Gaining a global view with internationalizing

Sarah Hillenbrand

The Grand Valley State University Internationalization Task Force found through a survey that most
students do not interact with international students on campus and have not traveled abroad for more
than leisure activity, but they do value international exposure through foreign language acquisition.

The task force surveyed campus in April 2013 to ask students, faculty and staff about how globally
integrated GVSU really is and what can be done to improve.

“We wanted to have a more complete picture of what internationalization is at GVSU,” said Mark
Schaub, chief internationalization officer for the Padnos International Center. “We went directly to
students, faculty and staff to develop a complete international report.”

The survey was originally sent out to 6,000 randomly selected students, and of those students, 1,767
useable responses were received.

Although most results from the survey were not surprising, Schaub said he was fairly surprised that
21.5 percent of students said they use another language other than English either “somewhat” or “to a
great extent.”

Alexander Bauer, a graduate student who is also on the task force, said that student exposure to a
global view, by either studying abroad or talking to study abroad and international students, greatly
enhances a student’s college experience.

“It provides a different view on things and opens them to perspectives they didn’t have,” Bauer said.
“Global education and internationalization is part of the college experience, and it is really important
to get a broader view of the world.”

Devin Streur, a graduate student who has also been working with the task force, agreed that hearing
about and experiencing other cultures is important, not only to grow as a person but to help market
oneself for a future job in growing international markets.

“It enables you to connect with other opinions from across the world and break down that
ethnocentric view that many of us harbor,” Streur said. “It enables a student to view subject matter
and life circumstances from a different lens and makes students more marketable when hitting the job
field because they have a stronger sense of other people’s opinions.”

In several questions, about 90 percent or more respondents said they had never studied outside the
U.S. or had never worked, lived or volunteered outside of the U.S. Another significant group said they
are not engaging with international students on campus.

While 66.2 percent of respondents said they engage with international students in their living area
“not at all” or “not much,” the statistics were slightly higher with engagement in classrooms—45.3
percent said they “somewhat” engage with international students.

Though students admitted to having little to no interactions with international students, 84.7 percent
said they “somewhat” or “to a great extent” agreed that it is important to have a working knowledge of
a language other than English.

“Faculty think that international students enhance the environment for students and help all students
learn,” Schaub said. “Students on campus are benefitting from having international students in
classes, in housing and outside of classes.”

Schaub said current enrollment of international students is only at 1 percent, but the university hopes
to increase it to 3 percent.

“(The survey) served the purpose of taking the information and moving forward in a direction,” Bauer
said. “This is something that people want more of on all three fronts—faculty, staff and students.”

Schaub added that exposure to internationalization helps students to apply their learning on a global

“I think it makes (classes) more relevant by adding a global dimension to what they’re learning and to
a future career,” he said. “You’re not just working with fellow Americans but will engage with people
from other countries and cultures.”

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