International Programming and the Agenda for Excellence: Richard Estes

The following is adapted from a working paper circulated in Session IV of the second annual Provost's Conference on International Education and Research, held March 22 (see also Compass coverage). Dr. Estes is a professor in the School of Social Work.

International Programming and Penn's Agenda for Excellence: Some Questions in Search of Answers

by Richard J. Estes


The framework for discussion is Penn's Agenda for Excellence, which assigns "internationalization" to Strategic Goal #6. However, the realization of that goal also requires careful attention to Strategic Goals 1-5 and 7-9.*


  1. To what extent do the University's other strategic goals support (or potentially frustrate) its commitment "to increase significantly Penn's role as an international institution of higher education and research"? Where are the roadblocks (administrative, fiscal, etc.) or areas of potential conflict that are embedded in the remaining eight strategic goals as they impact on the goal of increased internationalization?

  2. Past experience has taught us that the attainment of strategic Goal #6 will require strong leadership from the center, i.e., in setting the tone, encouraging collaborative/interdisciplinary efforts, imposing accountability requirements, assisting in generating funds from outside sources and, in some cases, making available limited amounts of funding to support new or especially promising initiatives.

    Problem: the current administrative structure of the University, including access to resources, is highly decentralized (access resting in individual schools with deans, and in some cases with individual faculty members). How do we preserve the most desirable features of our existing decentralized structure and, at the same time, sufficiently empower the Provost to act forcefully in advancing our collective internationalization objectives? What safeguards should be set in place?

  3. Internationalization to what end? What are we trying to achieve?

    a. Is our goal to increase our international "name recognition" (not a trivial matter given the confusion often expressed by international colleagues and international grantmakers concerning our long history as a private institution)?

    b. Are we seeking to compete more successfully for the best and brightest students and faculty from around the world? This will become more expensive as our peer institutions increase their international recruitment efforts.

    c. Should we use this renewed commitment to internationalization to increase our ability to attract external gifts, grants, and other financial investments from international sources, including from international alumni and transnational corporations headed by American alumni? How do we do this? Unquestionably, such efforts will require substantial investments of time and energy as well as the adoption of a longer-term perspective.

    d. As suggested by the Agenda for Excellence, are we seeking to establish a "global presence" as a leading world center for international education and research? (This will require a dramatic restructuring of the curricula of most of our schools and departments.)

    e. What other outcomes are we attempting to achieve for ourselves and our international partners?

  4. The world is a big place and contains many thousands of outstanding universities and research centers. How do we use our abundant talent, but limited resources, to focus our internationalization efforts to achieve the best results?

    a. Should we be initiating our internationalization efforts alone, or should we be joining with other peer institutions in promoting our common internationalization objectives, especially in study abroad and the establishment of collaborative research centers (e.g. in regional studies, veterinary medicine, language education, etc.)?

    b. Is it feasible/desirable to establish jointly administered satellite campuses or research centers/institutes in other countries? What are the advantages and disadvantages of such arrangements, especially from the perspective of increased synergy and a more efficient pooling of resources? What is our history with similar cooperative efforts in other areas of the University? Are there existing models in other universities that we may wish to consider?

  5. Where should we be directing our immediate future energies in adding international content to undergraduate curricula?

    a. Do we need to add formal international requirements to the core distribution requirements? How can we do this without taking away from other requirements also considered important? Should we give consideration to new teaching approaches in already existing courses as one way to increase the international content of these courses (e.g., through team teaching, supervised research practica, etc.)?

    b. By the very nature of their substance, many areas in the arts and sciences, business and elsewhere already are internationalized (e.g., language, area studies, history, philosophy, art history and others). What steps should be taken to encourage programs with less international experience to draw on those programs and resources that have substantially deeper roots?

* The full Agenda for Excellence is found in the Almanac Supplement in the issue of November 21/28, 1995, on the Penn Web at


April 2, 1996
Volume 42 Number 26

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