions to explore ways in which these fields converged. Each speaker and session was built around a series of questions such as what are the current trends in ethnic studies? In international studies? What are the areas of convergence and divergence, and what are the implications for undergraduate teaching and research? Representatives from SOCCIS members offered case studies from their own institutions, and those became the basis for the discussion throughout the day. The conference was organized by then-Chair Laurien Alexandre, who edited the papers that were then published under the auspices of the Center for International Programs at California State University, Long Beach.
By the mid-1990s, the emphasis of the Committee started to shift once again to reflect emerging trends in higher education. To capture that, in 1995 and 1996 the Committee held a series of workshops, one at Loyola Marymount University and one at California State University, Fullerton, focusing on the use of technology to internationalize the curriculum. Each of these workshops highlighted different approaches to integrating technology in a meaningful way in support of internationalizing the curriculum. Presenters from SOCCIS institutions discussed programs that they had implemented successfully on their own campuses, as a way to begin a broader discussion. (NOTE: Partial funding for these workshops came from the SOCCIS Conference grants program). These presentations were augmented by other speakers, including Dr. Richard Sutter, Director, California State University System International Programs, who opened one of the workshop with his keynote address, "What Does it Mean to Internationalize the Curriculum?" Another speaker included Mary Ellen House, Education Editor for Online Services at the Los Angeles Times.
Although by this time the make-up of the membership of the Committee had changed considerably, the commitment to its goals and mission remained unchanged. The members of the Committee had been impressed by the success of the one-day workshop approach as a way to share information and facilitate discussion, and so others were planned. In March 1999, the Committee sponsored a workshop at Whittier College entitled "Crossing Boundaries: Internationalizing Across Disciplines, Time and Space," which embodied many of the goals of SOCCIS and the Committee. Dr. Vishnu Bhatia, Special Assistant to the President, Washington State University, made the keynote address. This was followed by two panels, composed of participants from the SOCCIS member institutions, one of which was a response to the address from different disciplinary and institutional perspectives. The second panel, entitled "Application of Ways to Infuse International perspectives in General Education Requirements," allowed participants to highlights ways in which their own institutions had successfully met that challenge.
The Committee held another workshop in March 2000. This one was held at California State University, Los Angeles and touched on another important item regarding internationalizing: "Evaluation and Assessment of Foreign Study Experiences." The keynote speaker for this workshop was Bruce LaBrack, Director of International Studies, University of the Pacific. Three panels were each built around a theme pertaining to international studies: financial implications, recruiting and preparing students for the experience, and returning to campus, and each had a convener who made introductory remarks and led the discussion. As has been the case in the past, the primary goal of this workshop was to bring SOCCIS members together to share their experiences as well as to learn from one another about "best practices" in the field." The response was positive as many of the participants agreed that an open discussion of these issues as important as well as overdue.
Internationalizing: The Future
It is clear from the record that the Internationalizing the Curriculum Committee is one of the oldest of the SOCCIS standing committees and one that lays at the center of the SOCCIS mission. It is also clear that, over the course of the 30 years of SOCCIS, that the Committee has made an important contribution to understanding ways to internationalize by facilitating ongoing dialogue and discussion. In some cases this was done by holding conferences and workshops; in other cases, this was accomplished more informally, using the venue of Committee meetings to share what was happening on member-campuses.
Over the years, it is also clear that the activity level of this Committee has ebbed and flowed, depending on the membership and the commitment to the topic discussed. However, it is also clear that it will continue to remain central to SOCCIS.