SOCCIS: Anniversary

Reflections on the 30th Year of SOCCIS for International Studies, 1972–2002 by Carlos Manuel Haro, Ph.D.

Carlos Manuel Haro, Ph.D.
SOCCIS Executive Officer

People, decisions, and institutions have shaped SOCCIS' significant contributions to international education over the last thirty years. During 2002, SOCCIS celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of its founding, but a longer history of activities and networking lead to the establishment of this valuable consortium.

Between 1960 and 1961, the adoption of the California Master Plan on Higher Education and the founding of the Peace Corps focused the attention of California universities on different world regions. At UCLA, the work of Chancellor Charles E. Young and the reorganization of various school administrations created an expansion in international area studies centers devoted to specific geographic areas. By the early 1970s, southern California postsecondary institutions had developed cooperative relationships for a wide range of goals. UCLA Vice Chancellor of Institutional Relations Elwin Svenson's role in international studies and Professor David Wilson's efforts to further international and comparative studies in higher education were instrumental in both organizing the postsecondary education community and establishing SOCCIS in 1972. Their initiatives were followed at UCLA by the contributions of Professors James S. Coleman, during the 1980s, and John N. Hawkins, during the 1990s, to strengthen international studies and foster collegial cooperation through the consortium. These UCLA administrators and their numerous counterparts at SOCCIS member campuses helped form and expand the concept of SOCCIS regionally.

By the mid-1970s and the early evolution of the consortium, SOCCIS' administrative structure included many working groups with an international and area studies focus. The faculty and staff involved wanted to share and commit their institutional resources to enhance international education in the spirit of collaboration. The late 1970s was also a period of strengthened cooperation between SOCCIS and area studies centers in southern California. Consequently, there was a broad range of consortium activities: some dealt with the identification of international studies resources at each campus; others involved scholarly groups dealing with area studies; and still others focused either on international students and study abroad or on internationalization of the curriculum and faculty development. Membership in the voluntary association grew over time from the seven original member institutions in 1972 to a high of 22 colleges in the late 1980s. The focus on international, comparative, and foreign studies at various campuses also broadened. In the 1990s, SOCCIS firmly set in place a foundation by which institutions and faculty could easily work together and draw upon each other's resources. It is now common to have faculty and staff from several campuses plan and implement programs dealing with international and area studies. When one campus plans an international conference or seminar, it routinely reaches out beyond the walls of its own institution. Scholars from different institutions are usually invited to present at and participate in numerous inter-campus programs. This collegial environment was built and molded by key individuals, substantive events, and organizational interaction during the three decades of SOCCIS.

SOCCIS' main purpose has been to advance international studies through collaboration. SOCCIS has aided in internationalization at individual campuses in a variety of ways. Cooperative relations with area studies centers have engendered National Resource (Title VI) Centers at UCLA and USC that reach out and interact with other southern California universities; shared courses for students, including language courses; programs like senior faculty mentoring that bring faculty from different schools together; and co-sponsorship of different conferences, colloquia, and seminars of interest to other institutions.

More specifically, SOCCIS has continued to enhance its focus on international studies. This is reflected in increased accessibility to online information related to SOCCIS; enriched meetings of scholars that produce books, theatre works and art exhibits, and conferences with an international dimension; more partnering opportunities with different departments, institutions, and non-university agencies; and the internationalization of the curriculum.

Further internationalization of the curriculum is a primary goal for SOCCIS. Currently, the consortium is actively involved in finding new ways to reach out, to dialogue, and to involve institutions. Outreach programs whose past participants are not only mentors in K-12 schools but also resources and contacts for the university; colloquiums that expand intellectual exchange; and the incorporation of technology through online seminars, video conferencing, center websites, media training, and internet connections between universities and the school districts all point to a promising direction for SOCCIS in the future.