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Your faculty and staff news since 1965
February 14, 2005
Volume 40, Number 7

International initiatives gain support, momentum

By Carolyn Gonzales

Last spring, Paul Nathanson, associate provost for Academic Affairs, began convening several small working groups to assess UNM’s international initiatives and develop a plan to further the institution’s work globally.

He has also hosted monthly luncheons where many from the UNM community presented the work they do beyond United States borders. Additionally, listservs were created to allow for informal group discussion and sharing.

“We have had an extensive process with broad participation and opportunity for input and communication. Frankly, I believe we are at a watershed as far as the ‘internationalization’ of UNM is concerned,” Nathanson said.

Nathanson is taking recommendations that have come from the sessions and presenting them to campus administrators for further action.

Provost Brian L. Foster, who gave Nathanson the charge to explore international issues at UNM, voiced his support. “It’s no longer a question whether we need to internationalize the university; the only question is how and when. My view is that we need to infuse international content in every aspect of the University and its programs,” said Foster.

Nathanson points to UNM’s strategic plan, adopted by the Regents in 2001, to stress the pursuit of international initiatives.
The plan states, “Objective: Develop a comprehensive approach to international affairs at UNM, including instructional research, and service programs, as well as a cosmopolitan, international, social and cultural life on campus.”

Among his objectives Nathanson proposes that UNM provide scholarships both to international students to attend UNM as well as for UNM students to study abroad.

“An international experience is key to the education we provide. With less than one percent of our undergraduate students currently having this opportunity, we need to make it more broadly available. Conversely, bringing international students into our programs enhances their educational experiences as well as those of the students and faculty around them,” Nathanson said.

Nathanson sees the possibility of having foreign students serve in a reduced teaching assistance capacity in freshman learning communities with an international focus.

“To make it more economically feasible for international students to attend UNM, policies need to change so they could pay the lower in-state tuition rates,” he said.

A weak undergraduate curriculum in international education, no coordinated strategy to recruit internationally and absence of an international center or focal point for international activities are issues Nathanson points out in his report.

Nathanson said that support for faculty to develop new international programs is tantamount. “We have faculty who will organize programs regardless of the impediments. We have those who are uninterested in pursuing international programs. There’s a broad spectrum in the middle who would get involved if we provided support and eliminated many of the obstacles that make it difficult to take students abroad,” Nathanson said.

UNM is strategically located to pursue many international programs. “Our location on the U.S.-Mexico border gives us easy access to Latin America. Our Latin American and Iberian Institute has a long-standing international reputation for outstanding work in area studies,” he said.

Many UNM faculty are engaged in powerful research and programs in Latin America. The monthly meetings and the listservs have proven to be strong vehicles to connect faculty from various disciplines with others conducting research in the same country or region.

Anthropology Professor Hillard Kaplan writes, “I am currently in Bolivia doing research among a group of South American Indians who live in remote villages in the Amazon region. I am studying health and aging in a multidisciplinary study that involves anthropologists and physicians. I have been collaborating with Benson Daitz in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. I am also hoping to collaborate with Dale Alverson, also at the School of Medicine, on cross-national initiatives. Native American health in several countries located remotely creates special health problems.”

Attending the luncheons and hearing about the work others are engaged in brought faculty together.

Communications and Journalism Professor Miguel Gandert reports, “I am in Bolivia now, working on carnival feast days. Since my first trip with the United States State Department, there have been several connections made…”

Nathanson said, “The report shows that UNM has a vast array of talented faculty, students and staff devoting significant energy to matters international. Extremely creative individuals are doing wonderful things—often on a shoestring budget and with enormous amounts of sweat-equity. People at UNM care about their research and their pedagogical missions and they have been extremely creative in finding ways to fulfill these self-imposed international mandates.

There already exist at UNM numerous new, relevant and cutting-edge ideas regarding international research or possible student experiences.”

Foster said, “Many wonderful things are happening at UNM in the international arena. If we can capitalize on these as an institution, I believe we can provide real national leadership for developing and promoting international training in higher education.”